NFL Christmas Day Recap: Green Bay and Tampa Bay survive on the road, Los Angeles obliterates Denver

Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass from Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (not pictured) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Christmas Day Recap: Green Bay and Tampa Bay survive on the road, Los Angeles obliterates Denver

Packers 26, Dolphins 20

The Packers had won three in a row entering Christmas Day’s game in Miami, and were given some Green Bay-esque weather with temperatures in the high-40s in South Florida. Nevertheless, both offenses came out of the gate on fire in the first quarter. Miami kicked a field goal on its opening drive to jump out to a 3-0 lead, but Green Bay would match with a field goal of its own after Packers’ returner Keisean Nixon took the Dolphins’ kickoff all the way down to the Miami five-yard line. The Dolphins struck quickly on their next possession, when Jaylen Waddle turned a slant route into an 84-yard touchdown to put Miami ahead. Green Bay responded to tie the game at 10 in a hurry, converting a fourth down inside the Dolphins five yard line for a Marcedes Lewis touchdown with still more than four minutes left in the first quarter. 

Miami’s first drive of the second quarter continued to showcase its explosiveness, as Tua Tagovailoa connected with Tyreek Hill on a 52-yard pass to the Packers one-yard line before Jeff Wilson Jr. plunged into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown. Feeling the pressure already, the Packers attempted a fake punt from their own 19-yard line on the next drive and failed. The Dolphins turned the excellent field position into a field goal, extending their lead to 20-10. Miami’s first major mishap of the afternoon was a fumble by Raheem Mostert just after the first half’s two-minute warning, both forced and recovered by Packers’ defensive lineman Jarran Reed. Green Bay turned the opportunity into a field goal, and went into halftime trailing 20-13. 

The Packers opened the second half with an excellent drive, covering 78 yards in 11 plays capped off by A.J. Dillon’s one-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tua Tagovailoa exchanged interceptions early in the fourth, the latter of which set up the Packers on the Dolphins 14-yard line. The turnover once again only led to a Packers’ field goal, putting Green Bay ahead 23-20 with 11:45 to go. Miami put together a productive drive on the following possession, but Tua Tagovailoa’s second interception of the half gave the Packers back the football with a lead at the 6-minute mark. The Packers’ run game would rain the next several minutes of clock while forcing Miami to use all of its timeouts, and Mason Crosby’s fourth field goal of the afternoon put Green Bay ahead 26-20 at the two-minute warning. The Dolphins took over needing a touchdown drive with ample time to put one together, but Tua Tagovailoa’s third interception of the half capped off an ugly finish for the third-year quarterback. 

The result puts Miami’s playoff hopes in much bigger danger than they were in to start the day, and suddenly puts the Packers in prime position to sneak in with two home games to end the season. 

Next Week: Green Bay: vs. Minnesota, Miami: at New England

Rams 51, Broncos 14

The Los Angeles Rams entered Christmas Day’s meaningless matchup with the Denver Broncos hoping to make the most of a lost season’s final three weeks. The Rams came out of the gates playing with purpose, jumping out to a commanding early lead. L.A.’s first drive used an efficient rushing attack to create a field goal, and the Rams’ defense picked off Russell Wilson twice in the opening quarter. The Rams cashed in one of those interceptions for a Tyler Higbee touchdown reception, and another led to a Cam Akers touchdown rush and a 17-0 lead. The Broncos did manage a field goal in the final seconds of the first quarter, pulling within two touchdowns. 

Rams’ quarterback Baker Mayfield started the game an incredible 11-for-11, throwing his first incompletion five minutes into the second quarter. Mayfield and Tyler Higbee connected for their second touchdown of the half with 9:42 left in the second quarter, extending the Los Angeles lead to 24-3. Cam Akers’ second touchdown of the afternoon followed with 1:06 remaining before halftime, increasing the Rams’ lead to 31-3. A Denver field goal made it 31-6 as the teams headed into their respective locker rooms, but the Broncos’ had a steep climb ahead of them to make the game competitive. 

The Broncos’ offense continued its disastrous afternoon on its opening possession of the third quarter, when Russell Wilson’s third interception of the afternoon was pulled down by Jalen Ramsey in the end zone. Los Angeles added a field goal after a steady, run-heavy drive, taking a 34-6 lead with 3:49 left in the third quarter. 

Cam Akers’ gigantic day continued with a third touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, putting Los Angeles ahead 41-6. The Broncos’ offense finally responded with its first touchdown when Russell Wilson found tight end Greg Dulcich in the end zone with just 8:30 left in the game. Denver’s two-point conversion attempt succeeded, making it 41-14. Matt Gay’s third field goal of the night made it 44-14 with six minutes to go. Brett Rypien took over at quarterback for the Broncos in the final moments, and rookie Rams’ defensive back Cobie Durant greeted him with an interception returned for an 85-yard touchdown to make it 51-14 Los Angeles. 

Baker Mayfield finished the day an efficient 24-for-28 with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Cam Akers put up 118 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Higbee had a huge day in his own right, finishing with nine receptions, 94 yards, and two scores. 

Next Week: Denver: at Kansas City, Los Angeles: at L.A. Chargers

Buccaneers 19, Cardinals 16 (OT)

After the tiebreaker-holding Carolina Panthers’ win over the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve, Tampa Bay entered Sunday Night Football needing a win at Arizona in order to stay in first place in the NFC South. The Bucs’ offense looked sharp on its opening drive, but settled for a field goal by Ryan Succop for a 3-0 lead. The Cardinals, led by third-string quarterback Trace McSorley, looked stronger than expected on their opening possession as well – but after McSorley fumbled on a sack, Devin White recovered the ball for Tampa Bay and ran it back to near midfield. Still, it was Arizona that tied the game right before the end of the first quarter with Matt Prater’s 56-yard field goal. 

Tampa Bay thought it had a touchdown pass midway through the second quarter when Tom Brady connected with Julio Jones, but an offensive penalty called the play back and the Bucs settled for a second field goal. The Buccaneers’ offense continued to struggle as the second quarter wore on. Tom Brady was intercepted to kill a Tampa Bay drive into Cardinals’ territory with five minutes left in the half, and Arizona would eventually tie the game before halftime when Matt Prater’s second 50+ field goal bounced off the left upright and through. 

Tampa’s first drive into Cardinals’ territory in the second half was snuffed out by Marco Wilson’s second pick of Tom Brady, giving Arizona the football late in the third quarter with a chance to take its first lead. Sure enough, the Cardinals worked their way into Bucs’ territory en route to Matt Prater’s third field goal of the night to put them ahead 9-6 early in the fourth. After a punt on the first Bucs’ drive of the fourth quarter was returned into Tampa Bay territory by Pharoh Cooper, James Conner broke free for a 22-yard touchdown run to give Arizona a 16-6 lead. 

Suddenly staring a stunning upset straight in the face, Tom Brady and the Bucs knew they needed to find points in a hurry. Tampa Bay’s urgency was obvious on its next drive, a series of precision throws from Tom Brady culminated by a short touchdown pass to Rachaad White, pulling the Bucs within three with eight minutes still to play. The momentum of the game continued its rapid shift in the Buccaneers’ favor on the next Arizona drive, when a botched pitch between Trace McSorley and Keiontae Ingram became a fumble recovered by the defense. Bucs’ kicker Ryan Succop drilled his third field goal of the night moments later, tying the game with 2:27 left. Tom Brady and the Bucs would wind up with the football again after forcing a Cardinals’ punt with 1:36 remaining, and had all three timeouts at their disposal. Arizona’s defense would force a punt anyway. When Trace McSorley’s last-second heave was intercepted at the buzzer, Tampa Bay and Arizona advanced to overtime. 

The Cardinals won the toss to begin overtime, but punted before getting into scoring range. The Buccaneers would take over at their own 12-yard line, but quickly advanced to near midfield on a deep pass from Tom Brady to Russell Gage. Brady would eventually complete his first six passes of the drive consecutively, setting up Ryan Succop for a game-winning attempt from 40 yards away. Succop made the kick with ease, delivering Tampa Bay an overtime victory that keeps it atop the NFC South heading into Week 17.
Next Week: Tampa Bay: vs. Carolina, Arizona: at Atlanta

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