MIAMI—The Packers’ defense had been steamrolled for touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 79 yards the first three times it took the field in the second half on Sunday.
But when the Packers absolutely had to have a stop, they got it, giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers and the offense with 2:04 to play in what turned into a 27-24 road victory over the Dolphins.
“I think we were all just locked in,” inside linebacker Brad Jones said. “Everybody on that field has been in big-play situations, high-intense, pressure-cooker type situations. I don’t think anybody flinched. We had to do it. There was no other option.”
The Packers’ depth was being tested, too. Jones was in the game for an injured Jamari Lattimore (neck), while starting cornerbacks Sam Shields (knee) and Tramon Williams (ankle) both left the game in the third quarter. That moved Davon House and Casey Hayward up in the cornerback rotation, with Jarrett Bush coming in as the nickel.
Things were not going well, and it would have been easy to envision Miami draining the last 4:09 off the clock after Green Bay kicked a field goal to get within 24-20.
The mentality was simply to forget what had occurred up to that point and summon any last ounce of energy in the south Florida heat.
The three long touchdown drives had undone a tremendous first half by the defense, which allowed just 87 yards and three points while snagging two interceptions. A goal-line stand also kept points off the board after Miami had blocked a punt.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill had a passer rating of just 26.0 at halftime but got clicking, completing 12 of 15 throws in the second half, boosting his rating to 81.5 by game’s end. Lamar Miller also started finding running room, rushing for 48 of his 53 yards on one of Miami’s TD drives.
As the Dolphins tried to run out the clock, the Packers even had to overcome an unfortunate penalty on Jones that wiped out his own sack. Jones was called for illegal-hands-to-the-face on his pass rush, so instead of a 9-yard sack making it third-and-20 for the Dolphins from their own 21, it was first down on the 35.
“It was pretty frustrating, feeling like you got a good rush, made a good play, and then it’s not,” Jones said. “I’ll have to watch the tape again. Obviously the ref called it. I thought it was clean.”
The Dolphins didn’t take advantage, though. The Packers used their final timeout with 3:05 left after Miller gained just one yard on first down. An incomplete pass on second down – a dubious call given the Packers were now out of timeouts – stopped the clock with 3:01 left for third-and-9. Another Miller run gained just a yard, and the poor clock management forced the punt to occur before the two-minute warning.
The defense had done its job and gave the offense a chance with more time left than there probably should have been.
“The game’s on the line. It doesn’t matter, anything that happened,” Jones said. “Nothing matters, how many mistakes you’ve made, good plays you’ve made. It doesn’t matter. It’s just, we’ve got to win this game.”
Almost double digits already: Interceptions in the first half by Casey Hayward and Shields pushed Green Bay’s season total to nine through six games. The Packers had just 11 interceptions all of last season.
The offense turned Hayward’s interception into a field goal, though the Packers should have had better starting field position after the turnover. Hayward returned the ball to the Miami 36, but the officials missed an obvious facemask as Hayward was tackled. The ball should have been at the 21. The offense got as close as the 15-yard line before a sack forced the field goal from 43 yards out.
Getting in sync: Rodgers’ trust in rookie receiver Davante Adams was most evident on the fake spike and quick throw to the sideline on the game-winning drive. It gained 12 yards and capped another solid day for Adams.
Faith in the young second-round pick has been steadily building and was growing throughout the game, as Adams caught six passes for 77 yards on the day, single-game bests in his young career.
“It’s good, because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” Adams said. “We’re building more chemistry and trust for him to throw me the ball.”
Offensive wrinkles: The Packers tried to get creative with their running game but nothing noteworthy materialized.
Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod came in on a handful of plays lined up in a tight end spot as an extra blocker. He was used on both sides of the line. The best play from that formation came when the Packers actually ran to the side opposite the overload, and Eddie Lacy gained 9 yards.
The Packers also tried a “jet sweep” with receiver Randall Cobb, as he took a handoff from Rodgers while coming across in motion behind him, but Cobb gained just a yard.
ADDITIONAL PACKERS-DOLPHINS COVERAGE - OCT. 12