GREEN BAY – Head Coach Matt LaFleur uses tight ends liberally in his offense, and they regularly work in tandem with the players lined up next to them.
Sometimes the neighbor is another tight end, or it's often an offensive tackle. The tight ends working in concert with whoever that partner may be is a key element to the offensive scheme as a whole, and particularly the running game.
San Francisco may have been missing some of its top pass rushers, but its defense came into this game ranked 10th in the league against the run, yet the Packers were plenty productive. The different tandems employed at San Francisco and their high level of execution got the offense rolling early, and kept it going, throughout the Thursday night victory over the 49ers.
Here's an extensive sampling.
Play No. 1: Second-and-5 from the Green Bay 30, first quarter, 14:30 left
Result: 11-yard run by RB Aaron Jones
On the second snap of the game, TEs Marcedes Lewis (89) and Robert Tonyan (85) are side by side on the right. The hole they open here is enormous, as Lewis pins DL Arik Armstead (91) to the inside and Tonyan kicks out S Jaquisti Tartt (29). Credit also goes to RT Rick Wagner (71), whose second-level clearing of LB Dre Greenlaw (57) proves valuable when Jones bounces off the shoulder hit from Kerry Hyder Jr. (92) and gets another 6 yards because Greenlaw is nowhere near the play.
Play No. 2: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 41, first quarter, 13:49
Result: 6-yard run by Jones
Very next play, it's two tight ends on the left side for an old-fashioned power play with a pulling guard. Lewis comes off a double-team with Jace Sternberger (87) on Hyder to pick up LB Fred Warner (54) in the middle as Sternberger pins Hyder inside. RG Lucas Patrick (62) misses the block on Greenlaw, but when Jones spins off the tackle attempt, the area cleared out by the tight ends gets Jones a solid first-down gain.
Play No. 3: Second-and-10 from the San Francisco 38, second quarter, 11:39 left
Result: 11-yard run by Jones
Two snaps after the big interception by S Raven Greene, the tandem on the edge is Lewis with LT Billy Turner (77). They open another sizable hole as Lewis seals off DL Dion Jordan (96) and Turner takes care of DL D.J. Jones (93). This time, the pulling Patrick doesn't miss his block, getting in Warner's way to spring Jones for another double-digit gain.
Play No. 4: First-and-10 from the San Francisco 27, second quarter, 11:00 left
Result: 6-yard run by Jones
Again, very next play, it's back to a pair of tight ends working together on the left side, as Lewis mauls Jordan and Tonyan gets good position on Greenlaw. With Turner clearing out Warner and C Corey Linsley (63) running interference well downfield on LB Azeez Al-Shaair (51), only an ankle tackle by CB Jason Verrett (22) prevents Jones from taking this one to the house.
Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the San Francisco 23, third quarter, 4:46 left
Result: 9-yard reception by WR Davante Adams
A very different tandem involving a tight end here, and in the passing game this time, with Tonyan split wide to work as a blocker along with WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a quick screen to Adams. Pretty simple stuff, as Valdes-Scantling blocks CB Jamar Taylor, Tonyan gets a piece of Verrett. They run interference long enough for Adams to get outside, after a nifty jab step inside on his first move draws S Marcell Harris (36) up an extra step and into the traffic. The two blockers then congratulate themselves on a job well done.
Play No. 6: Second-and-1 from the San Francisco 14, third quarter, 4:13 left
Result: 4-yard run by RB Tyler Ervin
To finish a third back-to-back sequence, here's the next play in the red zone with the edge tandem now Tonyan and Turner (who has flipped over to RT). Unlike the gap or power plays shown earlier with the pulling guard, this is a zone run, so the assignments and execution are different. Tonyan throws a cut-block on Armstead, which creates a cut-back lane for Ervin as Turner rides DL Kentavius Street (95) out of the play. The second-level block by Patrick on Greenlaw is also textbook. It's a modest gain, but pretty good work for a short-yardage play to set up first-and-goal.
Play No. 7: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 45, fourth quarter, 12:24 left
Result: 8-yard run by Ervin
One more for good measure showing Lewis and Turner on the right side, with Lewis locking out Hyder and Turner scooting to the second level to bother Greenlaw. The fun block to watch is Patrick's on Street, as he's working on another "You Got Lucas'd" tally for the Rock Report.
So, to recap all the edge tandems involving tight ends on display in these seven snaps: Lewis/Tonyan twice, Lewis/Sternberger, Lewis/Turner twice (once on the left side, once on the right), Tonyan/Valdes-Scantling and Tonyan/Turner.
Bonus play: Third-and-7 from the Green Bay 23, third quarter, 11:47 left
Result: 49-yard completion to Adams
This play has nothing to do with today's tight-end theme, and certainly nobody missed Adams' exquisite stutter-go route on Verrett with the pump fake from QB Aaron Rodgers. But get this: Rodgers caught two fish with that one cast. Check out the influence the pump fake has on the safety Harris, who has no chance once he bites to give his corner any help deep. Rodgers said after the game if he'd thrown the ball more inside, Adams would have had a 77-yard touchdown. If Rodgers had somehow been able to see how much his pump fake fooled Harris, he could have thrown the ball well inside without worry.