GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers needed someone to step forward when injuries left their top two wide receivers unavailable.
That made it the perfect showcase for tight end Robert Tonyan to continue his breakthrough season.
Tonyan caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes, Za'Darius Smith recorded three sacks and the Packers remained unbeaten with a 30-16 victory over the winless Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
“I just had to continue to do what I've been doing, just keep playing well and stick to the game plan,” Tonyan said. “Like I’ve said before, when plays come to me, I've got to make them. Aaron had a nice little look in his eye tonight, so I just was trying to roll with that.”
The Packers (4-0) have opened a season by scoring at least 30 points in four straight games for the first time in franchise history.
Green Bay star receiver Davante Adams sat out a second straight game with a hamstring injury and Allen Lazard is on injured reserve with a core problem. A knee injury sidelined veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Yet that didn’t slow down Rodgers, who capitalized on Atlanta’s depleted secondary.
“I like where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “I really do. I like the diversity in our approach. Again (coach) Matt (LaFleur) was really good kind of mixing it up with the calls. Obviously we had to do some different things without Davante, without Allen and without Marcedes, but I thought we had a nice plan and we executed really well.”
The 2017 undrafted free agent from Indiana State finished the night with six catches for 98 yards along with his three touchdowns to set career highs in all three categories. Tonyan has scored in three straight games and now has five touchdown catches to match Tampa Bay's Mike Evans for the NFL lead.
Rodgers went 27 of 33 for 327 yards. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes without an interception this season.
“He's one of those guys who's self-motivated,” LaFleur said. “It doesn't take anything other than he wants to be the best. He usually is the best every Sunday when we're out there. We're fortunate to have him as our leader. He's the one driving the ship out there.”
Todd Gurley’s two touchdown runs couldn’t stop the Falcons from their first 0-4 start since 1999, when they followed a Super Bowl season by going 5-11. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn remains confident the Falcons can turn around this season.
“In my heart, in my head and everything I believe in, I know that we can," Quinn said. ”I know that the second quarter of our season will look a hell of a lot different from our first. That’s in fact what I told the team. Nothing’s been decided yet."
After blowing two-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter each of the last two weeks, the Falcons never were ahead in this one. Green Bay took the lead for good when Rodgers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Aaron Jones on the game's opening series.
Atlanta already was playing without safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) as well as cornerback A.J. Terrell (COVID-19 reserve). That beleaguered secondary took more hits when Damontae Kazee got carted off the field and Jaylinn Hawkins left with a concussion in the second quarter.
Green Bay capitalized by scoring touchdowns on three of its four first-half possessions to build a 20-3 halftime lead. The Packers’ other first-half series ended less than a yard away from the end zone when Deion Jones stuffed Jamaal Williams on fourth-and-goal.
Julio Jones had four catches for 32 yards and broke the Falcons’ record for career receptions despite sitting out the second half with a hamstring injury. Jones entered the night tied with Roddy White, who caught 808 passes for the Falcons from 2005-13.
Rodgers became the 11th player in NFL history to have at least 4,000 completions. One of the other players to reach that mark is Ryan, who went 28 of 39 for 285 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions Monday.
Falcons: Kazee and Hawkins didn’t return after leaving the game in the second quarter. Jones didn’t play the second half. Elliott Fry, who made a 23-yard field goal and went 1 of 2 on extra-point attempts, played because kicker Younghoe Koo was unavailable due to a groin injury.
Packers: Defensive back Chandon Sullivan left with a concussion in the first half. Cornerback Kevin King injured his quadriceps. Tight end Josiah Deguara was shaken up with less than two minutes left in the game. Defensive tackle Kenny Clark (groin) missed a third straight game. Other notable inactive players included outside linebacker Rashan Gary (ankle), inside linebacker Christian Kirksey (injured reserve/pectoral),
The Falcons host Carolina on Sunday.
The Packers have an off week before visiting Tampa Bay on Oct. 18.
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