Packers vs. Dolphins: Keys to the game

The Green Bay Packers are 0-6 all-time against the Dolphins in Miami. With Ahman Green back in the lineup, Brett Favre and the Packers face Joey Harrington and the Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins, like most teams around the NFL, speak with reverence when they talk about Brett Favre.

They talk about Favre the person. They talk about Favre the football player. They talk about his passion. It's all positive.

Still, the Dolphins know Favre is vulnerable. Even more than it was during the first five games of this dreary 1-4 season. There's no Koren Robinson. There's no Robert Ferguson. There's only Donald Driver, rookie Greg Jennings and a bunch of tight ends.

The play of Favre, who is chasing Miami's Dan Marino for the career touchdown passes record — Marino leads 420 to 403 — is one of this week's five keys to the game.

Favre in control

Other than a few times when he was intercepted by forcing the action in games when the Packers were hopelessly behind, Favre has done a great job of taking what the defense gives him. It will be interesting to see if Favre can remain patient with his arsenal of weapons even more limited.

On the plus side, the Dolphins' pass defense has been almost as bad as the Packers'. They are banged up — three cornerbacks are listed as questionable, including starter Travis Daniels and their nickel and dime corners — and their first-round pick, safety Jason Allen, hasn't even made his first tackle.

The predicament leaves the Dolphins wary of Favre, regardless of his lack of a supporting cast.

"He's a big-play guy," Miami's standout linebacker, Zach Thomas, said. "He still has his arm. He has a rocket, and he'll definitely fling it. He reads coverages really well.

"He's a very smart quarterback. That's why he's a Hall-of-Famer, one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. It doesn't look like he's lost a step at all. His mechanics ... he throws it a little off, but it's always on target."

The supporting cast

Favre mustered a smile when asked about his offense, which will be without the suspended Robinson for the rest of the season and the injured Ferguson indefinitely.

If you can't cry, you might as well laugh.

"When you're playing us, you go, 'OK, we shut down Driver and Greg, force ‘em to beat us elsewhere," Favre said as if donning a defensive coordinator's cap. "It makes it more difficult, I'm not going to lie to you. But, that's the way the game is."

Favre will turn to his legion of tight ends — David Martin is having a decent season but starter Bubba Franks has been invisible — and 6-foot-4 Ruvell Martin, his new No. 3 receiver who's never caught an NFL pass.

"I definitely have to go out there and first chance I get start making plays and get the quarterback's confidence in me that I can go out there and contribute," said Martin, who used his size to haul in 12 touchdown passes in NFL Europe in 2005.

Beating the heat

The Packers love their cold-field advantage they enjoy over their southern foes when the calendar turns to December. They will have the opposite problem on Sunday, with a predicted high temperature of 88 degrees and the usual South Florida mugginess.

The Packers haven't seen those type of conditions since training camp. If it's a close game in the fourth quarter, you have to like Miami's chances of simply wearing down the Packers to steal a win. It's a big reason why the Dolphins are 6-0 all-time against Green Bay in Miami.

That makes starting fast a must, and luckily for the Packers, the Dolphins have been abysmal early in games. They've scored all of three points in the opening quarter this season.

"We've got to come out and score from the start of the game," said Joey Harrington, who will start this third game in relief of injured and ineffective Daunte Culpepper. "We've shown we can move the ball. We've shown that we can score points. We have the talent. It's a matter of doing it from the start of the game you create an atmosphere, or you create an energy, that you can take throughout the game."

The Harrington factor

Speaking of Harrington, the Packers have to be happy they'll be facing Detroit's former first-round flop rather than Culpepper, their old nemesis with the Minnesota Vikings.

Green Bay is 5-2 against Harrington, and Harrington has looked like the same ole Joey with one touchdown and four interceptions in his two starts this season.

Miami hoped he would jump-start the offense, but it hasn't happened. The Dolphins have scored 78 points, fewest among teams that have played six games this season, and have managed a mere eight touchdowns.

"It's frustrating a little bit that when we do it right, we make 30 yards, and when we do it wrong, we can't make 6 inches, on the same play, against the same defense," said Miami coach Nick Saban, who fired his offensive coordinator this week, "You tell me what that is. It's something in sports that we all try to get — the perfection and execution that we'd like to get. That's what we have to work towards."

The running backs

Ahman Green returns to the Packers' lineup after missing the previous two games and then getting the bye week to mend his ailing hamstrings. He comes back to an offensive line that seemed to have made strides the previous two weeks. That group will be tested by Miami's strong run defense, which is allowing just 3.0 yards per rush.

"He looks good," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he's cut that loose. You could see the burst is there."

Miami's running back is Ronnie Brown, a 2005 first-round draft pick. Brown ranks 14th in the league in rushing with 405 yards but is averaging a pedestrian 3.8 yards per rush. Brown's ability to run against a good Packers run defense is especially key to take the game out of Harrington's hands.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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