MNF Madness: Dolphins, Packers shocked in final minutes

Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) looks to pass against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla., Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) looks to pass against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla., Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.

As if to make up for the letdown of the Eagles-Cowboys showdown from the night before, the MNF doubleheader produced two of the most thrilling games of yet another memorable weekend of NFL action.


The Titans went to Miami and overcame their own impulse for self-immolation to rally from 14 points down to shock host Miami. In the Meadowlands, the Giants beat Green Bay for their third win in a row, thanks to a game-deciding field goal. 


The only complaint is…I mean, c’mon NFL...You couldn’t stagger the start times so that the two thrilling finishes didn’t coincide with each other? The league's "trying something new" explanation simply doesn't cut it.


Here’s a recap of these two riveting events — which happened at exactly the same time, for some reason.



Tennessee 28, Miami 27


Rookie quarterback Will Levis directed two TD drives with under five minutes remaining in the game to lead the Titans to 15 unanswered points and a stunning win over Miami. 


Down 14 with 4:34, Levis drove the Titans 75 yards and fired a three-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins to trim the deficit to just six following a successful two-point conversion. The Titans defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense then went 64 yards with running back Derrick Henry scoring from three yards out to give Tennessee a one-point lead with 1:49 left. 


Miami had one more chance to win the game with a field goal, but the Titans’ defense again rose up, sacking Tua Tagovailoa on fourth down to close out the game. 


The Tennessee win was made all the more remarkable given all ways the Titans tried to hand Miami the game. 


In the first quarter, Levis, brilliant at times throughout the ball game, was picked off throwing a middle screen by Dolphins lineman Zach Sieler, who rumbled five yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Miami lead. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 13, Tennessee return man Eric Garror inexplicably tried to field a bouncing punt in traffic deep in his own territory. The titan-sized brain fart resulted in a Miami fumble recovery. The Dolphins capitalized, with Raheem Mostert scoring from three yards out.


Mostert again scored on a short field just a couple of minutes later after Levis uncorked an errant pitchout that Derrick Henry could not corral. Miami recovered, and Mostert gave the Dolphins a 27-13 lead with a five-yard run.


But their master class in self destruction did not deter Levis and Tennessee. The Dolphins defense certainly helped out by being unable to force Tennessee to use up clock or any of their timeouts on the first of the Titans’ two late TD marches. Tennessee scored within a mere two minutes, saving all their timeouts, and the subsequent three-and-out gave Levis and the offense plenty of time to work their magic and, improbably, take the lead.


Levis finished 23-of-38 for 327 yards, and his performance calls attention, given that Tennessee’s running game sat this one out — Henry managed just 34 yards rushing on 17 attempts.


With help from DeAndre Hopkins (seven catches, 124 yards), the rookie signal-caller from University of Kentucky outdueled Tagovailoa (240 yards passing) and the electric Dolphins passing game. In Tua’s defense, he played most of the game shorthanded, after his favorite target, Tyreek Hill, left the game in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury. Hill jogged off under his own power but did not return until late in the third quarter, when he caught two passes that set up Miami 1st-and-goal. (Hill was was removed from the game for good later in the fourth. No word on the extent of his injury.)


But Miami failed to score a touchdown despite Hill's exploits. The Dolphins struggling to finish drives was a theme Monday night, as they settled for fields goals on two of their first three trips into the red zone — a failure that kept Tennessee hanging around. 


For the Dolphins (9-4), this unquestionably is the most stunning loss of the season. Perhaps the costliest one, too; it drops them a game behind Baltimore for the AFC’s best record. Tennessee’s playoffs chances don’t improve appreciably, but the team and its fans can certainly appreciate the jolt that Levis has given this franchise at different points in his rookie campaign.



New York Giants 24, Green Bay 22


Kicker Randy Bullock kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Giants to their third straight victory.


Bullock’s heroics were set up by New York QB Tommy DeVito, who completed five consecutive passes in moving the Giants 56 yards into field goal range. 


It was a win that New York nearly squandered just a few minutes prior. With his team up 21-16 lead and driving, New York running back Saquon Barkley fumbled at the end of a 34-yard run, deep into Green Bay territory. The Packers’ Carrington Valentine picked up the loose ball and returned it 50 yards into Giants territory. Green Bay then drove the 36 yards for the go-ahead score, a six-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Love to Malik Heath on 3rd-and-goal. However, the Packers failed on the two-point conversion, leaving the door open for Bullock’s game-winner.


DeVito was efficient, completing 17-of-21 passes, but threw for 158 yardds as he mostly worked short zones. His lone TD pass, to receiver Isaiah Hodgins, put New York up 21-13 late in the third. Green Bay kicker Anders Carlson then cut the deficit to 21-16 with a 48-yard effort, his third field goal of the night. However, Carlson did miss a field goal early in the fourth quarter that would matter later on. Barkley ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns. DeVito did as much damage it seemed with legs as his passing arm; the QB ran for 71 yards on 10 attempts. 


The loss was a major step back for the Packers as a team and for quarterback Jordan Love, individually. The young signal-caller showed a lot of growth in recent weeks, but tonight the Giants defense had him off balance. He finished with 218 yards but took him 39 attempts to get there. Love certainly missed WR Christian Watson, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury; the chemistry between the QB-receiver duo was becoming more evident in recent Packer wins. 


Perhaps the most remarkable development of the night — and, really, what the Giants can hang this win on — was the play of New York’s offensive line. Heading into the final five games of the season, the Giants' front had an outside shot at challenging the 1986 Philadelphia Eagles’ NFL record of 106 sacks allowed. Through the first 12 games, New York allowed 69 takedowns of their quarterbacks. 


On Monday night, they allowed none. 


For the Packers (6-7), their uninspired effort on defense and Love’s subpar performance could not have come at a worse time. A win Monday night meant Green Bay keeps pace with others vying for an NFC wild-card spot. Fortunately for the Pack, they do not face a team with a winning record in their final four games of the season. 


For New York…it’s a pretty special weekend when both the Jets and Giants come away with impressive wins. 

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