Ronnie Brown bruised his way 73 yards on 19 carries while Ricky Williams was right behind him with 64 yards on 13 attempts. They seemed to fall forward when those yards counted the most, especially on Miami's final drive for the winning field goal in overtime.
"They came up with a game plan and they ran the ball pretty effectively today," said nose tackle B. J. Raji in the somber Packers locker room. "Sometimes, great backs make people miss. You never feel like you can't stop somebody. They just had a good game plan against us. In their division, they see our type of fronts all the time. They were prepared for us today."
"They're really explosive and it seemed like they were always falling forward, picking up an extra 2 or 3 yards after contact," added defensive end Cullen Jenkins. "They definitely did a good job running the ball, especially on first and second downs to get the sticks in their favor."
Still, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he couldn't fault the defensive effort, especially taking into account the loss of the unit's best pass rusher, Clay Matthews.
"Well, I think they battled our tail off," said Capers. "We made some timely plays. Their two touchdowns, they made a nice throw on zone coverage, stuck it between two defenders on the first one. And then the second one, we had a pressure coming from the backside, we had Nick Collins blitzing off the backside and they had a good call.
"I thought that there were some plays, some third-down plays that were timely plays. This was the No. 1 team – they've converted every short-yardage play that they had to at this point in time. So, our guys made two good stops there to get off the field. Tramon had a tremendous interception there on the second series to get the ball back. But really, what it came down to is we battled in the run game. They ran the ball a lot. I think their long run was 12 yards. They averaged 3.8 a rush, with 39 rushes. I think we had had some guys battling in there, sometimes we just weren't stout enough in there."
Not only were the Dolphins able to keep the chains moving on the ground, quarterback Chad Henne took advantage of the Packers' feeble pass rush. With Matthews sidelined by a hamstring injury, Henne didn't feel much pressure all afternoon from a defense that ranked second in the NFL with 21 sacks. Benefitting from a depleted defense and the offense's decision to use max protection on most plays, he took advantage by completing 23 of 39 passes for 231 yards. He wasn't close to getting sacked and was hit just four times.
"Clay's a great player, and he not only brings the pass rush, he opens up things me and the guys on the other side because he's such a force," said linebacker Brad Jones. "It hurts but Brady (Poppinga), (Frank) Zombo and everybody else stepped up and did well."
Matthews wasn't the only key player missing. At one point, the Packers had two undrafted outside linebackers (Zombo and Robert Francois), a defensie lineman who wasn't on the opening roster (Jarius Wynn), an undrafted rookie cornerback (Sam Shields) and a career backup safety making his third NFL start (Charlie Peprah) all on the field at the same time.
And then there was the defensive stop that wasn't.
With Miami driving for a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, the defense forced Henne into an incompletion on third-and-2 at Green Bay's 43 yard line. The Dolphins punted and Tramon Williams made a fair catch at the 9. However, during the commercial break, the officials determined that Green Bay was guilty of an illegal formation with linebacker Robert Francois lined up directly over the long snapper. So, instead of it being Green Bay's ball, the Dolphins were given a fresh set of downs at the Packers' 38.
Three plays later, Henne threw a throwback screen pass to Anthony Fasano. Green Bay's pass rushers were completely fooled on the play and Henne threw back against the grain with pressure in his face. Fasano caught the ball with nothing but grass in front of him and romped into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown that put Miami ahead 20-13. Capers was then asked if the Dolphins had shown the throwback screen before.
"Not with this much of a roll," said Capers. "We've seen them do it in the past. So it's something we knew they had in their repertoire. It was an excellent call on their part on first down. We were trying to make something happen bringing our safety on that backside, and we've got one guy sitting back there. If they get that blocker up there, they've got leverage on us. So, good call, and they hit it at the right time on us."
So now what? The Packers find themselves knee deep in mediocrity at 3-3 with the Vikings due in town next week. Minnesota (2-3) is back off of life support after beating Dallas 24-21.
"We know without a doubt that we are a better team than we've showed but what we put out there is who we are," said linebacker Desmond Bishop. "We're 3-3 so we've got to really get back to the drawing board, come back next week and get the job done."