A 4-0 record for the Green Bay Packers is positive news, but perhaps even better is the Packers sit atop the NFC North and the NFC, along with Seattle, heading into this weekend. And they will at least maintain those positions by the time next Tuesday rolls around.
The Packers’ offense has been the talking point of the first four weeks, with Robert Tonyan’s monumental Monday night only adding to the excitement. Tonyan’s emergence in the offense has only helped Aaron Rodgers become more dangerous and maintain an extremely high level of ball control.
Today’s musings examine each of those topics, as well as an early-season bye week that should prove advantageous for Green Bay.
Big Bob’s big day has been coming for a while and continues tight end involvement in the offense
I was one of a few people at APC that speculated Robert Tonyan was in for a big season over the summer and the first few weeks of the season hinted a big day could be coming. A couple weeks ago, I actually listed Tonyan as the team’s most improved player and noted that it was only a matter of time before the stats backed his progress.
Against Atlanta, with the Packers’ top two receiving targets out, Tonyan made good on my theory and had the performance of his life with six catches for 98 yards and three scores. While he may not be the same athlete that Jermichael Finley was, it represented one of the Packers’ top tight end receiving days of the past decade. Tonyan’s receiving skills were always there being a former college wideout, but his game has evolved into much more. After the game, Aaron Rodgers said that Tonyan had been “ascending the past few weeks” and noted that he was “a consistent guy” that had worked on his route-running and blocking. But perhaps the best quote from Rodgers was this one.
I think he’s becoming a complete tight end. He just has a really good feel in the passing game, where he just kind of turns his head at the right time. He understands the timing of the routes. He’s a really good player.”
The broadcast highlighted Robert Tonyan’s work with George Kittle in the offseason, and there was a little bit of that Kittle feel on Monday night. The Packers have searched for production at tight end for a number of years, while also waiting on Rodgers to personally show more of a willingness to involve the tight end. But through four games, each tight end has seen action in the passing game. Rodgers’ comments post-game suggest that, while three-touchdown games happen very infrequently, Tonyan’s contributions to the offense against the Falcons might only be the beginning. Once Rodgers highlights a receiver as one he can trust, the targets tend to rise.
The Packers’ ball control and time of possession have been astounding
Some incredible nuggets about the Packers’ lack of turnovers were dug up by packers.com this week. Perhaps this statement shows how much rare air Green Bay is in.
Their combination of point production and turnover avoidance is historic, actually. They’re the first team in NFL history to score 150-plus points with no turnovers in the first four games of a season. It’s also just the second time in franchise history, at any point in a season, the Packers have scored 30-plus points per game with no turnovers over a four-game stretch. The other time was the final four weeks of the 2016 regular season, during “run the table.”
If the Packers can have anywhere near the success of the 2016 campaign, it will be an amazing season (with hopefully a better postseason). But Green Bay’s ball control has also helped the team in terms of controlling the overall tempo of the game. Through the first four weeks, the Packers led the league in average time of possession per game at 34 minutes and 20 seconds. That’s exactly three minutes longer per game than last season.
Rodgers’ historically excellent ability to limit turnovers has been well-documented, but he and the Packer offense are firing on all cylinders.
The Week 5 bye might actually be perfect timing
When the schedule was first released, count me in as one person not thrilled by the Packers having their off week in the very first bye week of the NFL regular season. But as the early part of the year has worn on, it may have been a blessing in disguise.
Green Bay is certainly not limping into the bye week with a 4-0 start filled with convincing victories. That kind of momentum can be a motivator throughout the time off and very few people expected the Packers to be undefeated at this point of the season. Furthermore, it gives the team ample time to prepare for a road game against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay in a week and a half to extend its winning ways. In most years, there might be concern about the Packers’ offense continuing its dominance after a break, but early signs, especially the team’s very first performance in Week 1, provide optimism of doing just that.
But the biggest advantage of this early bye week will be the time for some unexpected injuries to heal. By the time the Packers take on the Buccaneers, they should have Davante Adams, Rashan Gary, and Kenny Clark back on the field. Even more, they will have time to more adequately prepare depth players for more action. Green Bay was successful against Atlanta’s banged-up secondary, but the extra time should help better game plan the wide receiver corps in life without Allen Lazard. The same can be said at inside linebacker with Christian Kirksey on the mend.
Perhaps the bye week will prove much more favorably than originally thought.