HomeSportsPackers win with aggressive approach, bringing playoff hope to Green Bay

Packers win with aggressive approach, bringing playoff hope to Green Bay

“This was special,” said a smiling Aaron Rodgers after the Packers26-20 win over the Miami Dolphins. “Everything that we needed to happen this weekend, happened.”

Rodgers is referring to Green Bay’s playoff chances, which are up to 27% (per FiveThirtyEight) after the win and some help from losing teams Saturday. The Commanders lost to the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants lost to the Vikings. The Seahawks drew the Chiefs card and lost. And the Detroit Lions lost to the Carolina Panthers. It cleared the way for the Packers to be just a half-game out of the playoffs.

It’s almost like this was predestined.

“I don’t think we’ve struggled with confidence, but definitely haven’t had a lot of believers outside of the locker room, I don’t think,” said Rodgers. “This should get us a couple on the bandwagon.”

‘This was special’ — Aaron Rodgers told Pam Oliver

Aaron Rodgers spoke with FOX Sports NFL reporter Pam Oliver about the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Miami Dolphins.

It was immediately evident that Green Bay understood the task in front of them. The Packers were aggressive, going for it on fourth down five times. They managed to convert three of them. They also tried a fake punt to gain some momentum in the first half. It didn’t pan out. But that didn’t deter them from staying aggressive. 

They played for their season in all facets of the game, starting with the defense, which held the Dolphins to a field goal on their first drive. Then special teams ace Keisean Nixon returned the ensuing kickoff to the Miami 9-yard line. The Packers got three points out of that possession, but the offense would come up bigger later.

The Packers traded touchdowns with the Dolphins later in the quarter. They opened the second half with a score to tie the game at 20-20. They left some points on the board but managed two more field goals to go up by six. All game, Green Bay seemed hellbent on leaving the ball in Rodgers’ hands. And he seemed hellbent on pushing the ball downfield.

But what started with the defense also ended with the defense — following a “rousing’ speech in the locker room from defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, according to Rasul Douglas

“OG came in and cursed us out bad,” said Douglas. “It was just like, ‘we have to play better.’ And in the second half, we played better.”

Green Bay’s defense had struggled in recent weeks. Save for the game last weekend against a shell of the Los Angeles Rams, they had given up over 400 total yards in their previous four games. They gave up 500 against Philadelphia as the Eagles rushed for 363 total yards.

Miami seemed to want to follow that blueprint early. They stuck to the ground with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson in the opening drives. Mostert had three rushes for 33 yards after the first Miami possession. But in the second half, after Green Bay evened the score, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ended up trying to push the ball downfield. The result was three straight interceptions, the last of which all but ended the game.

For as back and forth as the game had been, the Packers decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Dolphins’ 8-yard line to go up six points. It was a decision questioned by some, setting Tagovailoa up to be the main character with a two-minute touchdown drive to win the game.

“I kind of thought the way our defense was playing in the second half that we would keep them out of the end zone, at least,” said Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.

His faith was warranted, as Douglas intercepted a ball intended for Miami tight end Mike Gesicki just two plays into the drive. Everything came down to a solitary stop by the Green Bay defense — and they came up big.

The Packers ended up with four total takeaways on the day. They sacked Tagovailoa twice and hit him four total times. LaFleur credited the effort to being able to get more pressure up front, even if it didn’t translate into a sack frenzy.

“It seemed like we were getting a little bit more pressure up front on Tua, making him move out of the pocket. We knew he’s a guy that’s going to anticipate and he’s going to let the ball go. If you can read the quarterback the right way that also gives you some opportunities defensively. Our guys did a great job of that.”

The Packers are coming together at exactly the right time. With some holiday magic afforded to them by not only teams around the division but individual players, like Tagovailoa (or maybe Tua Claus) gifting them the aforementioned opportunities to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“It wasn’t pretty. I think a lot of times when you kick a bunch of field goals, that’s usually just enough to get you beat. We have to be better in the red zone, obviously. Have to get these guys better calls. But I can’t say enough about our defense. The first half was obviously not up to our standard but the second half, made a few adjustments and our guys really went out there and executed. Any time you have four takeaways in a game, you should win that game.”

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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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