On Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers defense recorded three interceptions in the fourth quarter and held the Dolphins scoreless in the second half after Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit three explosive pass plays for 84-, 24-, and 52-yard gains that led to two touchdowns.
In the second half, the Packers adjusted their coverages, moved defenders into zones to close throwing windows to Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, and used brackets on them as well. Pressure got to Tua as well, forcing him to hurry throws and flushing him from the pocket.
Sometime near the end of the second half, Tua was hit after he threw and landed hard on his head on the ground. Apparently Tua never self-reported his symptoms and head coach Mike McDaniel pressed him on the issue the day after the game after seeing the inconsistencies in his play on the game tape.
While Tua may have been hindered by initial symptoms, there’s no way the Packers' defense could have known that when they adjusted their game plan for the second half and they still executed and made the plays when they needed to.
First interception, 4th quarter, 1st and 10 @ MIA 20, 14:08 remaining
The Packers are in a five linebacker, two defensive linemen defensive front playing a 6-1 front.
They have cover-6 behind it that turns into quarters coverage on the motion.
The Dolphins are running a play-action dagger post-snap after the motion by Tyreek Hill.
The Packers' defense shifts into quads/quarters coverage with an umbrella over the top of the routes. The underneath defenders zone off into the throwing lane and Tua forces a pass that’s high and over the out-stretched hands of Hill and into the hands of Jaire Alexander, who returned it for 23 yards.
Second interception, 4th quarter, 2nd and 13 @ GB 30, 6:09 remaining
There isn’t much to say about this interception except that it was a miscommunication between Tua and running back Raheem Mostert.
Mostert ends up running what he called the wrong route in his post-game press conference availability on Sunday and Tua looks to be throwing it where he thinks Mostert will turn to look for the ball. Most likely they were trying to run a stick/flat concept but Mostert ended up running down the seam and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell picked the pass cleanly just outside the hash and returned it for 14 yards.
Tua also said after the game that “I might have said the wrong play. I’m not too sure.”
Third interception, 4th quarter, 2nd and 7 @ MIA 31, 1:34 remaining
On the final interception by Rasul Douglas, the coverage baited Tua into this throw. The Packers have employed this coverage regularly with good results, a version of Tampa-2 coverage.
Its use under Joe Barry this season and some last season almost always comes on third down or in high-leverage situations for the defense. This particular coverage is “Nickel Brooklyn,” the Vic Fangio tree’s own version of Tampa-2 coverage.
Usually, Barry will drop a third safety into coverage as the middle run-through player between the safeties but here, Campbell zones off to the deep middle hole to carry a vertical route if necessary (middle run). The corners play a “smash flat” technique to jam and deny the outside receivers a free release and reroute them before playing the flat.
The Dolphins are running a smash variant to the right side of the formation.
Douglas jams the number one receiver outside and then zones off when the receiver goes shallow underneath the coverage across the field. Douglas reads this out as a smash concept variant (corner by the slot with a receiver short underneath) so he zones off back under the corner route as Tua is throwing the pass. Tua left it short and probably didn’t anticipate Douglas getting there from a press alignment. Douglas returned it for five yards.
The defense is humming with Jarran Reed and Devonte Wyatt getting key snaps in this game and helping get pressure on the quarterback while the secondary continues to come up big. They’re doing all of this in the absence of Rashan Gary too, and they’re playing closer to the high level expected of them at the beginning of the season. They’ll need to continue this with the Vikings coming to town if they have any hopes of making the postseason.