Big plays lift Packers past Dolphins, 34-24

Just what the doctor ordered for the Green Bay Packers – big plays! Green Bay's defense came up with a season-high three interceptions while Brett Favre and Ahman Green came through on offense as the Packers topped the hapless Miami Dolphins Sunday, 34-24, at Dolphin Stadium.

The Green Bay Packers got some big plays from its struggling defense, Brett Favre threw two touchdown passes, and Ahman Green scored on a 70-yard run in the second half, leading the Packers to their second victory of the season, 34-24 over the Miami Dolphins at steamy Dolphin Stadium.

"This is a tremendous team win for us, especially coming off the bye week," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We had a chance in the bye week to go through some corrections. It's nice to see when you emphasize key components of successful football come to life. The turnovers by our defense today were huge. I just thought the adversity – the changing of momentum, either maintaining the momentum or getting it back was an emphasis for our football team. I thought that played a big part in our success today – to come down here in the heat and have the defense out there in 85-plus plays. I thought it was an excellent team win. I'm very pleased with the victory."

Ranked last in the NFL in pass defense, Green Bay intercepted Dolphins quarterback Joey Harrington three times as the Packers won for the first time in seven tries in Miami. The last time Green Bay won in South Florida was in Vince Lombardi's final game as Packers coach in the 1968 Super Bowl against Oakland.

The Packers won despite playing without starting left tackle Chad Clifton. Earlier in the week, wide receiver Koren Robinson was suspended from the league until September of 2007 for violating the NFL Subtance Abuse Policy. The Packers also played without No. 3 wide receiver Robert Ferguson, who has a sprained foot and is headed for injured reserve. Yet, the Packers, who entered the game with seven take-aways (3 INT's and 4 fumble recoveries) all season, out-scored the Dolphins 28-14 in the second half, thanks to big plays on offense and defense, sending Miami (1-6) to its fourth straight loss.

"Turnover ratio has been a problem for us, as a football team, particularly offense, we've had too many giveaways and that was a major emphasis for us coming into the football game," said McCarthy. "Defense did a great job stepping up to the plate."

Favre's 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Martin with six minutes left in the game gave the Packers a 34-24 lead. The score came after Harrington, who set a Miami regular-season record with 62 passing attempts, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to rookie Derek Hagan for his first NFL touchdown with 12 minutes left.

The Packers (2-4) doubled their season interception total, and the takeaways led to 13 points. Cornerback Charles Woodson, bothered all week with a sore quadriceps, made his first interception with Green Bay and returned it 23 yards for a score on the second play from scrimmage in the second half. Interceptions by linebackers Brady Poppinga and Nick Barnett set up a pair of first-half field goals.

"It felt good," said Woodson of his first interception of the season. "Its been a long time since I've been in the end zone. It's one of those things that can change the momentum of the game and coming out in the second half we wanted to go out and establish ourselves and make something happen. It just so happen I was able to come up with it."

Harrington completed 33 passes for a career-high 414 yards and two touchdowns, but much of the yardage came with the Dolphins trying to play catch-up after Green's 70-yard touchdown run gave Green Bay a 27-16 lead. Several of Harrington's passes deflected off receivers, including two interceptions.

Woodson put the Packers ahead to stay early in the third quarter when Harrington overthrew tight end Randy McMichael in the flat. McMichael lunged to get one hand on the pass before it deflected to Woodson, who ran untouched to the end zone to put Green Bay ahead 13-10.

"Either Randy (McMichael) gets it or no one gets it and it just gets tipped up into his hands and it goes for a touchdown," said Harrington. "That's one of those things that's a huge momentum swinger. So I guess the game turned a bit there, but that didn't change the way we approached it. I guess that's my response to the question. It's not like we kind of put our heads down and limped in. That was just a momentum swing. We were in position where essentially if they don't score the rest of the game or we put up one more touchdown, we could win the football game. That was a big momentum swing and one of those fluke things that just seems to be happening."

McMichael also failed to catch a pass that deflected off his chest to Barnett early in the second quarter. Kicker Dave Rayner followed with a 34-yard field goal to close the Packers to 7-6. Rayner also made a 42-yard field goal after Poppinga's first NFL interception.

A replay overrule gave the Packers their second touchdown of the game on a 34-yard pass from Favre to Donald Driver in the third quarter. An official initially ruled that Driver failed to maintain possession as he rolled in the end zone with two defenders.

"I was sitting over there, and I hate to be negative, but I said that there was no way that they were going to overturn this," said Favre, who passed for 206 yards. "I didn't know if he caught it or not, but they all swear that they caught the ball. So usually, and I think everyone in here knows this, it's hard for them to overturn what their initial call is. So I'm thinking it's difficult enough for us to throw touchdowns right now, and very difficult to win, and on top of that to try to get a call overturned, I thought was nothing more than a miracle, but they overturned it."

When the reversal was announced, putting Green Bay ahead 20-10, Favre lifted Driver over his shoulder on the sideline in celebration. Driver finished with 10 catches for 93 yards.

Green, who missed Green Bay's previous two games with sore hamstrings, broke into the clear on a simple off-tackle play through the left side of the line and outran the secondary to make it 27-16 in the fourth quarter. The veteran running back finished with a season-high 118 yards on 18 carries, and scored his 50th career touchdown.

"It feels good, but it's just a number," Green said. "It's a bonus, in terms when you win, and everyone plays well. And like I said before, those guys up front, Brett (Favre), and the way he passed the ball today, it all worked out. If you have a good passing day, other things just fall into place. And when you mix in the run, it makes it hard for the opposing team to adjust from one to the other. So with that, and finding the gaps, I mean they can be kind of tight sometimes, but every now and then we can find them and get 8 or 9 yards, or maybe the big one of 70, like today, and take it to the end zone."

The Dolphins responded with their best drive of the day, moving 80 yards for rookie Derek Hagan's first NFL touchdown on a 13-yard reception with 12 minutes left.

Harrington hit Marty Booker with a 2-point conversion pass to cut the deficit to 27-24.

But Green Bay sealed the victory with an 11-play, 80-yard drive. It included an end-around by Driver on fourth-and-1 for 6 yards before Favre hit Martin with a 13-yard score.

"We've been talking about this football team having the opportunity to be a good football team," McCarthy said. "We've had a number of areas that we've improved on throughout the season – improvement doesn't always equate to wins. For this football team to grow, we need to be successful. Today was an illustration of that. I think you see guys finally cashing in all the effort and preparation they're putting forth. That's what you want as a football team."

Rayner field goal from 40 yards on the final play of the first half was negated by a personal foul penalty on teammate Michael Montgomery. Prior to making the 40-yarder, Rayner's 55-yard field goal was wiped away because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on linebacker Zach Thomas prior to the snap. Because Green Bay committed its penalty with less than 10 seconds on the clock, the half ended and the field goal did not count.

Miami's Olindo Mare made three field goals, and his 52-yard try with two minutes left failed when it hit the upright.


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