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GREEN BAY – Early in the season, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his staff knew their secondary was going to get challenged deep over the top. Once Minnesota put it on film successfully way back in Week 2, other teams were going to do it until the Packers could stop it.

Similarly, the Packers knew Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase had watched the film of the last two weeks, how the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots ran up-tempo, no-huddle offense to catch the Packers in unfavorable personnel groupings.

And in the opening eight plays Sunday in the Packers' 31-12 victory, the Dolphins went no-huddle five times and promptly marched from their own 20 to the Packers’ 14 in less than four minutes behind the running of Frank Gore and short passes from quarterback Brock Osweiler. But on the Dolphins’ eighth play of the drive, Osweiler dropped a shotgun snap. He flailed about looking for the ball that Packers linebacker Reggie Gilbert recovered at his own 30.

Jared Goff and Tom Brady, this wasn’t.

“Those teams, they were on the ball fast,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I’m not sure what the timing was statistic-wise as far as where they were on the shot clock, but this one was, with a relatively new quarterback, new o-line, it took a little bit longer for them but it was enough for us to get lined up and play.

“That play obviously helped us, no doubt about it. The last couple weeks we’ve really been harping on that and focusing on that and trying to make sure when the game starts and coordinators are throwing their first 15, that tempo can’t dictate how those first couple plays are going to go.”

It was the first turnover the Packers' defense recorded since cornerback Kevin King intercepted C.J. Beathard of the San Francisco 49ers back on Oct. 15, in the same end of Lambeau Field.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense then moved 70 yards for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead, one the Packers wouldn’t relinquish thanks to their best defensive effort since they shut out Buffalo on Sept. 30.  

Six different players recorded sacks (the most sacks since the defense had seven against the Bills) and Bashaud Breeland intercepted Osweiler and returned the ball to the Miami 12-yard line in the third quarter.

It was Osweiler’s fourth interception in five weeks.

“Once we really started seeing we were getting our hands on balls, we were like, ‘It’s coming. He’s warming us up. He’s warming us up,’” Breeland said. “Eventually, it was going to come to you.”

That turnover led to another Packers score and a 28-12 lead that proved far too large a deficit for Miami to overcome.

"Once the score got up and they were forced to pass the ball, we were able to pin our ears back," Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "We knew what the play was — it was pass — so we just rush and at that point we gotta just win.”

The 31 points scored by the offense was just the second time it had exceeded 30 this season, but it took a stout defensive performance in the opening 30 minutes to get to that point.

The Osweiler turnovers may have been a gift, but after that, the Packers defense had to stand tall on short fields:

» Tramon Williams fumbled a punt return at the 50, but Miami managed only a field goal.

» The offense turned the ball over on downs at their own 45, and again, Miami scored only three points.

» The Dolphins blocked a JK Scott punt at the Packers’ 28. For a third time, Miami scored just three points.

“I wish we would have gotten into the end zone,” Gore said. “That would have (been) best for us, especially playing against a guy like Aaron Rodgers.”

So when Rodgers took the field with 11 minutes, 43 seconds to go in the third quarter he was up 14-12, instead of facing a huge deficit.

“That was huge,” Packers defensive lineman Dean Lowry said. “We all know how important momentum is, especially the past few weeks, and once our defense went out there and put the fire out and held them to three, that was huge for our confidence and just overall momentum of the game. That was a big part of the game.”

The Packers went on to score 17 unanswered points and the defense was able to ramp up the pressure and sack Osweiler five times over the final quarter and a half.

“It’s a touchdown league,” Clark said. “Once you get in the red zone, or get kind of in that (fringe) zone, you need to put up some points and touchdowns. We’ve got a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, so if you’re throwing up field goals and we score touchdowns it’s going to be bad.”

 

 

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