GREEN BAY – As the defense took the field with a little more than two minutes left in the first half Sunday, the Packers were in desperate need of big play.
Trailing by 10, Green Bay had just punted the ball back to Miami after going three-and-out. At that point, the Dolphins had scored on four of their five possessions while the Packers had turned the ball over twice on downs and come up short on a fake punt from their own 20.
Offensively, Miami was humming. Tua Tagovailoa had completed 9-of-12 passes for 229 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown to Jaylen Waddle. All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill had three catches for 84 yards, and Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson had 57 yards and a TD on nine combined carries.
And then it all stopped.
The defensive turning point came when defensive lineman Jarran Reed combined with All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell on a forced fumble of Mostert, marking the first of four takeaways the Packers generated in the final 31 minutes, 55 seconds.
Green Bay's offense parlayed Reed's takeaway at midfield into a Mason Crosby 46-yard field goal before halftime, beginning a run of 16 unanswered points that propelled the Packers to a 26-20 victory.
"That was a big one for us because we needed that stop," said cornerback Rasul Douglas after Reed's takeaway. "This was like the biggest defensive series we're going to have. J-Reed came and got the fumble, him and (Campbell)."
For as explosive as Miami was in the first two quarters, the Dolphins gained five first downs and managed just 105 total yards in the second half. Mostert and Wilson combined for just eight more carries after halftime, gaining 24 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa threw interceptions on three consecutive series with Jaire Alexander, Campbell, and Douglas all recording picks. Tagovailoa's three INTs over eight pass attempts were more than his last eight games combined (two at San Francisco in Week 12).
Asked about what changed for the defense in the second half, Alexander pointed directly to Reed's forced fumble and recovery providing a lift for the defense. The seventh-year veteran finished with six tackles and a sack to go along with his forced fumble. It's the first time a Green Bay defensive lineman recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game since Aaron Kampman vs. New Orleans on Sept. 17, 2006.
"Man, we needed that," Alexander said. "When I saw (Reed) on it, I was like, 'Let's go.' We can win this thing, for sure."
Reed has brought a quiet and steady presence to the Packers' defense since he signed as an unrestricted free agent in March. The 6-foot-3, 307-pound defensive lineman has played in all 15 games this season, recording 48 tackles, 2½ sacks and 11 quarterback hits.
If the takeaway in Miami wasn't enough, Reed filled a major void as the five-technique defensive end in the Packers' base defense in Miami after Dean Lowry exited with a calf injury in the first half. Green Bay also finished the game without nickel cornerback Keisean Nixon, who aggravated a groin injury.
Reed, second-year nose tackle T.J. Slaton, first-round pick Devonte Wyatt, former undrafted free agent Innis Gaines and rookie safety Tariq Carpenter were all called upon in the second half and contributed to the comeback.
"We had a lot of guys who came in and stepped up and played a huge role for us," said Kenny Clark after the game. "It speaks to them throughout the week how much they care about this. The preparation and all that kind of stuff they bring to the game, they came out and made some plays."
Head Coach Matt LaFleur categorized Nixon's injury as "day-to-day" but Lowry was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, sidelining him for the remainder of the regular season and at least the first two games of a potential playoff run. That means Reed, Slaton and Wyatt likely will see a significant spike in snaps in the weeks ahead.
In the midst of a playoff push, the Packers know they can count on Reed – especially coming off what LaFleur called possibly Reed's "best performance" in a Packers uniform. Wherever Green Bay needs Reed to play, he's going to be there.
"I feel I can play anywhere, especially in this defensive scheme," said Reed earlier this year. "I don't like to have limitations on my game. I like to be able move around, to be mobile up and down the line."