The Green Bay Packers travel to the Sunshine State of Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins in a Christmas day matchup. The Packers, coming off a dominant win over the lowly Los Angeles Rams, look to keep their playoff hopes alive. To do so they will have to go through the Dolphins, who are currently in the playoff picture but have yet to clinch a playoff berth. The Packers will be without David Bahktiari for a second straight week as he recovers from his appendectomy, but will be otherwise at full strength for their must-win matchup. The Dolphins could potentially be without two of their offensive lineman, which could help the Packers pass rush to apply some pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, who is ranked 15th among starting QBs in offensive grade under pressure according to PFF. In the secondary, the Packers defensive backs will have to cover one of the league’s best and fastest receiver duos in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. With the loss of their fastest corner, Eric Stokes, earlier in the year, the Packers will likely struggle to keep up in man coverage and have to rely more on a zone look to contain their deep threat ability. When it comes to the run game, the Dolphins could be without two of their running backs in Myles Gaskin and Jeff Wilson; however their man back, Raheem Mostert, has a history of gashing the Packers run defense. Today could be no different as the Packers have still struggled against the run all year. The Packers defense have their work cut out for them.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers offense is up against an overall mediocre Dolphins defense that ranks towards the bottom of the league in most passing categories as well as points allowed, but ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. The Packers offense may have to air it out to keep pace with the high-powered Dolphins offense. The Packers have had their fair share of success offensively in recent weeks, but have made multiple mistakes that have held them back from truly dominating on the field. There will be no room for mistakes in this game, and the Packers offense will have to capitalize on every opportunity to stay in the game.
One final thing to note, the Dolphins rank 31st in the league in average kick return yards allowed. With the emergence of Keisean Nixon as the Packers’ star return man in recent weeks, his return game could help out the Packers offense tremendously by giving them great field position off punts and kickoffs.
With the Washington Commanders, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and New York Giants losing all of their matchups on Saturday, the Green Bay Packers could pull within a half game out from the playoffs with a win against the Dolphins. Will the Packers pull off the upset win and keep their playoff hopes alive?
What started as a promising first half for the Packers soon turned into chaos. The explosive offense of the Dolphins was exactly that, quickly scoring in quick succession their first two drives, a field goal and a one-play 86-yard touchdown to Jaylen Waddle. The Packers were able to keep pace at first, thanks to a 93 yard kickoff return by Keisean Nixon on the first kickoff of the day. The Packers defense would finally hold the Dolphins to a punt, but the Packers couldn’t take advantage as Rodgers would overthrow an open Watson on fourth and two in Dolphins territory. The Packers would quickly wish they had capitalized as Tua would connect with Tyreek Hill a couple plays later on a 52 yard catch to get them to Green Bay’s one yard line. A Jeff Wilson rushing touchdown the next play would put the Dolphins up 17-10.
The following drive would be potentially one of the most confusing drives the Packers have had all year. Two AJ Dillon carries for eight yards and a Rodgers incompletion would be a three-and-out for the Packers; however for some unexplainable reason, on their own 20-yard line on a fourth and 2, the Packers would fake the punt and would easily be stuffed for no gain. Luckily this call, however stupid it was, did not completely come back to bite them as penalties and a defensive hold would force the Dolphins to settle for another field goal. The Packers would once again go three-and-out the following drive, but Jarran Reed would force a Raheem Mostert fumble at mid-field, setting the Packers up beautifully in Dolphins territory. The offense would continue to struggle, but would run the clock out and settle for a field goal to close out the half, only down 13-20.
The second half, the Packers turned it around. The offense did struggle to score in the red zone and Rodgers tossed a questionable pick that should’ve been flagged for defensive pass interference, but nonetheless still rallied for 16 unanswered points, one AJ Dillon touchdown and two Mason Crosby field goals, to take the lead 26-20 over the Dolphins. The defense played an outstanding second half, forcing a field goal attempt that would wind up missing and three straight drives that ended in interceptions, one by Jaire Alexander, one by De’Vondre Campbell, and one by Rasul Douglas to ice the game. A defense that was absolutely gashed in the first half by the speedy receivers locked it down in the second half to help secure a close upset win over the Miami Dolphins 26-20.
Players of the Game
While the defense kicked it into high gear and played an outstanding second half on all fronts, Jarran Reed played an outstanding game all day. Reed was second on the team in tackles today with six, four of them being solo tackles and one of which being a tackle for a loss, to go along with a sack and two QB hits. Jarran Reed hasn’t done a whole lot this year but today he was an absolute force on the line and helped get pressure on Tua.
Mason Crosby: The Packers struggled in the red zone today and had to settle for quite a few field goals. Thankfully, Mason Crosby is having quite the bounceback year after his poor performance last year. Today, Crosby was a perfect 4/4 on field goals today along with going 2/2 on extra points today, and was a huge reason the Packers were able to come out with a win today.
- Yosh Njiman left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, did not return.
- Keisean Nixon suffered a groin injury in the second quarter, he did not return.
- Christian Watson suffered a hip injury late in the first half, he did not return to the game.
The Packers were able to sneak out of Miami with a win today thanks to an outstanding defensive performance in the second half. The defense allowed zero points in the second half and forced a total of four turnovers, including three straight interceptions on the Dolphins final three drives. An incredible bounce back performance after an abysmal first half where Tua had his way.
Once again the Packers offense struggled to score touchdowns in the redzone, despite being given multiple prime opportunities to do so, only scoring two touchdowns on five trips to the redzone. The Packers were even worse on third down, going an atrocious 2-for-14 on third down. This offensive inefficiency isn’t sustainable and will not fly against playoff teams. Normally I’d say this is something they can fix; however this has been a consistent issue for the Packers all year. They are running out of time to figure it out and aren’t always going to be able to be bailed out by their defense.
The Packers entered today a healthy team. Today they leave with injuries to three key players. Right tackle Yosh Njiman, kick returner and cornerback Keisean Nixon, and wide receiver Christian Watson. Losing one of these players long term is a big blow, but losing all three could derail the Packer’s chances at making a playoff push. Njiman has been a stud at right tackle for the Packers, and Royce Newman simply doesn’t have nearly the skill Njiman has to fill in for him. Keisean Nixon opened the game with a 93 yard return, losing him means losing opportunities at short fields, which will make things harder for an already struggling Packers offense. Christian Watson has emerged as a star for the Packers, losing him long term is losing their big deep threat speedster and severely limits their offensive capabilities. We can only hope these injuries are not long term and they’ll be back in no time at all.
The Packers stay alive in the playoff hunt, needing only one more Commanders’ loss in order to control their own playoff destiny. They will head back to Lambeau to host the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of their week one beatdown to start the year.