MIAMI – The Packers rallied from an early deficit to beat the Dolphins, 26-20, on Christmas at Hard Rock Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from a huge victory:
1. The Packers' playoff hopes are very much alive.
With their third straight win, Green Bay improved to 7-8 one day after a bunch of other NFC results went their way in the playoff chase.
The bottom line is this: If the Packers can win out, with two home games against Minnesota and Detroit, to finish 9-8, all that's needed is one more loss by Washington, or two by the N.Y. Giants, and Green Bay is in the postseason.
So how do the Packers like their chances?
"Definitely better than three weeks ago, or four weeks ago I guess, with the bye," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Yeah, getting better."
2. The defense staged a remarkable turnaround to get this win.
Miami's big playmakers, receivers Jaylen Waddle (five catches, 143 yards) and Tyreek Hill (4-103), were up to their explosive ways in the first half. Waddle had an 84-yard catch-and-run for a TD, and Hill had a 52-yard reception to the 1-yard line to set up another score.
The Dolphins had 20 points on the board at halftime, but the Packers held them right there, mostly due to taking the ball away.
A fumble forced and recovered by Jarran Reed late in the first half led to a Green Bay field goal that cut the deficit to 20-13 at intermission.
Then Jaire Alexander, De'Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas all got interceptions off Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa (16-of-25, 310 yards, 80.8 rating) in the fourth quarter to complete the second-half shutout and comeback. Tagovailoa had just five interceptions on the season before throwing three on three straight drives.
"Anytime you get four takeaways in a game, you should win that game," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
"Our guys seemed like they were getting more pressure up front on Tua and making him move out of the pocket. We knew he's a guy who's going to anticipate and going to let the ball go, and if you can read the quarterback the right way, it also gives you opportunities."
Added Rodgers: "Our defense clamped down and played excellent football."
See scenes from the Christmas Day matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 25, 2022.
3. The offense's biggest drive was at the start of the second half, but the missed chances kept adding up.
The Packers drove 78 yards in 11 plays, using 7:07 on the clock, to open the second half and knot the game at 20 on a short TD plunge by AJ Dillon (11 carries, 36 yards).
"It wasn't super pretty … but we did what we had to do there, getting seven points, to get back in the game and tie it up," Rodgers said.
The regrets were many, though, beginning with Keisean Nixon taking Miami's first kickoff 93 yards to the 9-yard line, only to have the drive end in a field goal that tied the game at 3. The Packers failed on a fake punt in their own territory, too, though the defense only allowed a field goal after that.
Rodgers (24-of-38, 238 yards, one TD, one INT, 78.76 rating) also missed rookie receiver Christian Watson deep on a fourth-and-2, and was intercepted in the end zone on a deep ball for Allen Lazard that appeared to be pass interference but wasn't called.
Then the interceptions by Alexander and Campbell only led to field goals as the Packers couldn't finish off those drives in the fourth quarter.
But fortunately, turning the 20-all tie into 26-20 wound up being enough.
"A lot of times when you kick a bunch of field goals, that's just enough to get you beat," LaFleur said. "We've got to be better in the red zone and get these guys better calls."
4. Crunch time featured two interesting decisions.
First, following Campbell's interception, the Packers led 23-20 and faced second-and-2 from the Miami 20 with 3:03 left. The Dolphins had just two timeouts left (plus the two-minute warning), so they jumped offside on purpose to give the Packers the first down and an opportunity to stop the clock on the next three plays.
LaFleur thought about declining the offside penalty but decided to take it, putting the ball on the 15.
Then, three snaps later, the Packers had fourth-and-3 from the Miami 8 with 2:06 on the clock and Miami out of timeouts. LaFleur said he considered going for it to put the game away, and might've been more inclined had it been fourth-and-1 or 2.
He took the field goal, which gave the Dolphins one last chance to win the game with a touchdown/PAT, and the Packers' defense made it hold up.
"I'm glad we made the decision," LaFleur said, smiling that it was easy to say that after the game. "I thought the way our defense was playing the second half we would keep them out of the end zone."
5. The Packers are fired up, but also banged up.
Nixon left the game with a groin injury, leaving safeties Innis Gaines and Darnell Savage to play more in the defensive sub-packages, and Romeo Doubs to return kicks. Watson (six catches, 49 yards) exited with a hip injury after halftime. Right tackle Yosh Nijman left with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Royce Newman. Dean Lowry went down with a calf injury and rookie Devonte Wyatt played more, and made an impact.
The Packers have two more games to win to try to make their playoff dreams a reality, and the hope is no injuries are serious, but more will be known in the coming days.
"It's cool to see whenever you do lose somebody who's going to step up and take the opportunity," LaFleur said.
"It was a total, collective team effort, and we did just enough to get the win."