Enter tight end Robert Tonyan, who before this season had two career touchdown catches and 14 total receptions.
Monday night turned into Tonyan time. The relatively unknown third-year tight end caught three touchdown passes and had six catches for 98 yards in all (each career highs) to help the Packers to a 30-16 victory that gave them their first 4-0 start since 2015 and gave LaFleur a 17-3 record — the second-most wins by an NFL coach through 20 games behind only George Seifert’s 18.
They’ve scored at least 30 points in their first four games of a season for the first time in franchise history.
It didn’t matter that Rodgers’ receivers were Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton. Only Valdes-Scantling had caught a pass this season before Monday. And of the other three, only Shepherd had caught a pass in an NFL game ever (one for 1 yard last season).
All Rodgers needed was a former undrafted tight end from Indiana State, who in four games this season now has five touchdown catches to match Jimmy Graham’s production in 32 games as the Packers’ primary tight end the previous two seasons. Tonyan is tied for the NFL touchdown lead with Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.
With Adams held out — not by his choice, apparently — for a second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury and Lazard placed on injured reserve last week after undergoing core muscle surgery following his breakout game in Week 3, Rodgers still managed a near-flawless first half: 18-of-22 for 228 yards with three touchdowns for a 149.4 rating.
His final numbers, 27-of-33 for 327 yards and four touchdowns (and no picks, of course, since he hasn’t thrown one all season) included a perfect 19-of-19 when targeting running backs (including eight catches for 95 yards by Jamaal Williams) and tight ends.
Promising trend: The Packers have had a different offensive contributor — other than Rodgers, of course — in each of their first four games. In Week 1 against the Vikings, Adams tied a 78-year-old franchise record with 14 catches (for 156 yards and two touchdowns). In Week 2 against the Lions, Aaron Jones rushed for a career-best 168 yards and totaled 236 from scrimmage. In Week 3 against the Saints, Lazard had a career-high 146 yards receiving (on six catches with a touchdown). And then there was Tonyan in Week 4. Who will it be in Week 6 at Tampa Bay after the Packers’ bye this coming weekend?
Promising trend II: Za’Darius Smith, who led the NFL in quarterback pressures last season with 63, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, had four in the first half on Monday night, matching his total from the first three games. He had a walk-off sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to end the first half and finished the night with eight pressures in all.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: What’s the definition of wide open? Try this: Jones had 12.9 yards of separation on his 6-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. That’s the second-most separation on a Packers touchdown catch over the past four seasons.