GREEN BAY – The Packers’ defense had to dig deep into both its depth chart and coordinator Mike Pettine’s bag of tricks on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Despite being down four starters by the end of the night, the Packers’ defense responded exactly like it needed to, keeping the Dolphins out of the end zone in a 31-12 victory at Lambeau Field.
With Miami missing three starting offensive linemen, including both tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, Pettine hit the Dolphins with a barrage of pressure packages on the way to sacking quarterback Brock Osweiler six times and forcing two takeaways.
Four of those six sacks came in either third- and fourth-down situations, while the Packers’ offense converted touchdowns after both linebacker Reggie Gilbert’s recovery of a mishandled snap on the Dolphins’ first possession and cornerback Bashaud Breeland's third-quarter interception.
“I think for the most part scheme definitely helps,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “There’s a lot of guys involved in the pass rush. And I’m not just talking about four-man rush, I’m talking about the pressures, blitzes on third down. Guys just won their one-one-ones as well.
“They were banged up, no doubt about it. … But you gotta capitalize on that. I thought we did a great job of putting pressure on Osweiler and making him get rid of the ball.”
Green Bay had to deal with its own injury issues Sunday. Already missing cornerback Kevin King, the Packers had to get creative with their scheme after losing both safety Kentrell Brice (ankle) and linebacker Nick Perry (knee) in the first half.
To up the difficulty another notch, Breeland (groin) and Alexander (evaluation for a concussion) also left the game down the stretch, though both said they could have re-entered the game in an emergency situation.
Although the last two injuries forced the defense to finish the game in its nickel package, the Packers had a slew of role players such as undrafted defensive backs Raven Greene and Tony Brown step up for the secondary.
Greene, a rookie out of James Madison, entered the game after Brice’s injury and registered a key sack of Osweiler for a 12-yard loss on third-and-7 at the end of the third quarter.
Lined up with no safety help, Pettine threatened eight rushers at the line of scrimmage and appeared to catch Osweiler off-guard when he sent them all.
“The secondary, we had to play everybody who was up tonight,” Breeland said. “To see how everybody went out there and played ball, it was a glorious moment for everybody. The young guys went out there and really balled, especially Raven. He’s one of the guys who really impressed me tonight.”
The defense got off to a shaky start when it allowed a 39-yard run to Dolphins running back Frank Gore only 11 seconds into Sunday’s game and also gave up a 39-yard completion to Danny Amendola in the second quarter.
Both explosive plays led to field goals, but other than that, however, Miami didn’t have another play of more than 20 yards. Each time the defense needed to get a stop, it held the Dolphins to Jason Sanders field goals.
“Pettine is the best D-coordinator I’ve ever been around,” Alexander said. “He definitely schemes well, calls up the plays well and puts guys in situations to make plays. As you can see, we held it down tonight.”
Touchdown machine: Davante Adams has been one of the NFL’s top red-zone targets for the past two seasons, so it’s not as though his two touchdowns Sunday were anything too out of the ordinary.
Still, the fifth-year receiver is finding the end zone with unprecedented consistency. With his 7-yard touchdown off a slant in the first quarter and 25-yard touchdown in the third, Adams has now scored 12 times in his last 11 games dating back to last season.
“Pretty good opportunities down there and just making the most of every time I get a ball in a one-on-one matchup or whatever it is,” Adams said. “I feel like I’ve had a nose for the end zone since college. Obviously I put up quite a few of them there. It’s something about getting close to that paint that just brings a little extra out of me.”
Seeing Greene: Raven Greene admits he was a little nervous when his number was called on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter.
Having just allowed a first down on a fake punt in the third quarter, the Packers gave the green light on calling a direct snap to Greene on fourth-and-3 with 11:08 remaining.
Greene only recently took over the role as a personal protector on punts after the team released safety Jermaine Whitehead last Tuesday. Given the opportunity, however, Greene made the first would-be tackler miss en route to picking up 26 yards.
“I was a little nervous at first just thinking, ‘OK, we’re really going to do this,’ but as we got into the huddle the guys came into the huddle and said, ‘We got you man,’” Greene said. “I went out and did what I did.”
The play helped offset a tough night for Green Bay’s special teams, which also lost a fumble on a punt return in the first quarter and had a punt blocked at the start of the second half.
Sleepless before Seattle: The Packers now face the daunting task of a four-day turnaround for Thursday night’s road game against the Seattle Seahawks.
“It’s going to be a tough week no doubt about it,” Matthews said. “These Thursday games, they come up on you fast, especially this year you see the schedule and they don’t care about the proximity of where you are to where you gotta go. I hope the viewers are happy.”