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Tonyan, Lazard Celebrate National Tight Ends Day

The Green Bay Packers' passing attack expanded its horizons with big days by Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan supplementing Davante Adams.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday against Washington. Nothing unusual or especially interesting about that. It was the 70th career game of three-plus touchdowns and a 100-plus passer rating, fourth-most in NFL history.

What was unusual and interesting in terms of this season is who caught those touchdown passes and contributed to the passing game. Yes, as usual, Davante Adams led the way. He caught 6-of-7 targets for 76 yards and one touchdown. But this was the most balanced passing attack this season, with the value perhaps running deeper than the touchdowns he also threw to Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan.

“I think it can open up some other things,” Rodgers said after the 24-10 victory. “Teams are still trying to take away Davante in a number of different ways. A lot of double coverage. There were actually a few times he was singled up today and I tried to go to him in those situations. But that’ll be the focus moving forward every single week. It starts and ends with him. But the more we can get guys like Allen involved and Bobby involved, it’s going to slowly give Tae a few more one-on-ones probably.”

It wasn’t just The Adams Show. On an absolutely vital drive at the end of the first half that put the Packers in front 14-7, it was The Lazard Show. Rodgers completed five passes for 60 yards and the go-ahead touchdown to Lazard on the drive.

The drive started innocently enough with completions of 11 and 7 yards to Lazard sandwiching a 1-yard run. On third-and-2, Rodgers had all day to go through his progressions – a rarity in this game – before finally finding Lazard coming across the middle for a gain of 13. One play later, Lazard stiff-armed his way to a gain of 19 on a receiver screen. Finally, on third-and-5 from the 10 after a Randall Cobb drop near the goal line, Rodgers threw a back-shoulder ball to Lazard, who made the adjustment for the score.

“It was just coincidence I think on that drive,” Rodgers said of so much of the action going through Lazard. “I checked to a screen, and he was in the screen spot. I extended a play, and he was third window. Had a play set up on that third down, touchdown to him, not for him, but he’s in the two spot, made an adjustment, and the matchup is his. Lot of times it kind of works like that.”

That would be it for Lazard as far as a receiver, who set season highs for receptions and yards and scored for the second consecutive week. With games last season of 146 yards and one touchdown vs. New Orleans and 96 yards and one touchdown vs. the Rams in the playoffs, he is a capable receiver when given opportunities. He proved it during a superb 2-minute stretch.

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“I felt really confident today, especially going against that secondary group,” he said. “Obviously, having ‘12’ back there instills the most confidence in you, just knowing all you need to do is get somewhat separation and he’ll be able to plug you. Knowing that, going into the drive, knowing that we needed to score to get some momentum back and everything to recapture the lead. Obviously, opportunities presented themselves and I was able to capitalize so I was thankful for those moments.”

Tonyan had his best day of a quiet season, too, with four receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown. On National Tight Ends Day – yes, that’s a thing – he had two explosive plays in the second half, the first being a 20-yard touchdown to put the Packers in front 21-7.

“At first, I thought the safety was going to be outside leverage on me,” Tonyan said. “I was still thinking it was going to be a good opportunity to get the ball, then I went vertical and then I saw the linebacker attach to me inside and I was like, ‘This is the perfect look.’ So, I was hoping the ball was going to be in there and I turned and it was and good throw.”

Later, he went deep down the middle for a 25-yard gain on third-and-4 that helped extend the lead to 24-7.

Last season, Tonyan caught 52 passes and scored 11 touchdowns with only seven incompletions. After a dominant training camp, an excellent encore season was the expectation. Instead, he entered Sunday with 11 catches and one touchdown with nine incompletions. With injuries on the offensive line, he’s been asked to chip in here and there as a blocker, and defenses have adjusted to Green Bay’s red-zone dominance from last year to limit his chances.

“I wouldn’t say it’s frustration, but we’re getting wins,” he said. “We’re 6-1, not really going to complain about that. It’s hard to win in the NFL. I’m not going to sit here and pout over statistics or balls or whatever it is. As long as we’re holding up the trophy at the end of the year, I really don’t care what my stats are.”

Lazard shares the same thinking. Coach Matt LaFleur’s goon loves catching passes, of course, but he also relishes delivering the key block to fuel a receiver screen or an explosive run.

“My mind-set, no matter what game it is, no matter who we’re going against, is to go out there and do whatever I can to help my team win,” he said. “All I care about is winning, no matter what my role is, whether it’s blocking D-ends, safeties, linebackers or taking the top off and opening it up for other receivers to catch the ball, or getting the ball thrown to me and having to make those tough plays on third down and whatnot. Being in my third year here in the system with these guys, playing here at Lambeau, knowing the home crowd and everything, knowing our home field, the repetition has instilled a lot of confidence me. Today, National Tight Ends Day, I’m not classified as a tight end but I think a lot of you would agree I’m probably an honorable mention in a lot of categories. It’s just a great day and I’m happy to come out with the W.”