THE WEEK PAST: What Head Coach Mike Sherman has described as his "obsession" with takeaways continued to pay major dividends for the Packers en route to their sixth straight success.
League leaders in this critical category going into Monday night's action after taking his message to heart, the Green and Gold proceeded to put on another "clinic," this one against the Dolphins.
Forcing and recovering two fumbles and posting two interceptions, they converted one of each into touchdowns, with the 14 points they harvested there from representing the precise difference In the final score.
The first of these "acquisitions" occurred early in the second quarter, at which point the principals were locked in a scoreless tie. A Tyrone Williams tackle triggered a Ricky Williams fumble, recovered by fellow defender Tod McBride, who returned it 5 yards to the Green Bay 48.
At that point, quarterback Brett Favre, playing with a brace to protect an injured knee, took control of the proceedings. Showing no visible trace of discomfort despite suffering a sack in the process, and weathering a pair of penalties en route, he had the Packers at the Miami 11-yard line in 8 plays.
A pass interference penalty on Dolphins linebacker Morton Greenwood moved the ball to the one and running back Ahman Green, who was to be a prolific contributor to the offensive cause, bolted over right guard into the end zone on the next play, Ryan Longwell's conversion made it 7-0.
The Packers' next two scores were of a more routine origin, following a pair of short Miami punts. Favre moved them 44 yards in just 4 plays for their second touchdown of the evening, which came off a 23-yard screen pass collaboration with Green, who cantered into the right corner of the end zone with only 46 seconds left in the first half. Longwell's second PAT increased the Packers' lead to 14-0 at the intermission.
A somewhat similar scenario led to a Longwell field goal early in the third quarter, following a 36-yard Miami punt which saw the Packers take over at their own 33 following a 6-yard return by Darrien Gordon. This time, a 30-yard Favre collaboration with split end Donald Driver, coupled with a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Dolphins, carried Green Bay to the Dolphins' 17-yard line.
Here the drive stalled, however, and Longwell was called upon to deliver a 27-yard field goal, fattening the Packers' lead to 17-0.
The takeaway factor subsequently "returned" in spectacular fashion on the final play of the third quarter. Safety Darren Sharper leaped in front of Miami tight end Ed Perry to spear a Ray Lucas pass and, without being touched, sprinted 89 yards to the Dolphins' end zone to mount a 23-0 lead. Longwell's conversion closed out Green Bay's scoring for the evening.
With the Packers largely devoted to maintaining the status quo in the fourth quarter, particularly after Sherman pulled Favre with 7:30 remaining in the game, inserting Doug Pederson, the Dolphins found it possible to get on the scoreboard by way of a 46-yard Olindo Mare field goal and, with only 1:31 remaining, a one-yard run by Lucas, but there never was any concern about victory slipping away.
Favre, who demonstrated his mobility by rolling out to his right on the very first play of the game and completing an 8-yard pass to tight end Bubba Franks, was a customarily effective workman - although perhaps slightly more conservative than usual - completing 16 of 25 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.
Bolstered by the return of Sharper, cornerback Mike McKenzie and power end Vonnie Holliday to the starting lineup, the defense held the Dolphins scoreless and to 186 net yards through the first three quarters - until after the Packers mounted a 24-0 lead.
Linebacker Nate Wayne also was a key factor in the process, collecting 9 tackles, posting an interception, three passes defensed and forcing and recovering a fumble. Cornerback Tyrone Williams and safety Marques Anderson also weighed in with 9 tackles apiece.
On the subject of turnovers, the Packers are on an impressive takeaway binge. They have registered four takeaways in each of the past four games on the way to capturing the league lead and, with 27 overall to date, are on a pace to tie the club record of 81, established in 1981.
Their 4-1 ratio against the Dolphins, meanwhile, marked the sixth consecutive game in which they have won the turnover battle, a stretch during which they have posted a plus-17 reading. In that process, they have forced and recovered seven fumbles in the last three games.
THE FAVRE FILE: Favre enhanced his perfect "cold weather" record in guiding the Packers past the Dolphins. It was the 32nd victory of his career when the game-time temperature is 34 degrees or below. The kickoff temperature for Monday night's game was 30 degrees.
It was the 26th regular-season "cold weather" win for Favre, who also owns a 6-0 such record for the postseason.
It also was Favre's 70th "home" victory as a starting quarterback, compared to only 12 losses, an.854 percentage, an NFL record for quarterbacks who launched their careers since 1950.
Favre likewise improved his "Monday Night Football" record to 13-8 for 21 appearances on the prime time showcase.
HISTORY-MAKER: Additionally, Favre made Packers history Monday night by playing in his 167th consecutive game, now the second-longest such streak in team history. In so doing, he passed Willie Wood, who also had played in 166 consecutive games.
Favre now trails only offensive tackle Forrest Gregg (1956, '58-70), who holds the Packers' record for most consecutive games played, 187.
THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green, again a dominating presence, emerged as the game's leading rusher and receiver, rushing 19 times for 72 yards and one touchdown, and snaring 6 passes for 71 yards and a second touchdown - thus personally accounting for 143 of the Packers' 270 net yards of offense.
In the process, Green moved past Eddie Lee Ivery into ninth place on the Packers' lifetime list for most combined rushing and receiving yards with 4,655. Green has rushed for 3,274 yards in 729 attempts and added 1,381 receiving yards with 164 catches.
Ivery closed out his Green Bay career (1979-86) with 4,545 yards (2,933 rushing and 1,612 receiving).
Green continued to entrench himself among the durable and productive running backs in Packers history. With his 19 rushing attempts against the Dolphins, he has logged 101 carries over his last four games, thus becoming only the third running back in team annals to do so. He previously had posted 27 attempts against the Chicago Bears (Oct. 7), 31 against New England (Oct. 13) and 24 against Washington (Oct. 20).
Jim Taylor was the first Packer to forge the four-game, 100-rush package, recording 27, 26, 30 and 18 attempts in four successive outings, and Dorsey Levens has been the only other, fashioning a record 103-attempts package with 33, 31, 11 and 17 carries in four consecutive games.
THE SHARPER FILE: Darren Sharper's 89-yard interception return for a touchdown was the fourth defensive touchdown of his six-year NFL career - and his first since 1997, when he scored three touchdowns to tie a club record - two on interceptions and one on a fumble recovery and run.
The interception, which also came on Sharper's return to the starting lineup after sitting out two games with a hamstring injury, was his fourth of the season and the 24th of his career.
THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: With another highly successful "harvest,' the Packers widened their lead in the NFL's takeaway-giveaway standings. Emerging from their victory over Miami with a net of three, they now own a plus-15 reading.
San Francisco continues as runner-up with a plus-10 mark, identical to last week's reading.
The Packers now have registered a league-best 27 takeaways (14 interceptions and 13 recoveries of opponent fumbles), compared to 4 opponent interceptions and 8 lost fumbles.
The Packers' rankings remained largely unchanged elsewhere. Seventh a week ago on offense, they are now tied for eighth place (13th in rushing and ninth in passing). Eleventh alone last week, they now are tied with Miami for that position (24th against the run and ninth against the pass).
Sprained knee or not, quarterback Brett Favre continues to lead the league's passer ratings with a 100.2 rating, based upon 169 completions in 258 attempts for 1,893 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only 4 interceptions.
Favre also ranks fifth in NFC third-down passing with an 86.8 rating, based upon 43 completions in 71 attempts for 523 yards 2 touchdowns, with one interception, and seventh in fourth-quarter passing with an 85.0 rating, based upon 28 completions in 45 attempts for 256 yards and one touchdown, without an interception.
Teammate Ahman Green ranks third in both rushing (712 yards in 162 attempts, a 4.4-yard average) and total yards from scrimmage (940, his total including 228 yards receiving).
Green also is tied for third in the NFC in the production of first downs with 42 (31 rushing and 11 receiving).
Split end Donald Driver ranks seventh in the NFC in receiving yards with 587 on 35 receptions a total which has him tied with Tampa Bay's Michael Pittman for 12th place with a 16.8-yard average.
Safety Darren Sharper, forging his fourth interception, moved into a tie for the league lead. He shares with six others, two in the NFC and four in the AFC.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, vaulting among the league leaders with 2.5 sacks against the Dolphins, is now tied with Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp for second place in the NFL as a whole with 7.5.
Ryan Longwell now ranks third in NFC kickers scoring with 71 points with 20 of conversions and 15 field goals in 20 attempts.
Punter Josh Bidwell stands ninth in the NFC with a 42.0-yard gross average for 38 punts.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S COMMENTS:
(on Brett Favre's condition after the game) "He came out quite well. He was limping right at the end of the half, but a lot of that had to do with when you play with a brace. The knee cramped up on him just a little bit. But it didn't seem like he was any worse off at the end of the game than he was at the beginning of the game so I'd say he came out in pretty good shape."
(on the hit that Favre took on the sack) "Well obviously there was some concern there, but he jumped up and I asked him how he was. He said he was fine so we went on with him. Really the only significance, I think it stiffened up a little bit at the end of the game. He had a little cramp at the end of the half, but other than that I thought he held up quite well."
(on the defense's performance) "Well the defense, I believe, has only allowed one touchdown in two ballgames. I thought they played an outstanding football game. They applied pressure on the quarterback, I thought they did a great job of stifling their running game. They have a great running attack and we held in there pretty good."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on how the knee felt) "It felt fine, a little stiff, but it's going to be OK."
(on whether the knee injury hindered him at all) "No, but I found out after some plays, I couldn't move like I thought I could. For the most part, I felt like I played normal. It didn't affect me mentally."
(on the offense overall) "Ahman played great as usual. We left some points out there, but we scored enough to win against a very good defense - one of the best defenses in the league."
(on the play of the defense, giving the offense opportunities) "Our defense has been giving us turnovers the last few weeks and great field position. We didn't score on all of them, but got enough to at least give them a little cushion to kind of open up the defense a little bit. But they played great."
Linebacker Nate Wayne: (on his interception) "It was huge - Tod (McBride) made a great play on it, the ball popped up and I tried to make the catch at its highest point. After that, I was just trying to secure the ball. I didn't want anyone coming up behind me and popping it loose, and I knew I wasn't going to be taking it all the way to the house. "
(on the fumble) "I knew I had the tackle because I could tell he was a little loose in his control, so I just gave it a rip to try and get the ball out. Any time we can do that and get it back in the offense's hands, it's great."
(on the defensive performance) "We did well, we hustled and we made plays when we needed to. We gave up some leaky yardage here and there, but every mistake that we made was correctable. We just keep looking to get better and better."
Safety Darren Sharper: (on his interception) "I have never been more tired after running a play in my entire career. I was just excited I was able to hold onto it. It's all about stepping up your play when they're inside the red zone. They had run similar routes in the red zone before, and I wanted to be sure I got it if they ran it again - I did."
(on the defensive performance) "We're making turnovers, and big plays every chance we get. That's a sign of a good defense, and an opportunistic defense. We just keep working - it started when all the backups came in and started making plays. They really showed us the way. We're just trying to keep things up and going in the right direction. "
Running back Ahman Green: (on carrying the load) "We just went out and tried to do what we always do. This defense was very great fundamentally. We knew that we could not make any mistakes, and defensively, they were awesome. They just kept stepping up and making things easier for us."
(on the success of the screen passes) "We just kept practicing throughout the week. Earlier this season it seemed like teams were keying in on me, and they were calling out screens just by our formations before we even snapped the ball. They knew it was coming. But tonight we were able to get it going. It's just like Novocain - just give it time and it will take effect. "
-Monday night's victory was the Packers' second over the Dolphins in regular season action. Miami has won their other nine meetings.
-Ahman Green's one-yard scoring run in the second quarter was the 25th rushing touchdown of his three-year Packers career. He now has scored six touchdowns in his last three games.
-Green, incidentally, had more than 100 yards of offense in the first half.
-The first-quarter interception of Brett Favre's seventh pass of the game ended a string of 87 consecutive attempts without a "pick' for the 33-year-old field general.
-Left offensive tackle Chad Clifton, who had been sidelined with a knee injury, made his first appearance since the New England game October 13, entering the game in the second quarter.
At that point, Mike Flanagan, who had started at left tackle, returned to his customary center position, relieving veteran Frank Winters, who had suffered a rib injury.
-Darren Sharper's 89-yard scoring runback of an interception was the fifth-longest in team history, surpassing the 88-yard runback of Bob Summerhays against Philadelphia on October 14, 1951, which had been the fifth-longest.
-Rookie running back Tony Fisher staged the game's longest run from scrimmage, bolting up the middle for a 28-yard gain on a second quarter draw.
-LeRoy Butler, whose retirement in July ended a distinguished, 12-year NFL playing career, was the Packers' honorary captain for Monday night's game. He accompanied the team captains - Brett Favre, Bubba Franks, Gilbert Brown, Na'il Diggs and Todd McBride out to midfield for the pre-game coin toss and remained with the team in the bench area throughout the game.
-Former Packers defensive back Scott McGarrahan, now a Dolphin, was not overly friendly to Brett Favre in their "reunion," sacking Favre for a 13-yard loss by way of a second quarter blitz.
-Packers inactives for Monday night's contest included cornerback Bryant Westbrook, offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, tight end Tyrone Davis, wide receiver Karsten Bailey, defensive tackle Steve Warren, defensive end Jamal Reynolds and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Oneida Nation Pow Wow dancers staged a halftime demonstration of their art, highlighted by the appearance of "Challenger," a bald eagle from the American Eagle Foundation, which was released and circled the stadium during the show, landing among the dancers as they performed on the field.
-Chef hats, courtesy of Sentry Foods, were distributed to every fan attending the game.