The Good, Bad And Ugly From The Green Bay Packers' Win Over The Miami Dolphins

Rasul Douglas and the Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive Sunday with a big win in Miami.

The Good, Bad And Ugly From The Green Bay Packers' Win Over The Miami Dolphins

Rasul Douglas (29) and the Green Bay Packers upset the Miami Dolphins, 26-20, Sunday.Associated Press

Matt LaFleur was asked about Christmas last week. And the Green Bay Packers' head coach wasn't in a particularly festive mood. 'Is it Christmas?' LaFleur asked. 'I don't know what to tell you there. Obviously there's a lot of distractions this time of the year, but it's how you manage that.' Turns out, Green Bay managed things just fine. And in the process, the Packers had a Christmas weekend that could vault them into the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Green Bay scored the final 16 points of the game and rallied from a 20-10 deficit to defeat Miami, 26-20, on Sunday.

The Packers won their third straight game, improved to 7-8 and jumped from the No. 10 seed in the NFC to No. 8. Green Bay, which began the weekend with a 12% chance of making the playoffs, now holds a 27% chance according to Santa was already good to the Packers on Saturday as the New York Giants, Washington, Seattle and Detroit — teams that Green Bay is chasing for a playoff spot — all lost. And that left the door wide open for the Packers to make a move.

Green Bay took full advantage — and now its chances of seeing playoff football are extremely realistic.

Here's the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay's win over Miami. THE GOOD

DEFENSE DELIVERS: Green Bay's defense was dreadful in the first half, allowing 271 total yards and 20 points. The second half was an entirely different story, though. Green Bay shutout Miami in the second half, held the Dolphins to 105 total yards and intercepted Tua Tagovailoa three times in the final 14 minutes. Jaire Alexander, De'Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas all intercepted Tagovailoa down the stretch. Green Bay's much-maligned defense came up big with the season on the line. And suddenly, a season that was headed nowhere fast has new life.

MR. DECEMBER: Packers coach Matt LaFleur has done a lot of good things since taking over in 2019. But LaFleur's record in regular season games after November borders on mind-boggling.

Green Bay's win Sunday gave LaFleur a 15-0 record in games played in December. The Packers are also 2-1 in January, giving LaFleur a 17-1 mark in games played after November (.944).

Green Bay's only loss in that time came in the 2021 regular season finale, when LaFleur sat many of his standouts during the second half of a 37-30 defeat at Detroit.

REED COMES UP BIG: Defensive end Jarran Reed has had a relatively quiet season, with 42 tackles and 1.5 sacks through the first 14 games. But Reed made arguably his biggest play as a Packer late in the first half.

Miami led, 20-10, with 2 minutes left in the first half and was at midfield. With a score, the Dolphins were poised to take total control of the game.

Instead, Reed forced a fumble by Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert and also recovered the loose ball. From there, Green Bay drove into Miami territory and got a 46-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to pull within 20-13 at halftime.

MASON CROSBY: Crosby, now in his 16th season as Green Bay's kicker, set the franchise record for most consecutive and most total games played (256). Then Crosby went out and made all four of his field goal attempts and made both of his extra points.

'He's a great leader for us,' Packers special teams coach Rich Bissacia said of Crosby. 'He's been through a lot of football. I think he's done a great job of echoing what we're trying to do and how we're trying to build our culture a little bit within the special teams units, so I'm excited about my time with Mase.'

KEISEAN NIXON: The remarkable story of Nixon continues.

Nixon became the Packers' primary returner midway through the season and has added zest to a group that had been lifeless for decades. Nixon's magic continued on Sunday.

Nixon returned his first kickoff 93 yards to Miami's 9-yard line. The Packers couldn't take advantage, though, as they went backwards before settling for a 36-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

Unfortunately for Nixon, he later suffered a groin injury and didn't return.

Nixon leads the NFL with nine kickoff returns of 30-plus yards this season, and all of those have come since Week 6. Nixon also leads the league with four kickoff returns of 50-plus yards.

'It's just about preparation and opportunity, you know what I'm saying?,' Nixon said last week. 'It's hard sometimes in this league to get opps at anything, for real, you know what I'm saying? You've got to think about it. There's only one kick returner on every team, so that's only 32 players in the whole world. Whenever you get an opp, you've got to take advantage of your opp, and I feel like that's what I did.'

THIS AND THAT: Allen Lazard had a 42-yard catch on the final play of the first quarter. That was his second-longest reception of the year. … Tight end Marcedes Lewis had the 39th touchdown reception of his career and sixth as a Packer when he hauled in 1-yard TD from Rodgers late in the first quarter. … Lewis entered the day with 34 receiving yards on the season, but had 32 on Sunday. … Ten different Packers had receptions. THE BAD

BIG PLAYS: Green Bay's secondary, which had been a strength most of the season, was disastrous against Miami early on.

On the Dolphins' second possession, Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle hooked up for an 84-yard touchdown.

Waddle started the play lined up wide left, came across the middle of the field and caught the ball 11 yards from the original line of scrimmage. Rasul Douglas took a poor angle and fell down, while safety Adrian Amos couldn't get off a block from diminutive wideout Tyreek Hill.

As Waddle hit Green Bay's 40, Jaire Alexander — the highest-paid cornerback in football — had Waddle dead to rights. But Alexander made a feeble tackle attempt, Waddle broke free and raced the final 40 yards for a touchdown.

Then early in the second quarter, wideout Tyreek Hill raced behind safeties Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford and hauled in a 52-yard pass from Tagovailoa to the Green Bay 1-yard line. One play later, Jeff Wilson scored to give the Dolphins a 17-10 lead.

BANGED UP PACK: The Packers entered the game remarkably healthy for this late in the year, missing only preferred starters David Bakhtiari, Rashan Gary and Eric Stokes.

But Green Bay lost wideout Christian Watson (hip), ace kick returner Keisean Nixon (groin), defensive end Dean Lowry (calf) and right tackle Yosh Nijman (shoulder) in the first half.

THIS AND THAT: Aaron Rodgers threw his 11th interception of the season. Rodgers had just 13 total interceptions from 2019-2021. … Miami had 172 total yards in the first quarter and 271 total yards in the first half. Amazingly, the Dolphins averaged 11.3 yards per play in the first half. … Green Bay drove into Miami territory early in the second quarter. But the drive ended when Allen Lazard dropped a second down pass and Rodgers badly overthrew Christian Watson on fourth-and-2. THE UGLY

DISASTROUS FAKE: Midway through the second quarter, the Packers had a fourth-and-2 at their own 20-yard line. Green Bay special teams coach Rich Bissacia called a fake punt and the snap went to upback Dallin Leavitt, who tried running up the middle.

Miami sniffed out the play, though, and Raekwon Davis stopped Leavitt for no gain. That play led to a Miami field goal and a 20-10 Dolphins' lead.