GREEN BAY – Robert Tonyan couldn't have picked a better way to celebrate National Tight Ends Day than his biggest performance of the season.
The Packers' fourth-year tight end caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's 24-10 win over the Washington Football Team at Lambeau Field.
His 20-yard TD in the third quarter was a catalyst in the Packers' victory. It came in the aftermath of Rashan Gary forcing a fumble of quarterback Taylor Heinicke to give Green Bay's offense the ball at the Washington 27.
With no safety playing over the top, Tonyan ran past linebacker Jamin Davis and finished a deep corner route to the end zone, where Aaron Rodgers found him for Tonyan's second TD of the season.
Tonyan finished the play, which gave Green Bay its first two-score lead of the afternoon, with a massive spike of the football, which ricocheted about 20 feet off the Lambeau Field grass.
"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 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 a good throw."
On third-and-4 in the fourth quarter, Tonyan again burned Washington down the hashmarks and pulled in a 25-yard pass from Rodgers to move the ball into scoring territory.
The 2021 season has required patience for Tonyan, who set career highs across the board last season when he hauled in 52 catches for 586 yards and tied Paul Coffman's record for single-season touchdown receptions (11) by a Packers tight end.
While Tonyan's responsibilities have continued to grow in the Packers' offense, the 27-year-old tight end was waiting for a chance to break out after catching 11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown through Green Bay's first six games.
With the Packers focusing their game plan on the passing game, Sunday turned out to be the right moment for Tonyan to shine.
"I saw what I did last year and I just want to be better than what I was last year, and I kind of had to realize that stats don't really define being better than last year," Tonyan said. "I became so much better at blocking and became so much more mentally, just, aware of what the offense is doing and what our job is and what our goals are."
Stats may not be the central focus for Tonyan but his teammates enjoyed seeing the veteran get his day in the sun, especially on National Tight Ends Day.
"Everybody knows his potential, his talent. We see it every single day," receiver Allen Lazard said. "Him making consistent, crazy catches, tough contested catches all the time, too. For him to be able to go out there, especially on National Tight End Day, and to get a touchdown, to have a huge play up the middle to kind of spring our momentum, as well, it's very rewarding."
The 'honorable mention' tight end: While Lazard knows he may not meet the requirements to be honored alongside Tonyan on National Tight Ends Day, Green Bay's hybrid receiver still commemorated the holiday in his own way.
In addition to fulfilling his usual blocking responsibilities, Lazard had perhaps the most dominant drive of his NFL career when he caught all five of his passes for 60 yards and a touchdown on the same two-minute series before halftime.
The nine-play, 72-yard scoring drive put Green Bay ahead 14-7 at the break and sparked the entire team going into the third quarter.
Like Tonyan, Lazard has needed to practice patience with his pass-catching opportunities this year. But when Rodgers looked his way at the end of the first half, Lazard responded.
"My mindset, 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," Lazard said. "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."
Big-time block: With his block of a 42-yard Chris Blewitt field goal in the second quarter, defensive lineman T.J. Slaton became the first Packers rookie to block a field goal since Doug Evans (Nov. 8, 1993 vs. Kansas City).
It's the first time any Packers player has blocked a field goal since Datone Jones against the St. Louis Rams in 2015.
"It's the first time I've ever blocked a field goal, I'm pretty happy about that," Slaton said. "I didn't really jump – I didn't jump at all. I just had my hand up and didn't really know what happened. I just know I felt something hard hit my hand.
"I turned around and heard the whole crowd roar but I still saw the ball going forward. Then I realized they called the block, and I started jumping around like that's me, that's me."
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 7 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Football Team on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
Gary's breakout game: With Za'Darius Smith on injured reserve and Preston Smith out with an oblique injury, the Packers turned to the Smith Bros.' adopted younger brother, Rashan Gary, to carry the load at edge rusher against Washington.
The former first-round pick was more than up to the task, recording four quarterback hits, two sacks and a forced fumble of Heinicke that helped set up Tonyan's touchdown.
Through seven games, Gary already has more QB hits (15) than he did in 15 appearances last season, when he recorded 11.
"Just chipping away, man," Gary said. "Just trying to stay in the moment and making sure I get the most out of every moment. That's from practice, my studying outside and just taking it day by day and keep doing what I'm doing."
Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus played a handful of snaps in his Packers debut against Washington. The 10th-year outside linebacker was signed on Thursday after parting ways with Houston at the beginning of last week.
"He's a smooth guy, man," Gary said. "We're already going back and forth, just communicating. Just having that experience and having a guy willing to share that information is great."