When needed most, defense makes stop
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Before the theatrics, before the game-winning touchdown with 3 seconds left, before the third straight victory for one of the NFC's hottest teams, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy had to make a tough decision.
With just more than 4 minutes left in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, the Packers were 12 yards from a potential game-tying touchdown.
On fourth-and-6, McCarthy kept the dice in his pocket. Instead of gambling, he sent kicker Mason Crosby out for a 30-yard field goal that cut his team's deficit to 4 points.
"The fact of the matter is, I obviously had confidence in our defense," McCarthy said.
McCarthy's decision paid off. The Packers defense got a critical stop, setting up a dramatic 27-24 win before a crowd of 70,875 at Sun Life Stadium.
It was the right call, win or lose. In context, it couldn't have been easy.
After a strong first half, Green Bay's defense had coughed up three straight touchdowns. The Packers were gashed, confused, searching for answers when McCarthy put the game in the defense's hands.
The defense delivered, forcing the Dolphins' only second-half punt.
"It wasn't any doubt in our minds that we was going to get the stop," outside linebacker Julius Peppers said. "We just didn't want to have the field position to change too much. We knew we were going to go out, get the three downs and get the stop.
"We actually aided them a little bit with the penalty (an illegal hands to the face call on linebacker Brad Jones). We came back and had to get the stop. That was the main thing. We was just focused on getting off the field."
When Peppers saw Crosby trot out for the field goal, he didn't flinch. He knew the significance. For a defense riddled with inconsistencies, it was time to make a stand.
Peppers appreciated his coach putting faith behind his defense. He wasn't surprised McCarthy made the right call.
"I mean, what else would you expect?" Peppers asked rhetorically. "We needed a touchdown anyway. Whether we get it now, or we get it later, it didn't really matter. The safe thing was to take the 3, get the stop, we go down and get the touchdown, this time we're winning instead of tying it."
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