Instant Takeaways: Packers playoff hopes alive and well with win over Miami

Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) gets tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) gets tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

This game felt like it could have spiraled out of control a few times in the first half for the Green Bay Packers, but they were able to take advantage of several Miami miscues, and came away with the win, keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.

As always, I have my instant takeaways from the Packers’ performance.

– As expected, the Green Bay Packers secondary had few answers for Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, in part because of the Miami quick passing game, but also, the pass rush couldn’t get home. With that said, the defense all around did improve in the second half—just more sound from front to back.

– The Dolphins entered the game having allowed the highest yards per kick return in the NFL, so naturally, Keisean Nixon had a huge return, and then Miami tried to squib a kick away from him. Unfortunately, he left with a groin injury. Romeo Doubs took over on kick return duties and Innis Gaines played from the slot.

– If the Dolphins wanted to run the ball 30-plus times, they could have, as the Packers run defense had really no answers for Raheem Mostert or Jeff Wilson. Fortunately for Green Bay, the Dolphins love to throw the ball, entering the game averaging the fewest rushing attempts in the NFL.

– With Jonathan Garvin inactive, the Packers had only three edge rushers available, so we saw a lot of Quay Walker at edge.

– It, unfortunately, took an injury to Dean Lowry, but that created more opportunities for Devonte Wyatt, who once again took advantage of those snaps, creating a few pressures.

– It was a rough first half for Aaron Rodgers. He took a foolish sack in the red zone and threw behind Christian Watson at the goal line, and then air-mailed him on fourth down. There were also some other inaccurate passes mixed in. However, he was better in the second half.

– The Dolphins’ interior defensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage. Miami also entered the game having the seventh-highest blitz rate in football, and we saw that on display against Green Bay.

– Aaron Jones was on the injury report all week but didn’t have a designation. Perhaps the Packers had him on a snap count because we certainly didn’t see a ton of him. I understand that the interior defensive front was playing really well, the Dolphins also blitz a lot, they were daring the Packers to throw in the first half, and the Miami secondary has struggled, but there needs to be more of an emphasis on a balanced run-pass mix. As I highlighted here, as the run game goes, so does the offense. Also, running the ball doesn’t mean running into the teeth of the Miami defense; there are creative ways to get Jones and Dillon touches–not to mention that Jones is a playmaker and doesn’t need perfect circumstances to make plays.

– The safety position continues to be a big problem for the Packers. It is going to be a massive need in the offseason, especially with only Darnell Savage and Tariq Carpenter under contract. Speaking of Savage, after being benched the previous two games he was available, in the second half he was back on the field at safety.

– For stretches, it felt like the only thing that could stop the Miami offense was themselves as they averaged over 8.5 yards per play. However, they committed four turnovers and were penalized seven times. Credit to the Green Bay defense, despite the issues, with taking advantage of Tua Tagovailoa’s miscues.

– No surprise, but the passing game very much missed Christian Watson, who has not only brought big play ability but created for others. The passing game in the second half didn’t come as easily—although Romeo Doubs had some impressive wins against Xavier Howard. In addition to Watson, the Packers also very much missed Yosh Nijman, with Royce Newman taking over for him and committing a pair of penalties.

– Although the Packers defense had it’s issues stopping the Dolphins’ offense, if Miami made it to third down, the defense did well and getting stops. On the flip side, the Green Bay offense wasn’t good on third downs either. The Packers also controlled the time of possession and ran 20 more plays, an important aspect that helped limit the number of possession for the Miami offense. Lastly, the Packers weren’t able to take advantage of the Dolphins’ 25th ranked red zone defense, going just 2-5–although it’s not as if the Green Bay offense has been very efficient this season either.

– To make the playoffs, the Packers need two wins and one Commanders loss.