By Eric Goska
|Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came out firing in Miami.|
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)
On Christmas Day in Miami, Green Bay’s defense landed on both the nice and naughty lists.
Nice because the unit embraced the giving spirit early. Naughty because the unit turned to thievery with the game on the line.
Shredded by the Dolphins’ passing attack throughout much of the first half, the Packers’ defense came away with three fourth-quarter interceptions to gift wrap a 26-20 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. Green Bay parlayed the first two into six points and used the third to run out the clock while improving to 7-8.
The Dolphins came out swinging and Green Bay appeared ready to accommodate. In 10 plays, Miami generated more yards (166) than the Rams did (156) all afternoon against the Packers six days prior.
How generous was Green Bay at the outset? The team allowed Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to reach 200 yards passing on just six completions.
Six completions! Two hundred yards!
In getting there so quickly, Tagovailoa became the first opposing passer in the last 70 years – and perhaps ever – to hit or surpass that milestone against Green Bay with so few connections. Norm Van Brocklin (1954) and Troy Aikman (1993) had been the standard bearers with seven.
Tyreek Hill, a 1,000-yard receiver, gained 14 to start the onslaught. Jaylen Waddle, a fellow 1,000-yard pass catcher, raced 84 yards to the end zone with Tagovaiola’s second strike.
From there Hill helped himself to 18 and tight end Mike Gesicki grabbed 24. Hill jumped in for another 52 to set up Miami’s second touchdown and Waddle tacked on 12 more.
For Green Bay, that was giving until it hurt. With Tagovailoa pulling the trigger, the Dolphins jumped to a 20-10 halftime lead and looked ready to cruise.
But in the second half, the Packers dispensed with the nice-guy act. In the final 15 minutes, the team turned downright larcenous.
Jaire Alexander intercepted Tagovailoa first. His steal set up a 28-yard Mason Crosby field goal that put Green Bay ahead 23-20.
De’Vondre Campbell followed suit. His theft paved the way for a 26-yard Crosby field goal as Green Bay went up 26-20.
Rasul Douglass made it a hat trick. Rather than risk a turnover, the safety dropped to the ground so that Rodgers could kneel three times to wipe out the game’s final 89 seconds.
Having pulled ahead of two Hall of Famers in the first half, Tagovailoa joined some less select company in the second. In getting fleeced three times, the NFL’s highest-rated passer joined Eli Manning (2010), Jon Kitna (2008), Jake Plummer (2000), Jim Harbaugh (1999), Rich Gannon (1990), Ogden Compton (1955) and Bob Waterfield (1948) as the only passers to be pilfered three or more times in the fourth quarter by Green Bay over the last 75 years. All eight came out on the short end of the scoreboard.
In the final accounting, Tagovailoa (310 passing yards), Waddle (143 receiving) and Hill (103 receiving) got their yards. By averaging 10.9 yards per pass play, Miami nearly doubled the 5.6 that Green Bay managed.
What the Dolphins didn’t secure was victory. As Green Bay’s defense so aptly demonstrated, 'tis better to take than receive, even on Christmas.
Dashing Away with 200 Passing Yards
Since 1952, just five passers have required fewer than 9 completions to attain their first 200 yards passing in a regular-season game against the Packers.
Dec. 25, 2022
GB won, 26-20
Norm Van Brocklin
Oct. 17, 1954
GB won, 35-17
Oct. 3, 1993
GB lost, 14-36
Nov. 16, 1958
GB lost, 7-20
Nov. 8, 2015
GB lost, 29-37