SEATTLE – Robert Tonyan visualized this moment in his mind. For months, the Packers’ first-year tight end thought about what it would feel like to catch his first NFL pass in a meaningful regular-season game.
He just never expected it to be a 54-yard touchdown.
However, that’s how things unfolded for the former undrafted free agent in front of 69,007 inside CenturyLink Field on Thursday night.
While the Packers fell to the Seattle Seahawks, 27-24, Tonyan made the catch of his life after beating his man on a go route down the left sideline on first-and-10 from the Green Bay 46 with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first quarter.
Noticing quarterback Aaron Rodgers rolling right out of the pocket, Tonyan maintained his separation after sprinting across the field to bring in a perfect pass from Rodgers, giving the Packers a two-score lead at the time.
Green Bay’s offense has been largely predicated on its trio of veteran tight ends: Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis. To the point, Tonyan had played a mere 10 offensive snaps in nine games this season.
Given the opportunity, however, Tonyan made it count on the scramble play.
“You just have to keep thinking about making big plays,” Tonyan said. “If you’re sitting at the locker room or sitting at home, you just have to think about making those big plays and when they come to you, just make them. When it happened, I was just happy. That’s football. You just have to make plays when they come to you.”
A former quarterback who transitioned to receiver during his time at Indiana State, Tonyan was asked to make a third conversion to tight end after entering the league as a college free agent last year.
After finishing his rookie year on Green Bay’s practice squad, the 6-foot-5, 237-pound tight end made the Packers’ 53-man roster coming out of training camp on the back of a strong preseason in which he caught eight passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Understanding his place on the depth chart behind three established veterans, Tonyan has been a sponge in the tight ends’ room this entire year. Seeing his young teammate step up when called upon brought a smile to the face of Lewis.
“It was huge, especially for the tight end room. We’re always rooting for Robert,” Lewis said. “He’s young. He wants to be really good and listens. He catches on really fast. I was happy to see him get that.”
Tonyan’s catch was the second-longest play of the night, second only to Davante Adams’ 57-yard catch in the fourth quarter, and ties Graham for the longest by a Green Bay tight end this season.
The Packers had to finish Thursday’s game without the five-time Pro Bowler, who left before halftime with a thumb injury. Whatever his role is moving forward, Tonyan hopes plays like the one he made Thursday help gain the confidence of Rodgers, his coaches and his veteran counterparts.
“Just being behind those three guys, they put a lot of confidence in me to make plays,” Tonyan said. “It’s really incredible. I just got three guys ahead of me that treat me just like one of them. I can’t really explain. I’m just happy I’m with those guys and they make me play up to their level.”
Another career day: While it served as little consolation during another narrow loss on the road, Adams continues to build on one of the best starts a Packers receiver has ever had with 10 catches for a career-high 166 yards in Seattle.
Adams started the game with a 47-yard pass from Rodgers before adding a season-long 57-yard completion in the fourth quarter, leading to a 36-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
He might have had an even bigger day had it not been for what appeared to be a missed defensive pass interference penalty on Bobby Wagner on a deep pass down the sideline in the third quarter.
Adams and running back Aaron Jones (five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown) were on the receiving end of 15 of Rodgers’ 21 completions Thursday night. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough for the offense to overcome going 3-of-11 in third-down situations.
“It’s tough, especially against an opponent like this,” Adams said. “It’s an NFC matchup and game we need to win. We need these. It’s definitely tough. All we can do is just focus on the next one.”
A need to finish: The Packers could not have scripted a better start to Thursday night’s game with linebacker Clay Matthews stripping Seattle running back Chris Carson of the ball on the opening play of the game, which defensive back Tramon Williams recovered at the Seahawks’ 29.
However, Green Bay wasn’t able to get a similar stop or takeaway late with Seattle pulling ahead with Russell Wilson hitting tight end Ed Dickson for a 15-yard touchdown on third-and-9 with 5:11 left in regulation.
“Obviously we have to finish out the game, and that’s what it’s coming down to,” Williams said. “Pretty much all our games is finishing out the games. We’re not getting over that hump. Whatever it takes to do that, we have to figure it out.”
Williams and several other defensive players in the postgame locker room said they felt as good as they possibly could on the short week, but injuries took a toll on the defense.
Already playing without three starters (linebacker Nick Perry, and defensive backs Kevin King and Kentrell Brice), the Packers saw defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), safety Raven Greene (ankle) and cornerback Bashuad Breeland (groin) leave the game.
Immediate returns: It didn’t take long for Trevor Davis to remind everyone the added dimension he brings to the Packers’ special-teams units.
Activated from injured reserve Thursday morning, the third-year receiver and returner made his season debut against the Seahawks. Along with forcing several fair catches as a gunner in punt coverage, Davis recorded a tackle in kickoff coverage and returned three punts for 31 yards.
He also broke a 53-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, though it was brought back due to a holding call on linebacker Korey Toomer.
“He’s very decisive and we know what he’s going to do,” said Tonyan of Davis. “He’s very good at what he does. He is a return specialist, so having him back and being able to work off him, and knowing his tendencies, I think we can get some big returns out of him.”
The Seattle Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on Thursday Night Football.