The Green Bay Packers’ Christmas Day win against the Miami Dolphins lived up to the hype with a grab bag of exciting gifts. Big Dog touchdowns, conspiratorial old men making clutch throws, and Keisean Nixon doing Keisean Nixon things. The Packers have scratched and clawed their way to 7-8, mostly by defeating crummy teams, but Christmas Day was a chance to prove themselves against a flawed, but talented Miami Dolphins squad. Tua Tagovailoa and his speedy receivers had no issue creating explosive plays early on as they took advantage of another discombobulated performance from the Packers’ secondary. The Packers continued to look for their own downfield threat in the first half with six targets to Christian Watson, who has provided the shot in the arm the offense has needed. The Packers are seventh in offensive DVOA since Watson’s breakout in week 10 and could be offering a glimpse at the short and long-term future of the team.
Facing a 20-13 halftime deficit, the Packers rallied in the second half in the wake of Christian Watson’s injury. Aaron Rodgers and co. put together an effective offense with AJ Dillon and Romeo Doubs despite Rodgers being blitzed frequently. Dillon’s newfound dad strength helped him rumble his way to a TD and recover a crucial Aaron Rodgers red zone fumble that lead to a field goal.
The defense had another phenomenal second half and held Miami scoreless. Tua Tagovailoa struggled mightily against the consistent second-half pressure thanks in large part to Jarran Reed’s best game of the season. Reed led the team with four pressures and a massive forced fumble just before halftime. Jerry Gray, the Packers’ defensive backs coach, took to uncharacteristically yelling at his group during halftime, waking up the underperforming bunch. Tua was easier to read than a picture book in the second half, and the team responded with three huge interceptions to close out the victory. Let’s check out the game’s top plays below.
Nixon Takes it 94 Yards On the Return
The Packers began the game on defense after deferring the opening kickoff and like clockwork, began to give all of us war flashbacks to San Francisco. Raheem Mostert repeatedly gashed the Packers as they put up very little fight in the trenches. After 33 yards on the drive, he and the Dolphins' offense stalled out at the Green Bay 28-yard line, setting up a field goal to make it 3-0.
Keisean Nixon continued his run of brilliance on the ensuing kickoff. After recently being named a Pro Bowl alternate, Nixon wasted no time getting to work in this one with a 94-yard return. This follows a return of 52 yards in the week 15 game against the Rams. We haven’t seen this level of juice from a Packers returner in ages, and it feels like he’s just getting started.
Marcedes Lewis Ties Things Up
After Aaron Rodgers took an inexplicable sack in the red zone, the Packers had to settle for a field goal and waste a brilliant return. On the Dolphins’ next play from scrimmage, Miami hit their first deep shot, which Jaylen Waddle subsequently took for a touchdown. One play, 84 yards, and a harbinger of doom for the Packers.
Or not! Green Bay started at their 46-yard line on the next drive thanks to a cowardly squib to avoid the GOAT kickoff returner. The vibes had suddenly increased ever so slightly. A methodical 10-play drive highlighted by a 20-yard Christian Watson catch followed, but threatened to stall at the Dolphins’ 5-yard line. On fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, everyone’s favorite first-round pick target was on the receiving end of a wide-open Rodgers touchdown to tie things at 10.
Jarran Reed Forces the Fumble
A few turnovers on downs later, including a desperation fake punt at their own 20-yard line, and the Packers were in danger of getting blown out. Tua connected with Tyreek Hill on a deep shot that put the Dolphins up 17-10, and the aforementioned failed fake punt turned into another three.
A three-and-out on the Packers’ response drive set the Dolphins up at midfield in what was sure to be another scoring drive. However, in his best effort of the season, Jarran Reed may have saved the Packers' season. Reed forced and recovered a Raheem Mostert fumble to put the Packers in position to knock a field goal through and go into the half down one possession.
Rodgers Drops It in the Bucket
The Packers came out swinging in the second half as their decision to defer paid off once again. Their 11-play, 78-yard drive was a breath of fresh air. The rare occurrence of this offense truly clicking. Most of the damage came through the quick passing game and on the ground. But AJ Dillon wasn’t the only participant, as Rodgers got in on the action with a QB sneak for a 4th and 1 conversion. The play of the drive, however, came after a Patrick Taylor 17-yard reception. With the Dolphins continuing to bring more pressure than a David Bowie track, Rodgers was hurried out of the pocket and headed into a back-breaking sack. Instead, a vintage moment. The 39-year-old lofted it down the sideline right into the arms of the Big Dog himself. Every now and then, the old man’s still got it. With no ref review, the catch was ruled complete and AJ Dillon tied the game two plays later. It was at this point that the Tua Tagovailoa December to Remember Interception Giveaway event began, and the Packers came home with a W, 26-20.
Which play from the Packers’ week 16 victory over the Dolphins was the best?
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Nixon takes it 94 yards on the return
Marcedes Lewis ties things up at 10
Jarran Reed forces the Mostert fumble
Rodgers drops it in the bucket for 31 yards
That’s it for this week’s top plays. Have a happy new year as you pound Pedialyte and watch the Packers take on the Vikings this Sunday! And as always, be sure to check out the first Twitter Spaces halftime chat of 2023 @acmepackingco this Sunday.