The Miami Dolphins were a popular pick by many pundits to upset the red-hot Green Bay Packers this Sunday. They were coming off a bye week, were hosting a team that isn't regularly exposed to 90+ degree heat, and they had two things that will give the Packers fits on both sides of the ball: a dominating pass rush and a effective run game.
The first half was a bit of a snooze-fest, with the Packers scoring on their first drive, but settling for only a 10-3 advantage at the half. The Dolphins offense would find its groove in the second half, scoring three times, including twice in the fourth quarter. As always, the Packers are rarely out of a game when Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback, and QB12 led the team on two crucial drives in the last 10 minutes of the game.
The first one was an 11-play drive that covered 68 yards in 5:04 to bring the Packers within four points of the host Dolphins. The second drive was a rare two-minute drill for a comeback victory on the road. The final drive covered 60 yards in 2:01 and was capped off with a four-yard pass from Rodgers to Andrew Quarless with three seconds remaining to give the Packers the 27-24 win.
Let's take a look at the grades, and as usual we'll reference some of Pro Football Focus' grades as well as we analyze the positions.
Aaron Rodgers (-0.1 overall) finished 24 of 42 for 264 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rodgers also added 34 yards rushing on seven carries. His completion percentage wasn't great (57%), but when you take into account that he was sacked three times, hit nine times, had a few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage; it's clear Rodgers did the best he could while his bookend tackles struggled against a vaunted Dolphins pass rush.
His first touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson was off an audible at the line of scrimmage, in which Rodgers looked like he checked out of a run play due to something he saw from the safety. His second touchdown pass was a prime example of just how good Rodgers is at throwing accurately while on the run. He threw a perfect strike (across his body) to Randall Cobb from five yards out while under pressure. His third touchdown was a back-shoulder throw to Quarless, who cut to the sideline off his initial cut, for the game-winner with three seconds remaining.
Running Backs: C
Eddie Lacy (+0.2 overall, -0.2 rush) ran for 40 yards on 14 carries, while James Starks (-0.9 overall, -0.6 rush) added 31 yards on eight carries. John Kuhn had 15 yards on four carries.
Lacy broke a few tackles throughout the game, but didn't show much vision once the initial cut evaporated. There were plenty of opportunities for Lacy to bounce plays outside, but instead he plunged ahead (often directly into his own linemen). I think Lacy will find more success in the second half of the season, but it is a little disheartening to see him averaging less than three yards per carry. Starks should great vision on his cutback run for 12 yards on the Packers final drive, and was able to get open for a few targets out of the backfield.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
Jordy Nelson (+1.4 overall) caught nine passes for 107 yards and one touchdown. He was targeted 16 times while being primarily covered by Brent Grimes, who is one of the better man-to-man cover corners in the league.
Randall Cobb (-0.2 overall) caught five passes for 58 yards and a score, while rookie Davante Adams (+1.1 overall) had a break-out performance with six receptions for 77 yards.
Andrew Quarless (+1.0 overall, +0.9 run block) played 54 snaps compared to just 33 for Richard Rodgers (-1.2 overall, +0.2 pass block). Quarless caught the game-winner from five yards out, but other than that play, he was a non-factor in the passing game. Quarless was a plus-player in terms of run blocking though, and was able to hold some ground against a pretty athletic defensive front. Rodgers was primarily used as a pass blocker in two-tight end sets.
Offensive Line: C-
David Bakhtiari (-1.7 overall, -1.2 pass block) and Bryan Bulaga (-0.7 overall, -0.8 pass block) had a tough time slowing down Oliver Vernon and Cameron Wake off the edge. Wake may simply just have Bulaga's number as he notched his third sack in only two games against him.
T.J. Lang (+4.6 overall, +2.6 pass block, +1.8 run block), Josh Sitton (+1.6 overall, +2.1 pass block, -0.7 run block), and Corey Linsley (+1.1 overall, -1.3 pass block, +2.3 run block) were able to hold the middle of the line in pass protection, but other than some impressive raw strength by the rookie center Linsley, the line just wasn't able to create much push in the run game. Derek Sherrod (-0.4 overall) didn't do much in a six snap-performance as an extra tight end.
Defensive Line: C+
Letroy Guion (+2.1 overall, +1.9 run) may have only recorded 2 tackles, but he was instrumental in the defense only allowing 63 yards to the duo of Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno. He had probably the best defensive series I've seen out of a Packer nose tackle during the team's goal-line stand in the first quarter. If he can maintain that level of play, the defense may finally get out of the basement of run defenses in the NFL.
Mike Daniels (+1.3 overall, +1.4 run) didn't produce much pressure (only 1 quarterback hurry), but was able to seal well on running plays and maintained good gap integrity. Josh Boyd (+1.5 overall) didn't get blown off the ball, but was sticking to a lot of blocks in both pass protection and run blocks. Mike Pennel (nine snaps) missed a sack that turned into a long gain.
Clay Matthews (-0.9 overall, -0.9 run, -0.2 pass rush) continues to be quiet for the most part, as he recorded only one quarterback hurry and one batted ball in 51 snaps while struggling in the run game.
A.J. Hawk (-3.2 overall) only recorded 2 tackles and was sticking to a lot of blocks against the run. He also looked too hesitant on some blitzes. Jamari Lattimore (-0.8 overall, -0.9 coverage) recorded two tackles on 11 snaps before leaving the game with an injury. Brad Jones (-2.8 overall, -1.7 run) got called for another defensive holding penalty and lead the team with two missed tackles. He is still better than Hawk in pass coverage, and probably saved the team a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charles Clay when the ball bounced off his helmet.
Julius Peppers (+0.4 overall, +0.5 rush, +0.5 coverage) recorded 4 tackles, while Mike Neal (-1.2 overall, -1.1 rush) added an sack off the edge. Nick Perry (+2.1 overall, +0.9 run, +1.2 rush) recorded two tackles on 13 snaps and continues to show an improved pass rush from his outside linebacker position.
Sam Shields (+3.0 coverage) was probably having his best game of the season before leaving with an injury. He was in perfect position for his second quarter interception on an overthrown pass. Tramon Williams (-1.6 overall, -0.9 run, -0.5 coverage) had four tackles in just 37 snaps before also leaving with an injury. Davon House (+0.8 overall, +0.7coverage) got called for a questionable pass interference call, but was a plus player in his extended playing time (51 snaps).
Morgan Burnett (-1.3 overall, +0.3 run, -1.5 coverage) recorded three tackles in 60 snaps, while Micah Hyde (-0.7 overall, -0.7 coverage) added six in 36 snaps. Rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (+2.3 overall, +1.1 run, +0.9 coverage) led the team with seven tackles in 37 snaps and appears to be reading plays quicker. He is anticipating the play and reading the quarterback instead of simply reacting to where the ball is thrown.
Casey Hayward (+1.1 overall) recorded two tackles in 34 snaps and read Ryan Tannehill like a book on his interception in which he left his man to cut up the field and snag the ball out of mid-air. He appears to be nearing his rookie-season form, and will likely see his snap count increase if Williams or Shields is limited in any way. It only took Jarrett Bush (-0.5 overall, -0.4 coverage) 15 snaps to show why he is a special teams player.
Mason Crosby was 3 for 3 on extra points, 2 for 2 on field goals (43 and 30 yards), and averaged 73 yards per kickoff with a hang-time of 3.49 seconds.
Tim Masthay averaged 43 yards on four punts, including one inside the 20-yard line. He did have one punt blocked, but that can credited to a blocking breakdown by Jamari Lattimore.
Coach McCarthy knew the challenges that the Miami defensive front would present and he counter-attacked that with quick passes to the flats, extra blockers in pass protection, and a limited number of rushing attempts. Sometimes you just have to ride it out with arguably the best quarterback in the league, and on Sunday it paid off.
It wasn't pretty, but the road win gives the team a 4-2 record (after a 1-2 start) and a first-place tie with Detroit in the NFC North.
Up Next: The Packers host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT on FOX.