NFL Week 16 Takeaways: Biggest takeaways from the 2022 Christmas Day Games
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Photo from AP/Jim Rassol
The NFL gave everyone a triple-header on Christmas Day as the 2022 regular season draws to a close.
After a nearly full slate of Saturday games, the Miami Dolphins hosted the Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos traveled to sunny Los Angeles to face the Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit the desert in search of the Arizona Cardinals.
Significant stakes existed, either due to playoff scenarios, draft slots and/or future franchise implications. Sunday’s results produced repercussions that will reverberate throughout the league.
Tua Tagovailoa happened to be in a gift-giving mood when the Dolphins met the Packers at Hard Rock Stadium and gave gifts to all the AFC teams still hoping to sneak into the postseason. Conversely, Green Bay is heading toward a potential playoff appearance with Aaron Rodgers leading the charge.
Sunday’s action may have been limited, but these meetings had a lot on the line, with several national headlines coming out of these holiday performances.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins fall apart when games matter most
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The Miami Dolphins have been TuAnonymous since December began.
After an 8-3 start, including a September win over the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills, this team looked like it could capture a division title and do significant damage during the postseason. But Miami is now in its proverbial fight of a lifetime just to make the playoffs.
With Sunday’s 26-20 loss to the Packers, the Dolphins dropped their fourth straight contest and fell to 8-7 overall while clinging to the seventh and final AFC playoff berth.
The New England Patriots, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers are now just one game behind with two weeks left in the regular season.
While the quarterback position tends to get far too much credit and blame, Tua Tagovailoa’s performance against the Packers is the starting point for Sunday’s downfall.
Miami led 20-13 at halftime. Over the final 30 minutes, the Dolphins quarterback completed eight of 14 passes for 96 yards and threw three interceptions, including the game-ending pick with 1:34 left to play. Tagovailoa threw those picks on three consecutive drives and became the first Dolphins signal caller with three interceptions in the fourth quarter in 13 years, according to ESPN stats and info.
The final turnover proved to be particularly embarrassing on two fronts. First the Packers completely wrong Tagovailoa with his coverage, and Rasul Douglas dropped easily into the zone to make the play. Second, Tyreek Hill ran across the field wide open and his quarterback never even considered the option.
During Miami’s current losing streak, Tagovailoa has completed 51.3 percent of his passes with a 6-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Even the Dolphins’ head coach doesn’t understand the quarterback’s funk or what the team can do to help him get back on track.
“It’s uncharacteristic of him. He started the game at a high level,” Mike McDaniel told reporters. “I don’t know where it went, but it’s something he and I [will figure out].”
The Dolphins may need a holiday miracle to put things in place in time for things to matter this season.
The Green Bay Packers are clinging to postseason life during the holiday season
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Photo by AP/Doug Murray
The Packers are technically a worse team than the Dolphins, at least from a record standpoint. Still, the 7-8 squad still trying to get into the postseason appears to be sitting much nicer than its 8-7 counterpart that holds the seventh playoff spot in the AFC.
Why? The teams are heading in opposite directions.
Miami has lost four in a row, while Green Bay has won its last three. The Packers’ victories against the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams are not that impressive considering that the opponents are two of the league’s worst teams. But after the Dolphins came out strong on Sunday, head coach Matt LaFleur’s team weathered the storm and found a way to win a game they absolutely needed.
The Packers now have the same record as the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. All three are a half game behind the 7-7-1 Washington Commanders, who sit in the NFC’s seventh and final playoff slot.
While their defense may be inconsistent and they can’t rely on turnovers every week to help win games, the Packers are doing a few things right on the other side of the ball to keep the momentum going beyond the final two weeks. the regular season.
First, they finally figured out that they have one of the league’s best backfields, and they use Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon as catalysts. The late/great Mike Leach once defined one balanced offense like getting the ball in all the playmakers’ hands. In this case, Green Bay has produced a nearly 50-50 split on the running and passing games. In fact, Aaron Rodgers has attempted just seven more passes than the team has during this stretch.
When the four-time league MVP drops back, he’s well protected.
As NFL Next Generation Stats noted, Green Bay’s offensive line allowed just six pressures despite a 60 percent pressure rate on Rodgers’ dropbacks against the Dolphins defense. The Packers’ season-long allowed pressure rate is the third-lowest in the league.
Rodgers may not be playing at the same level as the previous two seasons. His 11 interceptions are his most since 2010. He’s not nearly as sharp or consistently accurate. But the team’s ability to run the ball effectively combined with a pocket that doesn’t crumble will give Green Bay a chance to win on a weekly basis.
The Packers must do both consistently against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions to finish the regular season. It just so happens that both teams rank in the bottom half of the league against opposite ground games.