Week one of last season seemed like the Packers’ offense was doomed. Struggling in Coach Matt LaFleur’s opener to even move the ball up the field was obvious and frustrating. Aaron Rodgers and Packers fans were historically accustomed to seeing a 30 point, 40 point performance from the West Coast style offense that Mike McCarthy had previously run in Green Bay. To see the Packers struggle on offense wasn’t just something new, it was surprising.
Aaron Rodgers is a future Hall of Fame Quarterback. With him at the helm, you’d expect the Packers to “light it up” no matter the circumstance. That wasn’t necessarily the case last season. The narrative in sports media throughout the league was the fact that Aaron Rodgers “was on the back nine of his career” as he so famously admitted. What was important though was the fact that Rodgers, who had a great relationship with Mike McCarthy at the beginning of 2010 decade, needed to create a new relationship with a rookie head coach. The big question was whether or not the Packers’ front office could find a guy that Rodgers could and would be willing to work with. Mark Murphy knew that LaFleur was his guy, but the fact that LaFleur had never been a head coach was going to be the big unknown. There isn’t a single recipe for success in the NFL, and LaFleur and Rodgers had to find their own.
Fast forward one year, and that is exactly what they did. It looked like an entirely different offense. For the most part, it was. It wasn’t the mixture of Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur’s ideas on offense, run by future HOF Aaron Rodgers. It was completely and totally the ideas of Matt LaFleur, as it should have been. It wasn’t the West Coast offense of old, rather the LaFleurian offense of today and tomorrow.
We didn’t see five wide receivers lined up running slant and go’s. We saw two tight ends, two running backs, and a mixture of full-back and wide receivers. It was, indeed, the LaFleurian makeup. And it worked.
Last night against the Atlanta Falcons, the media decided the Packers might have been in trouble. Veteran WR Davante Adams was out with a hamstring injury, most likely sidelined not at his own will, but that of the Packers’ medical staff. Allen Lazard, who recently had a career game against the New Orleans Saints, was placed on injured reserve and is out for three games. Mercedes Lewis, the guy who the Packers brought back again to help with the running game, was sidelined with a knee injury.
That left third-year wide receiver Marques Valdez Scantling, rookie Malik Taylor, and second-year player Darrius Shepherd as the only Wide Receivers the Packers could put on the field.
Watching from afar, that could be a head-scratching, mind-boggling makeup for a Mike McCarthy offense. That would almost force the Packers to go out and get a wide receiver that could work within a West Coast Offense.
Not for Matt LaFleur. LaFleur used his current healthy roster to the best of his ability. Whether that was three backs, two tight ends, or Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams lined up as a wide receiver, personnel wasn’t necessarily the key, it was creativity. If there was a slogan for the second-year head coach, it would be something to the tune of Matt LaFleur, innovator.
The Packers came out and went 73 yards downfield to Aaron Jones for 6 points in the first quarter. From there, it was all about the third-year tight end Robert Tonyan.
Tonyan, who had a quiet season last year, had a literal breakout game on Monday Night Football. Whether it be by chance, luck, or pure talent, it was on display for the world to see.
Tonyan, who absolutely had a career night said after the game, “Aaron [Rodgers] had a nice little look in his eye tonight, so I was just trying to roll with that”. Indeed he did. Tonyan finished with 6 receptions for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns.
After the game, Tonyan was pleased with his performance, mentioning the fact that George Kittle and Tonyan’s mother reached out to him, “I love my mom, she’s an incredible woman”.
“She’s done a lot for me over the years, whether it was sending tape out to college coaches, e-mailing every single college in America, getting me out there, and just the most supportive woman I’ve ever met,” Tonyan said of his mother.
When asked about his touchdown where he was almost literally tackled, did a somersault, and then caught a touchdown, Tonyan said, “I’ve been doing yoga twice a week, so I did a somersault, got back up on my feet, next thing I know the ball is in the air”. There wasn’t a Falcon defender within 15 yards of Tonyan at this point, he was alone in the endzone for Rodgers to pass to him.
Tonyan was the theme of Monday night. National announcers, who don’t traditionally know the team they are covering as well as the local media, caused Tonayan’s name to almost become a household name overnight.
With the Packers finishing the game over the Falcons with a 30-16 victory, they head into the bye-week 4-0. They take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 6.