Robert Tonyan's three TD catches help Packers beat Falcons 30-16 to improve to 4-0
GREEN BAY - Any other offense, and the Green Bay Packers' thinned receiver position Monday night would have been a problem.
The Packers were without their top two receivers Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons. They took the conservative approach with Davante Adams, resting the Pro Bowler before this week’s bye. With Allen Lazard out indefinitely after having surgery this week, the Packers' offense could have tanked.
Perhaps a lesser offense would have.
This Packers offense? Not a chance. The Packers used an all-hands-on-deck attack and made a household name out of tight end Robert Tonyan en route to a 30-16 win against the Falcons.
The victory improved the Packers to 4-0 this season, one step further than their 3-0 start last season. Second-year coach Matt LaFleur is now 17-3 in the regular season.
The Packers opened their season with four straight 30-point games for the first time in franchise history. It's the first time they've had four straight 30-point games since the last four games of the 2016 season.
The Packers have scored 152 points through four games. Their explosive 2011 team had 148 in its first four games. And they are the only team in the league that has yet to commit a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers completed 27 of 33 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns.
Rodgers is quickly finding a favorite target in Tonyan. Until this season, Tonyan has been a talented young player unable to reach his potential. He had 10 catches for 100 yards last season, his second after being undrafted out of Indiana State. Behind the scenes, Tonyan trained with good friend and San Francisco 49ers all-world tight end George Kittle the past couple offseasons.
Kittle is still the game’s greatest player at his position, but Tonyan is becoming a standout early in his third season. He caught three touchdowns in the first three quarters, his third expanding the Packers’ lead to 27-9.
Tonyan now has five touchdowns this season – as many as Jimmy Graham had in 32 games with the Packers – including at least one in each of the past three games. He’s becoming a major receiving threat – Tonyan is now tied with Tampa Bay star Mike Evans for the most touchdowns in the league – for a Packers offense that needs them with injuries atop the wideout depth chart.
Jermichael Finley (2011) and Keith Jackson (1996) are the only other Packers tight ends with three touchdown catches in a game. The Packers have been searching for a star tight end since Finley’s career-ending neck injury in 2013, briefly finding one in Jared Cook before letting him get away after 2016.
One game does not make a standout tight end, but Tonyan had the type of night that could be a springboard in a young player’s career.
Early in Tonyan’s big night, the Packers used the depth of their backfield to pave the way. They opened with tailbacks Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams sharing the field for multiple snaps during a six-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 7-0 lead.
Jones had three catches for 32 yards on the drive, including a 6-yard touchdown catch when a pair of Falcons defenders covered an inside route, leaving the NFL’s reigning touchdown leader open in the end zone on the outside. It was Jones’ sixth touchdown of the season, and his 25th since the start of last season.
Williams is often in Jones’ shadow, an easy afterthought, but not on this night. With Jones’ touches high in the first quarter, the Packers gave the second quarter to his understudy. Williams delivered with six catches for 77 yards, including the 4,000th completion of Rodgers’ career with a third-down grab to help prolong an eventual scoring drive. Rodgers, who also threw the 375th touchdown pass of his career, became the 11th quarterback in NFL history with 4,000 completions on the play.
The blowout wouldn’t be complete without a resurgent night for a maligned Packers defense that kept Matt Ryan and a talented Falcons offense in check. But this Monday night, much like the first four games of the season, belonged to the offense.
It might be a while until the Packers find an opponent that can outscore them.