Coming off a blowout win against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay faced a much tougher battle in Miami. Defense was the name of the game in the first half, while both teams found ways to blow leads in the fourth quarter.
But when it was all said and done, the Packers emerged as victors, 27-24, thanks to a surgical drive late in the fourth quarter, led by QB Aaron Rodgers.
Let’s take a look at what we learned from a thrilling Packers victory.
Rookies are beginning to emerge and are already earning their stripes
Green Bay has been waiting for their top draft picks to emerge. It looks like that moment has arrived. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and Davante Adams came through in a big way versus the Dolphins. Adams played a major role in the passing game, while Clinton-Dix made sure he was always around the ball.
Adams started, with Jarrett Boykin inactive, and took advantage—hauling in six receptions for 77 yards and showing great awareness on Aaron Rodgers fake spike. Adams caught the ball and squirted down the sideline for additional yardage. His awareness of the situation led to Green Bay having the ball at the six-yard line and stopped the clock to set up the game-winning touchdown.
Adams would have had a touchdown for the second consecutive week, if not for it being deflected at the line of scrimmage. It’s clear Adams has emerged as the Packers’ third wide receiver and earned Rodgers’ trust.
Clinton-Dix made his presence felt as well—a week after coming through with his best game as a rookie, Clinton-Dix may have topped that performance against the Dolphins. While he didn’t have an impact in the turnover department, Clinton-Dix did something no other Packers’ defender could do on Sunday. He was always around the football and he didn’t whiff when the ball-carrier came his way.
Clinton-Dix finished with seven solo tackles, including a tackle for loss and a pass deflection. These are the types of performances GM Ted Thompson has been waiting for from his top rookies. Adams and Clinton-Dix have proven themselves worthy of starting jobs next week against the Carolina Panthers.
A banged-up, limited Clay Matthews is having a negative impact on the defense
For years, Matthews has been well-known as an elite outside linebacker who struggled to stay healthy. This season only one of those things has been true. Matthews has been hampered by a groin injury for most of the season, which could be part of the reason why he has played so poorly. But Matthews’ struggles appear to have more to do with the mental aspect rather than anything physical.
Clay Matthews is a complete non-factor.
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 12, 2014
Capers has tried moving Matthews around to try and create more looks, but the result is largely the same. Offensive coordinators know going in against Matthews that he commits completely to rushing the quarterback off the edge. As a result, coordinators attack this by drawing him right into the backfield and running it inside, right at him. All the opposing tackle has to do is let Matthews overpursue to the outside and keep him there.
The truth is, Green Bay might be better off letting Matthews rest his body and ensure he gets closer to 100 percent. There are plenty of mental mistakes—perhaps a break to rest his groin injury and more time in the film room could help. Green Bay could still try and use Matthews as a decoy, but that only works for so long.
Overall, this wasn’t a pretty game for Green Bay. Despite two interceptions and a beautiful opening-drive touchdown, they only led 10-3 at halftime. It was similar to their matchup against the Detroit Lions in Week 3. The defense carried the team. Now everyone had to hope there would be a different result in the second half.
It didn’t look good for most of the second half. While the offense found a bit more success, Green Bay’s defense disappeared. Ryan Tannehill ripped off a big 40-yard run to start the second half and just a few plays later, Miami found the end zone and tied it up at 10-10. Both teams exchanged possessions for most of the third quarter, until Rodgers scrambled in the pocket and found Randall Cobb for the touchdown.
Things got worse in the fourth quarter—Miami ran the football down Green Bay’s throat and the game-tying TD drive was wrapped up with a five-yard touchdown run by Lamar Miller. After a quick three and out by Green Bay, Miami needed just five plays to go 79 yards. Suddenly, Green bay was down a touchdown with only nine minutes left in the game.
Miami was able to outscore the Packers 21-7 for nearly 20 minutes in the second half. Fortunately for the Packers, they have the best quarterback in the game. Rodgers responded with 10 points in four minutes, including the game-winning drive.
After a tough loss in Detroit, Rodgers went on “Tuesdays with Aaron” and told Packer fans to relax. His advice for fans came after a 1-2 start to the season and a poor start by Rodgers.
Everyone knows Rodgers is elite—we saw it against the Chicago Bears with beautiful throws and his athleticism. This week he showed everyone again, leading a magnificent game-winning drive to help carry the Packers to a 4-2 start. Rodgers entered the week 0-3 in the state of Floridan. Now he has his first win in the Sunshine State.
Rodgers finished the day with three touchdowns and zero turnovers. What made his performance even more admirable was doing it under all the pressure Miami brought. It seemed like he was hit every time he dropped back, yet he hung in there and won the game.
Since his famous “RELAX” comment, Rodgers and the Packers are on a hot streak. In an age where players like to talk, but don’t back it up. Rodgers has backed up everything he said.
Green Bay has won three straight, Rodgers is playing like an MVP and now the Packers can continue rolling with their favorable schedule. They return home to play the Carolina Panthers next week, followed by a trip to the Superdome to take on a struggling Saints team and then get to enjoy the bye week.
Injuries and Packers go together
It wouldn’t be a normal Packers game if one of their starters didn’t get hurt. After losing Datone Jones to an ankle injury last week, Green Bay took a significant hit in the secondary. Starting corners Sam Shields (knee) and Tramon Williams (ankle) both left in the second half and never returned.
CB Sam Shields said he hurt the patellar tendon in his knee but said its not torn. #packers
— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) October 12, 2014
Cornerback was a strength coming into the game, Shields and Williams were the starters, while Casey Hayward and Davon House are starting-caliber. Hayward came through in the first half with an impressive interception, but Miami attacked him with Mike Wallace’s speed after Williams and Shields left the game. The severity of their injuries is unknown, but losing either for a significant amount of time would hurt this defense.
The strong play in the secondary and ability to force turnovers is what has kept this defense afloat. Capers will have to make serious adjustments to his scheme. If he chooses to bring more pressure, he’d leave the young corners alone on the outside. If he brings in more defensive backs, opposing offenses will just gash them underneath and with the running game. If Shields and Williams are out, Green Bay is in trouble.