MIAMI — The Green Bay Packers pulled off an enormous comeback to beat the Miami Dolphins 26-20 on Christmas Day. Miami jumped to a 20-10 lead, however the Packers’ protection registered three fourth-quarter interceptions to present Miami its fourth loss in a row after successful 5 straight from Weeks 7-12.
Miami receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle each had massive days, nevertheless it was the picks by Packers defenders Jaire Alexander, De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas that made the distinction. Each groups’ playoff hopes are nonetheless alive, with Inexperienced Bay transferring to 7-8 and Miami sliding to 8-7. Let’s take a more in-depth take a look at Sunday’s matchup and what comes subsequent for each franchises.
The Packers obtained all of the presents they wanted from their fellow NFC playoff contenders on Christmas Eve. They saved the largest one for themselves on Christmas Day. A day after the Seahawks, Giants, Lions and Commanders all misplaced, the Packers did their half, pulling to inside a half recreation of the Commanders for the ultimate wild-card spot within the NFC. With residence video games left towards the Vikings and Lions to shut the common season, the Packers’ playoff probabilities went from 17% earlier than the sport to 37% after it, in line with ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. The Packers easiest path to the playoffs is successful out and getting both (1) a Washington loss or (2) two Giants losses. Per ESPN Stats & Info, there are nonetheless prospects at 8-9, as properly.
The Packers have their protection to thank — sure, the identical protection that has been a disappointment all season and let Tua Tagovailoa throw it wherever he wished within the first half. However the unit got here up with three consecutive interceptions within the fourth quarter, together with the sport clincher by Douglas with 1:27 left.
An aggressive recreation plan by coach Matt LaFleur additionally paid off. The Packers went for it 5 occasions on fourth down and transformed three. They transformed fourth downs on three of their first 4 scoring drives. It was the primary time they’ve transformed three fourth downs in a single recreation since Week 12 of the 2020 season. And now with three straight wins, the Packers have matched their longest successful streak of the season. It additionally marked their third win of the season in a recreation by which they trailed by double-digits (the opposite two have been towards the Cowboys in Week 10 and the Bears in Week 13). Earlier than Sunday, Aaron Rodgers had by no means had three double-digit comebacks in the identical season.
Promising development: Keisean Nixon is for actual. In case there have been any doubts (though he got here into the sport with a league-leading three kickoff returns of 50-plus yards), he confirmed his explosion once more on Sunday. Days after being named a Professional Bowl alternate as a return specialist, he returned a kickoff 93 yards within the first quarter all the way down to the Dolphins’ 9. To maintain the ball out of Nixon’s fingers, the Dolphins squibbed their subsequent kickoff, giving the Packers a brief subject that they became a landing. Nonetheless, Nixon, who had been coping with a groin harm, dropped out within the second quarter and didn’t return.
Troubling development: The Packers have gotten solely three factors out of Nixon’s previous two massive kickoff returns. They managed only a subject purpose after his 93-yarder Sunday. The Packers entered Sunday with the worst goal-to-go effectivity within the NFL this season at 50%. After beginning on the Dolphins’ 9, they misplaced 9 yards and settled for a subject purpose. That is three extra factors than they obtained after Nixon’s 52-yard return towards the Rams final week. Inexperienced Bay was 2-of-5 within the crimson zone on Sunday.
Keisean Nixon returns a kick 93 yards to present the Packers nice subject place on their first drive.
Promising development, Half II: LaFleur stays undefeated as a head coach within the month of December (15-0). The Packers gained the primary 14 of these video games by a median margin of 10.1 factors per recreation. They haven’t misplaced in December because the 2018 season finale.
Troubling development, Half II: Along with Nixon’s harm, the Packers additionally misplaced receiver Christian Watson to a hip harm. He was off to one among his most efficient begins with a season-high six catches for 49 yards within the first half. That was two greater than his earlier season excessive in catches. In addition they misplaced proper sort out Yosh Nijman (shoulder) and defensive sort out Dean Lowry (calf). — Rob Demovsky
Underrated statistic to know: Rodgers completed with 192 yards and a landing towards the blitz on Sunday, his second-most passing yards towards the blitz over the previous 5 seasons. The Dolphins blitzed Rodgers on 26 dropbacks Sunday, essentially the most occasions he has been blitzed in a recreation since Week 15 of 2017.
Subsequent recreation: vs. Vikings (Jan. 1, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Dolphins’ Christmas was neither holly nor jolly — and as an alternative of a xmas log, their total month of December is burning within the hearth. They completed the month winless for simply the second time in franchise historical past. The truth that Sunday’s loss was towards an NFC opponent is considerably of a silver lining, contemplating it does not drastically affect their playoff probabilities, however they are going to doubtless have to beat each the Patriots and Jets of their closing two video games in an effort to snap a five-year playoff drought.
On paper, Miami performed a good recreation. the Dolphins’ 376 yards of offense is greater than their season common, they usually averaged 8.4 yards per play. Their protection additionally held the Packers to only 2-for-7 on third down. The backbreaker? Turnovers. Miami turned the ball over 4 occasions Sunday: three Tagovailoa interceptions and a Raheem Mostert fumble. The Dolphins have misplaced 5 of their six video games this season by which they turned the ball over a number of occasions.
Tagovailoa, specifically, was uncharacteristically cavalier with the ball, and there needs to be respectable concern in regards to the Dolphins’ means to function when their timing is disrupted. The Jets and Patriots personal the NFL’s fourth- and eighth-best defenses by way of yards per recreation. So buckle up, Dolphins followers, for a probably rocky end.
Describe the sport in two phrases: Lamborghini and Ferrari. Hill as soon as in contrast himself and fellow receiver Waddle to the 2 luxurious sports activities automobile makers, they usually appeared prefer it Sunday afternoon. Waddle and Hill have been the whole thing of Miami’s offense, combining for 246 yards and a landing on 9 catches. Exterior of these two, there wasn’t a lot to write down residence about from the Dolphins’ perspective.
QB breakdown: Tagovailoa thrived on the massive play within the first half, finishing 9 of 12 passes for 221 yards and a landing — together with an 84-yard TD cross to Waddle and a 52-yard catch for Hill. He appeared sharper than he did in the beginning of December because the Dolphins proceed to rediscover their offensive rhythm, however he threw a head-scratching interception deep in Miami’s territory to arrange the Packers’ go-ahead subject purpose early within the fourth quarter. He compounded a tough second half with one other fourth-quarter interception on the Dolphins’ following drive after which a 3rd one to finish the sport, marking the primary time in his profession he has thrown interceptions on three straight drives.
Total, Tagovailoa completed with 310 passing yards and one TD, and he appeared to construct off his robust efficiency towards Buffalo in Week 15, however he made sufficient errors to shoulder his share of the blame for Miami’s loss.
Promising/troubling development: The Dolphins are good for not less than one extremely explosive play per recreation as of late. Waddle’s 84-yard landing within the first quarter prolonged their streak to 4 straight video games with not less than one landing of 60 or extra yards. These performs aren’t normally sustainable, so it might be seen as each a promising and troubling development … nevertheless it’s a development, both approach. The Dolphins have put collectively solely two scoring drives over their previous 4 video games that did not contain an explosive play (a cross play of not less than 20 yards or a speeding play of not less than 10). These performs clearly nonetheless depend, however Miami isn’t sustaining drives and has solely 5 crimson zone journeys over its previous 4 video games — one among which got here off a turnover on downs on the Packers’ personal 20-yard line. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Jaylen Waddle catches a brief cross from Tua Tagovailoa and outruns the Packers’ protection for an 84-yard rating.
Underrated statistic to know: The Packers slowed down the Dolphins’ play-action passing recreation within the second half. Within the first half, Miami was 5-of-6 with 176 yards and a rating. Within the second half: 2-of-5 for 40 yards and a decide.
Subsequent recreation: at Patriots (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)