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No top receivers, no problem: Packers cruise to 30-16 win over Falcons, improve to 4-0
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No top receivers, no problem: Packers cruise to 30-16 win over Falcons, improve to 4-0

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Aaron Rodgers - Falcons Packers

Aaron Rodgers completed 27 of 32 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers defeated the Falcons, 30-16, Monday night at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

GREEN BAY — Clearly, the Green Bay Packers missed Davante Adams and Allen Lazard on Monday night.

After all, they scored their fewest points of the 2020 season without them.

The good news? With quarterback Aaron Rodgers once again running coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive scheme to perfection — and enormous contributions from the tight ends (primarily Robert Tonyan, who caught 19-, 8- and 21-yard touchdowns) and the running backs (both Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones) in the passing game — the Packers still had more than enough offensive firepower in a 30-16 prime-time victory over the Atlanta Falcons at empty Lambeau Field.

“Obviously, we had to do some different things without Davante, without Allen and without (veteran tight end) Marcedes (Lewis),” Rodgers explained during his postgame Zoom video call with reporters. “It would have been a bonus to get Davante, and he really wanted to play, but we’re doing some really good things on offense.

”Every year is different, every year has its own challenges. And there’s always chemistry that needs to be worked out. … Obviously (my) confidence has never wavered. I just feel like Matt and I are really on the same page. Not that we weren’t last year, but this year we’re doing so much more.

“We know when to push, when to pull back. You never know what the team is going to look like … but I like the way we’re starting out.”

Playing without Adams, the team’s three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who was held out for the second straight game because of a hamstring injury, and Lazard, the team’s No. 2 wideout who is on injured reserve with a core muscle injury he sustained during his career-best 146-yard performance last week at New Orleans, the Packers once again were able to do essentially whatever they wanted offensively.

Had it not been for their failed fourth-and-goal from the 6-inch line on their second possession of the game and Rodgers by his own admission running into a 12-yard sack during the fourth quarter, Green Bay likely could have put up 40-plus points for the third time in four games.

Even so, the Packers head into their Week 5 bye at 4-0 and alone atop the NFC North, and LaFleur is now 17-3 in his first 20 regular-season games as the Packers head coach. The Falcons fell to 0-4 on the year.

“It’s a grind, and we know that,” LaFleur said. “Our guys are pretty resilient, they don’t blink in times of adversity. I’m just really, really proud of our football team.”

Rodgers finished the night having completed 27 of 33 passes for 327 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 147.5. Through four games, the 2011 and 2014 NFL MVP has completed 98 of 139 passes (70.5%) for 1,214 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 128.4 passer rating.

Lining up in the shotgun the vast majority of the night, oftentimes with Jones and Williams flanking him in the backfield, Rodgers managed to make it look easy even though his wide receivers were Marquez Valdes-Scantling (four receptions, 45 yards), Darrius Shepherd (two catches, 21 yards), Malik Taylor (one catch, 20 yards) and Reggie Begelton, who was signed off the practice squad earlier in the day.

Adams, who missed four games last season with a toe injury and watched as the team went 4-0 with him sidelined, vented his frustration with being told Monday morning that he was not going to play, but between Rodgers’ near-flawless execution and LaFleur’s play design, the challenge of playing without him was mitigated.

“I would say it’s a combination of everything,” LaFleur replied when asked how his offense did it. “It’s always comforting having a quarterback like Aaron, making great decisions, making sure we don’t turn the ball over, which is a recipe for winning football in this league.

“Yeah, we were down a couple guys, but we had guys step up. And that’s what you want to see, because whoever’s out there, the standards don’t change.”

Incredibly, four games into the season, the Packers still have not committed a turnover.

“That’s the biggest thing, and I think the beauty in that is there haven’t been opportunities (for opposing defenses to force turnovers),” said Rodgers, who was especially proud of Tonyan, who finished the night having caught six passes for 98 yards — both career highs — to go with his three touchdowns. “I think Matt’s been really aggressive, and when plays have been there to make, I feel like I’ve been getting through my progressions throwing the ball on time and accurately. And then guys are making plays.

“The beauty in this offense and Matt and (offensive coordinator) Nathaniel (Hackett) and the guys putting the plan together. … There were some different things we had to do without ‘17’ that I’m really proud of how the guys picked up stuff and made plays when they had opportunities.

“We’ve had to win with offense a couple games, but the defense played well tonight, and we still owe them for four or five games from last year. So we’re still trying to pay them back.”

The defense did indeed do its part as well, holding the NFL’s sixth-highest scoring offense to just 16 points and 327 net yards and a 3-for-12 performance on third downs. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith led the way, receiving the game ball from LaFleur after putting up a stat line of a team-high eight tackles, five quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and three sacks.

“I forgot the stats but it was something crazy, like something on a video game. I didn’t even know I had did that,” Smith said.

And as for the defense as a whole? “Most definitely it’s a building block for us. It wasn’t as bad as the past couple weeks. But tackling and finishing in the run game is something we’ve got to clean up. We have to get back to work. We can’t say that was a good defensive run for us.”

And LaFleur feels the same way about the offense.

“Our whole goal is to score as many points as we can,” he said. “And I know although we’ve been doing a lot of good things, there’s a lot of room for improvement.”


Photos: Aaron Rodgers keeps Packers offense rolling 

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