Insider: Thumbs up to Jordy Nelson
Late in the fourth quarter, the Packers were staring down the barrel at a 3-3 record and a one-game deficit behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC North Division. But a comeback helped Green Bay hold serve atop the division, while they now prepare for the 3-2-1 Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
A loss against an average Dolphins team would have raised concerns about the Packers' ability to win on the road.
It would have been lights out for the Packers if right guard T.J. Lang hadn't fallen on an Aaron Rodgers fumble with 1 minute, 7 seconds left in the game and Green Bay trailing 24-20. Rodgers was sacked at the Miami 48-yard line on third-and-9 when Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon crashed down on him and forced the ball loose.
A Miami recovery essentially would have ended the game, but Lang's awareness kept the eventual game-winning drive alive.
Jordy Nelson's ability to get open when the whole world suspects the ball is coming his way is remarkable.
On Sunday, Nelson pulled off another game-saver. This time it was with 1:07 left in the game, on fourth-and-10, trailing by 4 points on the Miami 48-yard line. Get it done or go home with a loss.
Nelson got it done. His 18-yard catch got the first down, kept the drive alive and stopped the clock when he went out of bounds. Six plays later, the Packers were celebrating. Nelson, who has an NFL-best 632 receiving yards, finished with nine catches for 107 yards and a first-quarter touchdown.
The Packers' defense melted in the second half under sweltering conditions. After allowing only 87 total yards and three points in the first half, Green Bay gave up 249 yards and 21 points in the second half.
It also allowed Miami to convert on three of four third-down opportunities in the second half. The Dolphins scored on their first three possessions of the second half, driving 80, 80 and 79 yards to take a 24-17 lead with 9:13 left in the game. The game-time conditions were 86 degrees and 63 percent humidity, and it only got hotter as the game wore on.
DID YOU NOTICE?
■ Veteran fullback John Kuhn had four carries, which doubled his total for the season. He even had rare back-to-back rushes to start the Packers' third possession, when he went 5 and 4 yards.
■ Linebacker Nick Perry was the first to get to running back Lamar Miller, who was tackled for a 9-yard loss on first-and-10 from Miami's 27 near the start of the second quarter. Two plays later on third-and-12, Casey Hayward intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass. On the Dolphins' next possession, Perry prevented a long gain when he tripped Tannehill, who was running up the middle and easily would have converted the third-and-8 play. Instead, Perry's tackle forced a punt.
■ Punter Tim Masthay was under extreme pressure every time he punted and had one blocked in the first quarter by Jonathan Freeny. Masthay finished with a 34.4-yard gross and 30.4 net average on five punts.
■ Aaron Rodgers targeted only five pass receivers, unusual for a quarterback who likes to spread the ball around. Not targeted were Eddie Lacy and Richard Rodgers.