The Green Bay Packers overcame a 10-point, second-quarter deficit and upset the Miami Dolphins 26-20.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 238 yards and one touchdown while the defense caused four turnovers including three fourth quarter interceptions to clinch the victory.
The win improves the Green Bay’s record to 7-8 on the season and keeps their playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins fell to 8-7 and suffered their fourth consecutive loss.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers 26-20 win over the Dolphins:
- The Defense Created Turnovers to Shut Down the Miami Offense
Throughout the first half, the Green Bay defense was on its heels and unable to slow down the big-play Miami offense. The Dolphins gained 276 yards in the first half and had 10 first downs. They scored on four of their first five drives and that included two touchdowns and two field goals.
The Dolphins were also regularly coming up with big plays including Jaylen Waddle’s 84-yard touchdown catch and a 52-yard pass to Tyreek Hill.
That all changed with a key fumble recovery late in the second quarter. With the Packers trailing 20-10 and the Dolphins driving for more, Jarran Reed recovered a fumble by Tua Tagovailoa and the Packers scored a field goal to pull within one score and give them momentum heading into halftime.
In the second half, the Packers got more pressure on the quarterback and the result was three interceptions, one on each of the Dolphins three possessions in the fourth quarter.
Jaire Alexander, De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas each picked off a pass which helped the Packers win the game.
- Keisean Nixon Was Electrifying Again But…
Keisean Nixon broke off a 93-yard kick return in the first quarter after Miami took an early 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Packers could only muster a field goal on that drive to tie the score at 3-3.
The Dolphins later kicked away from Nixon which gave the Packers excellent field position at their own 46.
Unfortunately, Nixon suffered a groin injury and was unable to finish the game. Randall Cobb took over on punt returns and Romeo Doubs on kick returns but neither could provide the flash and home run potential that Nixon provided.
The Packers also had to use Darnell Savage and Innis Gaines more in nickel and dime packages with Nixon out of the lineup on defense.
The Packers need Nixon back as soon as possible as he adds an extra dimension to the team’s special teams which helped the Pack again in Miami.
- Aaron Rodgers Continues to Be Inconsistent
Rodgers continues to have some very impressive moments and some shaky ones. He finished the game 24-of-38 for 238 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception which was just a poor throw and continues to struggle making short passes into the flat which most quarterbacks consider among the easiest throws to make.
But Rodgers also scrambled well in this game and picked up some key gains that way and he threw some dimes in key situations including a 42-yard strike to Allen Lazard and a 31-yard toss to Marcedes Lewis.
Rodgers is still capable of making big plays and key plays but he is much less consistent than he was a year ago. It’s possible the thumb is still occasionally affecting his accuracy.
- The Packers Got Away from the Running Game
The Packers didn’t run the ball enough in this game and it nearly cost them. The Pack officially ran the ball 25 times but seven of those were scrambles or kneel downs by Rodgers and one was a fake punt attempt by Dallin Leavitt that was stopped for no gain.
A.J. Dillon gained 36 yards on just 11 carries and Aaron Jones had just six rushes for 25 yards with 18 of them coming on one run.
The Dolphins have a solid run defense but the Packers offense works better when they run the ball enough to set up the play action passing game. Matt LaFleur got away from that strategy on Sunday in Miami.
- Marcedes Lewis Had a Chance to Shine
“Big Dog” entered the game with four catches for 34 yards on the season. Against Miami, he caught two passes for 32 yards but both catches were important. The first was a one-yard touchdown catch that tied the game 10-10 late in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Rodgers found Lewis for a 31-yard gain that gave the Pack the ball 1st-and-goal at the Miami 7. Two plays later, Dillon scored from a yard out and the game was tied 20-20.
Lewis isn’t a big part of the passing game as a receiver but it seems when he does catch passes, he makes them count. The veteran helped his team win in Miami with his two important catches as well as his usual strong blocking performance.
- The Packers Offense Struggled On Third Downs and in the Red Zone
The Packers offense remains inconsistent and struggled badly on third downs. Green Bay was just 2-of-14 on third downs in Miami, a paltry 14.3 percent success rate. They made up for it somewhat by going 3-of-5 on fourth downs which helped keep drives alive.
In the red zone, the Packers scored just two touchdowns in five trips inside the opponent’s 20. Mason Crosby, who broke Brett Favre’s franchise record for most consecutive games played today, kicked four field goals which was a big reason for the win. But to win against Minnesota and to beat other playoff teams, the Packers will have to score more touchdowns when they get inside the red zone and settle for fewer field goals.
- The Packers Defense Did Well on Third Downs
While the offense struggled on third downs, the defense did very well. Miami was just 2-for-7 on third downs, a 28.6 percent conversion rate.
While the defense gave up a lot of big plays in the first half, they settled down and forced punts and turnovers in the second half of the game and that was certainly a key to earning this upset win.
- The Fake Punt Failed Badly
With the Packers trailing 17-10 early in the third quarter, LaFleur took a big gamble that didn’t pay off. Green Bay was facing 4th-and-2 at their own 20 when they lined up for a punt. Leavitt carried the ball on a fake punt and it fooled nobody as the Miami coverage team stopped him for no gain.
The Dolphins took over at the Packers 20 and kicked a field goal to go up 20-10 after the Green Bay defense held.
LaFleur played this game like he knew he needed to score on nearly every drive to keep pace with the explosive Miami offense. That nearly got him into trouble early but some big plays by the defense eventually bailed the Packers out.
- Injuries Are Mounting
Injuries are piling up for the Packers. In addition to losing Nixon to a hamstring injury in the first half, Christian Watson left the game with a hip injury after catching six passes for 49 yards in the first half. He did not return.
Dean Lowry suffered a calf injury which led to rookie Devonte Wyatt getting more playing time and Wyatt continued to play well when given the chance.
Right tackle Yosh Nijman suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced by Royce Newman who played well for the most part in relief.
The Packers certainly need as many of these players back and ready to play next week when they host the Vikings.
- The Packers Playoff Hopes Are Very Much Alive
The Packers got a lot of help this weekend even before they pulled the upset over Miami. The Giants, Commanders, Lions and Seahawks all lost which really helps the Packers.
To make the playoffs now, the Pack needs to win its final two games at home and have the Commanders lose one of their final two games or have the Giants lose both of their games. There are other ways the Pack can get in, but those are the two easiest.
The team’s playoff hopes are improving each week but they would all but disappear with a loss on Sunday against Minnesota so there is still no margin for error.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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