MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP)Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander knew the secondary needed to start playing better against the Miami Dolphins after defensive backs coach Jerry Gray surprisingly yelled at them at halftime.
”That woke us up for sure,” Alexander said. ”He doesn’t really yell, but he was yelling at us then. And you see the results. He probably needed to yell at us at the beginning of the game.”
Gray’s motivational effort worked: The Packers intercepted Tua Tagovailoa three times in the fourth quarter to complete their comeback and defeat the Dolphins 26-20 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Packers had a season-high four takeaways in the game – three interceptions, one fumble recovery. Alexander caught one of Green Bay’s three interceptions early in the fourth.
”That’s how it is. You get one pick, more are going to come,” said cornerback Rasul Douglas, who caught the game-sealing pick. ”Keep catching those, and you keep getting them. I’m just glad we caught them.”
Aaron Rodgers threw for 238 yards and a touchdown and was intercepted once, helping the Packers (7-8) to their third straight win. The team is looking to make a playoff push after starting the season 4-8.
After losing four consecutive games, Miami (8-7) now needs two wins or a win at New England and the New York Jets to lose to Seattle in Week 17 to make the postseason.
”I did not foresee that happening,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said of the end result. ”I felt strong going into halftime and where our guys were at. I didn’t foresee standing up here in this situation. I know the team feels the same way. It’s another gut check.”
After leading by as many as 10, the Dolphins trailed by six points with a chance to take the lead in the final two minutes, but Tagovailoa threw his third interception in three possessions to end Miami’s comeback bid. He threw a pick with about six minutes left that set up a Packers field goal.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby made the go-ahead field goal early in the fourth after back-to-back turnovers by both offenses.
Undrafted Miami rookie Kader Kohou intercepted a pass by Rodgers intended for Allen Lazard, but the Dolphins gave it right back when Alexander intercepted Tagovailoa on the very next play.
Miami’s defense held the Packers to six points off turnovers in the second half, and also held Green Bay to two TDs and three field goals in five trips to the red zone.
”It wasn’t pretty, certainly,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. ”I think a lot of times, when you kick a bunch of field goals, that’s usually just enough to get you beat.”
A.J. Dillon led the Packers with 36 yards rushing on 11 carries, and Lazard had 61 yards receiving on five catches.
Tyreek Hill had four catches for Miami to give him 113 for the season, setting a Dolphins’ single-season receptions record previously held by Jarvis Landry. Jaylen Waddle added five receptions for 143 yards.
But Miami spoiled those big receiving days with turnovers. Raheem Mostert fumbled in the first half, and Tagovailoa’s three interceptions were the most he has thrown all season.
”It’s tough,” Tagovailoa said. ”You get an opportunity to play on Christmas Day against a really good team. I go out there and don’t put my best foot forward for our team.”
Miami committed to the run game early, rushing for 82 yards against Green Bay after a season-high 188 yards rushing against Buffalo in Week 15.
The Dolphins ran four times for 38 yards on their opening drive and took a 3-0 lead, and Green Bay countered with a field goal to tie it after Keisean Nixon’s 93-yard kickoff return set up the Packers at the 9-yard line.
Miami built a 20-13 halftime lead after an 84-yard TD by Waddle and 1-yard TD run by Jeff Wilson.
Dillon’s 1-yard touchdown run on Green Bay’s first possession of the third quarter tied the game.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis also had a 1-yard TD catch in the first quarter.
Rodgers’ interception in the fourth quarter was his 11th pick of the season, his highest total since 11 during Green Bay’s Super Bowl-winning season in 2010. Rodgers threw a career-high 13 interceptions in 2008.
The temperature at Hard Rock Stadium was 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) at kickoff, which marked the second-coldest home game in Dolphins history. The coldest was played on Christmas Eve in 1989 against Kansas City in 40-degree weather. The Chiefs won that game 27-24.
Tagovailoa’s 84-yard TD pass to Waddle was the longest offensive touchdown score on Christmas Day in NFL history, according to NFL Research. It was the fourth-longest TD in Dolphins history and the longest since Dan Marion’s 85-yard TD pass to Mark Duper in 1986 vs. the Houston Oilers. It was also the longest TD catch of Waddle’s career.
Packers: DE Dean Lowry injured his calf in the second quarter. . Keisean Nixon left with a groin injury and did not return. . WR Christian Watson left with a hip injury and did not return.
Dolphins: LB Bradley Chubb (hand) left in the first quarter and later returned with his right hand completely wrapped. … FB Alec Ingold injured his thumb.
Packers: Host Minnesota on Jan. 1.
Dolphins: Visit New England on Jan. 1.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL