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Game Review: Perseverance Pays In Win Over Dolphins


MIAMI - With all they had to overcome to beat the Miami Dolphins, it's hard to say whether the Packers showed more resiliency, depth or sheer will in the scorching heat of South Florida on Sunday.

But it's not a stretch to say the Packers showed more of all three than most outsiders thought they had.

Green Bay's 34-24 victory, the franchise's first ever in Miami, not only gave the Packers their second win of 2006 but also may have given them the proof that no obstacle is impossible to overcome. To believe the Packers thrived on the adversity may be going a bit too far, but given the circumstances, this 10-point road win was nothing short of a remarkable effort.

Consider that the Packers, now 2-4:

  • Found out just before kickoff that left tackle Chad Clifton, who became very ill Saturday night, wouldn't be able to play. But with the necessary position changes and three rookies on the offensive line, the Packers held the Dolphins' veteran defensive line without a sack over the final three quarters.
  • Left star running back Ahman Green behind in the locker room after halftime to take intravenous fluids, only to see him return and rip off a 70-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
  • Lost wide receiver Greg Jennings late in the second quarter to an ankle injury, leaving them with only three healthy receivers, two of whom had never caught an NFL pass before Sunday. Yet the newcomers made a few key catches and the Packers got a touchdown reception from a tight end for the first time all season, sealing the game late in the fourth quarter.

It was enough adversity to make any team wonder what might happen next, but that's not the mindset the Packers adopted on this day.

"When life throws you a curveball, if you panic and worry about the curveball, you're not going to hit it," Green said. "We've knew we've been dealing with stuff every game, be it turnovers or big plays against us. With the stuff that happened today, we've already been ready for it, prepared mentally. We just had to adjust, be pros about it and keep going."

The Packers certainly didn't flinch after a nightmarish start.

Early in the first quarter, Miami defensive end Jason Taylor whipped past Clifton's replacement, rookie Daryn Colledge, and swatted the ball from Brett Favre's hand. David Bowens scooped it up and returned it to the Green Bay 8-yard line, setting up a quick TD pass from Joey Harrington to Marty Booker.

But from there, the Packers did two things they haven't done much of this season to swing the game in their favor -- the defense created turnovers, and the offense made some explosive plays.

"It's nice to see when you emphasize key components of successful football come to life," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "The turnovers by our defense today were huge."

Interceptions by linebackers Brady Poppinga and Nick Barnett set up a pair of Dave Rayner field goals to get the Packers within 7-6.

Then, trailing 10-6 at the start of the third quarter, the Packers got the turnover that turned the game around.

A short pass from Harrington (33-of-62, 414 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) into the left flat tipped off the hands of tight end Randy McMichael and into the hands of cornerback Charles Woodson, who returned it untouched 23 yards for a touchdown and a 13-10 Green Bay lead.

"That's what you live for as a defensive back, to get your hands on the ball and be able to turn it into points," Woodson said. "That put us up in the game, and after that we kind of ran away. That's what makes the game fun right there."

The Packers kept the momentum with a big play on their next drive, as Favre lofted a 34-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver. Leaping between two defenders, Driver made a spectacular catch in the end zone that originally was ruled incomplete. But at Driver's insistence the Packers challenged the call and it was overturned and ruled a touchdown, making it 20-10.

"Before I even got up, I was already screaming, because I looked at the ref and he was saying incomplete," Driver said. "I just ran toward Mike (McCarthy) telling him to throw the flag. I already knew it was a touchdown. My elbow hit the ground not the ball."

Miami closed the gap to 20-16 with a pair of field goals, but then the Packers offense struck it big again.

On the first play from scrimmage after Miami had pulled within four points, Green burst through a hole on the left side and bolted 70 yards for a touchdown for a 27-16 lead with 13:14 left in the game.

"Ahman's run really was, I don't want to say the icing on the cake, but it gave us a little lift," Favre said.

Did it ever. The offense maintained that level of execution even after Miami countered with a touchdown and two-point play to make it 27-24.

The Packers didn't let up, responding with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that Favre called one of the team's best in recent memory. Favre (19-of-35, 206 yards, 2 TD) capped it with a 13-yard TD pass to tight end David Martin to restore the double-digit lead with 6:11 to go.

The drive included a key fourth-and-1 conversion on which Driver, nearly out of gas and needing a break, took a handoff on an end around, juked former Packer Vonnie Holliday in the backfield and scooted around the corner for a 6-yard gain.

"We talked a lot about momentum because momentums change during the game," McCarthy said. "It's important to be able to maintain it or get it back. There was a particular point in the game where, 27-24, momentum was starting to swing in Miami's way. That was a big drive for us."

Miami had two more chances to get within one score, but Olindo Mare's 52-yard field goal try hit the left upright with 2:06 left, and Harrington's near-TD pass to Chris Chambers on the game's final play would have been too little, too late.

By game's end, the defense had battled for 83 plays on a blistering hot day and players on both sides of the ball were exhausted and banged up. But for all their blood and sweat, improvement and perseverance, the Packers also had a win whose value couldn't be overstated.

"For this football team to grow, we need to be successful," McCarthy said. "Today was an illustration of that. I think you see guys finally cashing in all the effort and preparation they're putting forth. That's what you want as a football team."

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