Reporter NFC North
“That was special,” a smiling Aaron Rodgers said after the Packers’ 26-20 win over the Miami Dolphins. “Everything we had to go through this weekend has happened.”
Rodgers is referring to Green Bay’s playoff chances, which are up to 27 percent (per FiveThirtyEight) after the win and some help from the teams losing on Saturday. The Commanders lost to the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants lost to the Vikings. The Seahawks drew the Chiefs card and lost. And the Detroit Lions lost to the Carolina Panthers. It cleared the way for the Packers to be within a game of the playoffs.
It’s almost as if this was predestined.
“I don’t think we’ve struggled with confidence, but we definitely haven’t had a lot of believers out of the locker room, I don’t think,” Rodgers said. “That should get us a couple on the cart.”
“That was special,” Aaron Rodgers told Pam Oliver
Aaron Rodgers spoke with FOX Sports NFL reporter Pam Oliver about the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Miami Dolphins.
It was immediately apparent that Green Bay understood the task before them. The Packers were aggressive and went on fourth down five times. They managed to convert three of them. They also tried a fake punt to gain momentum in the first half. It didn’t come out. But that didn’t stop them from being aggressive.
They played their season in every facet of the game, starting with the defense, which held the Dolphins to a field goal on their first drive. Special teams ace Keisean Nixon then returned the ensuing kickoff to the Miami 9-yard line. The Packers got three points off that possession, but the offense would ramp up later.
The Packers traded touchdowns with the Dolphins later in the quarter. They opened the second half with a score to tie the game at 20-20. They left some points on the board but got two more field goals to go up by six. Throughout the game, Green Bay seemed determined to put the ball in Rodgers’ hands. And he seemed determined to push the ball downfield.
But what started with the defense also ended with the defense, after a “stirring” locker room speech from defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, according to Rasul Douglas.
“OG came in and cursed us bad,” Douglas said. “It was like, ‘we have to play better.’ And in the second half we played better.”
Green Bay’s defense had struggled in recent weeks. Except for last weekend’s game against a shell of the Los Angeles Rams, they had given up over 400 total yards in their previous four games. They gave up 500 against Philadelphia as the Eagles rushed for 363 total yards.
It looked like Miami wanted to follow that plan early. They were stuck on the ground with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson in the early games. Mostert had three rushes for 33 yards on Miami’s first possession. But in the second half, after Green Bay tied the score, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ended up trying to push the ball down. The result was three consecutive interceptions, the last of which nearly ended the game.
As back and forth as the game had been, the Packers decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Dolphins’ 8-yard line to go up by six points. It was a decision questioned by some, making Tagovailoa the main character with a two-minute game-winning touchdown drive.
“I thought the way our defense was playing in the second half we kept them out of the end zone at least,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said.
His faith was justified, as Douglas intercepted a ball intended for Miami tight end Mike Gesicki just two plays into the drive. It all came down to a lone stop by the Green Bay defense, and they came up big.
The Packers finished with four takeaways on the day. They sacked Tagovailoa twice and hit him four times overall. LaFleur credited the effort to being able to get more pressure up front, although it didn’t translate into a sack frenzy.
“It seemed like we were getting a little more pressure up front on Tua, getting him out of the pocket. We knew he’s a guy who’s going to anticipate and release the ball. If you can read the quarterback, the right way that It also gives you some opportunities defensively. Our guys did a great job of that.”
The Packers are rallying at exactly the right time. With some holiday magic thrown at them not only by teams in the division, but also by individual players, like Tagovailoa (or maybe Tua Claus), gifting them the aforementioned opportunities to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“It wasn’t pretty. I think a lot of times when you make a bunch of field goals, that’s usually enough to win you over. We’ve got to be better in the red zone, obviously. We’ve got to get better calls on those guys. . But I can’t say enough about our defense. The first half obviously wasn’t up to our level, but the second half, they made some adjustments and our guys came out and executed. Every since you have four takeaways in a match, you should win this match.”
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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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