Just what they needed: Packers get back to .500 with 31-12 win over Dolphins
GREEN BAY – It was hardly a tour de force performance.
The offense had its fits and starts.
The defense was terrific, but against an offense playing its backup quarterback, missing four of its five opening-day starters on the offensive line and sustaining one injury after another to its wide receivers.
And the special teams were, well, not very special.
But in the end, the Green Bay Packers got exactly what they needed during Sunday’s 31-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field.
“We needed to win,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose team was coming off back-to-back road losses to the Super Bowl-contending Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots the previous two weeks. “So that was important.
“(Offensively), we got the run going. We had a lot more balance, which we haven’t had all season. But, there’s things to work on. Started off fast, had a little bit of a lull and then got things going again. Wasn’t atypical (of this season).”
No, the Packers (4-4-1) definitely aren’t where they want to be with seven games left in their season – including a short-week trip across the country to face the Seattle Seahawks at always difficult CenturyLink Field and an NFC North showdown at the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 25.
But this was a game they had to have, against a banged-up warm-weather Dolphins (5-5) team whose winning record coming in was thanks in large part to a pair of wins over the hapless New York Jets.
“Everybody knows what our record is,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose long-standing policy is to not discuss the playoffs until his team has 10 wins – a threshold the Packers will have to win six of their last seven to reach. “We haven’t won on the road yet. So that’s an obvious emphasis this week. But yeah, we had two tough losses in a row, a lot of travel … all those things add up. But I think our team has done a good job of dealing with it and we got the result that we intended to get today.”
On offense, Rodgers (19 of 28 for 199 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns for a 112.1 rating), running back Aaron Jones (15 carries, 145 yards, two touchdowns) and Davante Adams (four receptions, 57 yards, two touchdowns) carried the load, although the offensive line – which Rodgers said “dominated the line of scrimmage” – made all of their lives easier with strong run-blocking and protection that allowed only two coverage-induced sacks.
On defense, the Packers held the Brock Osweiler-led Miami outfit to just four field goals, surviving a handful of explosive plays – as well as injuries to multiple starters during the game – while also benefiting from a pair of turnovers: A fumbled shotgun snap by Osweiler and an interception by recently-added veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland. The only drawback? Safety Kentrell Brice (ankle), outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and Breeland (groin) sustained injuries and did not return.
“We had to count on everybody today, and we got the job done,” veteran cornerback-turned-safety Tramon Williams said of a defense that had six sacks, held the Dolphins to a 29 percent third-down conversion rate (4 of 14) and allowed 294 yards. “We responded well today, and that’s what you want to see at this time of year. So hopefully we continue doing that.”
The victory likely would have felt even better had the special-teams units not turned the ball over (on Williams’ fumble on a punt return), allowed a successful fake punt and had a punt blocked. Only the defense prevented those gaffes from turning into touchdowns, forcing Miami to settle for field goals on its three red-zone trips.
“We knew they were hurt up front and we had to just keep going,” said defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who had one of the six sacks. “Once we got up in the game, we forced ’em to just keep passing the ball. We knew what was going on, and we were able to pin our ears back and (defensive coordinator Mike Pettine) was able to call some stuff to get some pressure on him.”
Of course, one victory does not a season redeem, and after an 0-4 start on the road, winning at Seattle and at Minnesota would truly signal a turnaround. For now, this was a positive step – but only one step – for a team still harboring postseason hopes.
“I hope so,” Rodgers said. “We’re pretty tough to beat at home right now, I think. And as the weather continues to turn in our favor – meaning the colder the better – I like our chances at home. But we’ve got to win some road games, or we’re going to be at home in January – for good.”