GREEN BAY – Stars need sidekicks, and the Packers have had different ones, in both categories, through two games.
While receiver Davante Adams was carving up Minnesota's secondary in Week 1, fellow receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard came through in big moments, too.
This past Sunday, as running back Aaron Jones took his star turn, two key complementary pieces were backfield mate Jamaal Williams and tight end Robert Tonyan.
Williams was ultra-productive with only eight touches in the 42-21 victory over the Lions, averaging just shy of eight yards per carry in churning out 63 yards (7.9 avg.). Meanwhile Tonyan had just three passes thrown his way, catching two including the go-ahead TD late in the first half that required exquisite timing with QB Aaron Rodgers and gave the Packers the lead for good.
"That's always encouraging, when you have guys that you trust and can come through when their number is called," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
Tonyan's score came, coincidentally, right after Williams had bolted up the middle on a shotgun handoff for 13 yards and a first down in the red zone.
With the Packers out of timeouts, it appeared Rodgers audibled at the line to give the ball to Williams, so the fourth-year back had to not just assume he'd be pass blocking or leaking out on a route.
Similarly, Tonyan was ready for anything as he stopped his corner route at the goal line, letting the defender overrun the play, and then turning to find the throw.
"By the time I flipped my head, the ball was super close to already being in my hands," Tonyan said. "He threw that before I even thought about breaking … and it worked to perfection."
The clutch connection even made an impression the head coach.
"That was one of my favorite plays of the day, just his ability to let that sucker go before Bobby turned around," LaFleur said. "It takes a lot of trust in who he's throwing the ball to."
As Rodgers often says, trust comes from preparation, which is as important for Adams and Jones as it is for the others, even if they're likely to get a fraction of the action of the stars.
The secret to being ready?
"Know what you're doing," Williams said, in as serious a tone as will be heard from the easygoing running back. "Know what you're doing, know the playbook, study, go to practice like it's the game. Really just being professional, honestly.
"I like to dance and do all that stuff, but at the same time I still study and do everything I need to do."
And never take anything for granted pre-snap or post-snap with Rodgers.
"Always expect the ball no matter what," Tonyan said. "Always expecting the ball is your best bet."
The offense's complementary pieces haven't been flawless through two games.
Valdes-Scantling had two costly drops in Minnesota in between two explosive plays. Tonyan confessed he should have caught the first pass thrown his way Sunday, a seam route Detroit defensive back Tracy Walker managed to disrupt with his back turned.
LaFleur said the coaches tallied six dropped passes total against the Lions, admitting they're harsh graders but not apologizing for holding the players to a high standard.
So there's plenty to clean up, but cashing in on opportunities, whenever they arise, will always go a long way.
"As I talked to Aaron afterward, I just told him thanks for trusting me and coming back to me," Tonyan said. "That's big. We did have a couple drops early, but when Aaron comes back to those guys, that does show a lot of trust and what he stands for in this locker room."