Brent Grimes regretted plenty about his performance during the Dolphins’ heartbreaking loss Sunday to the Packers.
The play he is least likely to forget is the one that kept Green Bay’s eventual game-winning drive going.
Grimes slipped and fell to the turf while covering Packers receiver Jordy Nelson as Green Bay faced a fourth-and-10 at the Dolphins’ 48-yard line. It freed Nelson to complete an 18-yard connection from Aaron Rodgers for a first down.
Six plays later, Nelson was celebrating a Green Bay win after Rodgers’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with three seconds remaining.
Never miss a local story.
Grimes was left pondering what he could have done differently.
“I was on him and I slipped, and they got the first down,” Grimes said. “That was my bad. Then, they made some plays and got in the end zone. I might have gotten tangled with his feet a bit, I don’t know. But that’s just competing. I have to stay up and I have to make a play.
“I’m disappointed about it. I wish I could’ve stayed up somehow. But I didn’t and they moved on to score. That’s the way it is.”
While Grimes will likely replay that instance in his head for some time, the combination of Rodgers to Nelson often victimized the Dolphins secondary long before he lost his footing.
Nelson was targeted 16 times by Rodgers and caught a game-high nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Dolphins’ other starting cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, didn’t fare much better against Nelson and the rest of the Packers receivers as he was penalized twice for holding.
“I tried to keep the guys in front of me, but we just didn’t tackle well, which is [expletive] on my part,” Finnegan said. “In spite of all the adversity, we were facing Aaron Rodgers and they made one more play than we did.”
But matched up against Nelson the most among the Dolphins corners, Grimes had the hardest time containing one of the league’s most prolific receivers.
On the clutch fourth-down play, Nelson cut toward the sideline right as Grimes fell as he was cutting to stay with him. That left Nelson free for the catch.
“I was able to get out on a corner-type route, so Aaron was able to move around and give me the ball,” Nelson said. “Aaron gave me a good route. He’s a great player. The guy plays extremely good football.”
Moments later, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks froze the Dolphins defense with a fake spike that allowed Rodgers to find Davante Adams for a first down, setting up the winning score.
On Quarless’ touchdown, the Packers exposed the mismatch when he found himself covered by linebacker Philip Wheeler on the outside and shook loose for the catch.
“We actually had a similar set earlier in the game where they doubled our slots,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s what we were anticipating. Aaron made the adjustment to Andrew Quarless and an excellent throw and an excellent route.”
After taking a 24-17 lead, the Dolphins had a chance to thwart a Packers comeback earlier when they forced Green Bay into a third-and-9 at their own 21.
Nelson got the best of Grimes on consecutive long pass plays to move the Packers into Miami territory.
Nelson got open to snare a pass deep down the right side for 22 yards. After the Packers went no-huddle, Nelson got loose over the middle for a 14-yard gain to the Dolphins’ 43.
Only a misfire by Rodgers, overthrowing Nelson in the corner of the end zone, forced the Packers to settle for a field goal with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s the way it is,” Grimes said. “They made a big play at the end of the game. We had to stop them. We didn’t. Now, we have to move on.”