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Monday's NFL: Rodgers, Tonyan lead Packers to 30-16 victory over Falcons

Kristie Rieken
Associated Press

Green Bay, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers needed someone to step forward when injuries left their top two wide receivers unavailable.

That made it the perfect showcase for tight end Robert Tonyan to continue his breakthrough season.

Green Bay Packers' Robert Tonyan (85) goes in for a touchdown as he is tackled by Atlanta Falcons' Sharrod Neasman (41) and Foye Oluokun (54) during the first half.

Tonyan caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes, Za’Darius Smith recorded three sacks and the Packers remained unbeaten with a 30-16 victory over the winless Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

“I just had to continue to do what I’ve been doing, just keep playing well and stick to the game plan,” Tonyan said. “Like I’ve said before, when plays come to me, I’ve got to make them. Aaron had a nice little look in his eye tonight, so I just was trying to roll with that.”

The Packers (4-0) have opened a season by scoring at least 30 points in four straight games for the first time in franchise history.

Green Bay’s Davante Adams sat out a second straight game with a hamstring injury and Allen Lazard is on injured reserve with a core problem. A knee injury sidelined veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis.

Yet that didn’t slow down Rodgers, who capitalized on Atlanta’s depleted secondary.

“I like where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “I really do. I like the diversity in our approach. Again (coach) Matt (LaFleur) was really good kind of mixing it up with the calls. Obviously we had to do some different things without Davante, without Allen and without Marcedes, but I thought we had a nice plan and we executed really well.”

Tonyan had touchdown receptions of 19 and 8 yards to cap the Packers’ final two first-half possessions. He added a 21-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter.

The 2017 undrafted free agent from Indiana State finished the night with six catches for 98 yards along with his three touchdowns to set career highs in all three categories. Tonyan has scored in three straight games and now has five touchdown catches to match Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans for the NFL lead.

Rodgers went 27 of 33 for 327 yards. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes without an interception this season.

“He’s one of those guys who’s self-motivated,” LaFleur said. “It doesn’t take anything other than he wants to be the best. He usually is the best every Sunday when we’re out there. We’re fortunate to have him as our leader. He’s the one driving the ship out there.”

Todd Gurley’s two touchdown runs couldn’t stop the Falcons from their first 0-4 start since 1999, when they followed a Super Bowl season by going 5-11. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn remains confident the Falcons can turn around this season.

“In my heart, in my head and everything I believe in, I know that we can,’ Quinn said. ”I know that the second quarter of our season will look a hell of a lot different from our first. That’s in fact what I told the team. Nothing’s been decided yet.”

After blowing two-touchdown leads in the fourth quarter each of the last two weeks, the Falcons never were ahead in this one. Green Bay took the lead for good when Rodgers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Aaron Jones on the game’s opening series.

Atlanta already was playing without safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) as well as cornerback A.J. Terrell (COVID-19 reserve). That beleaguered secondary took more hits when Damontae Kazee got carted off the field and Jaylinn Hawkins left with a concussion in the second quarter.

Green Bay capitalized by scoring touchdowns on three of its four first-half possessions to build a 20-3 halftime lead. The Packers’ other first-half series ended less than a yard away from the end zone when Deion Jones stuffed Jamaal Williams on fourth-and-goal.

More NFL

(At) Kansas City 26, New England 10: Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman had short touchdown catches, the Kansas City defense shut down a Patriots offense missing quarterback Cam Newton and running back Sony Michel, and the Chiefs beat New England in a game postponed by positive COVID-19 tests on each team.

Tyrann Mathieu returned a late interception for the clinching touchdown, and Patrick Mahomes added 236 yards passing in a somewhat shaky performance – at least, by his standards – as the Chiefs overcame an uncharacteristically slow start offensively to win their 13th straight game dating to Week 10 of last season.

The matchup between the Patriots and the Super Bowl champs was supposed to be Sunday, but it was put on pause when New England confirmed a player later revealed to be Newton tested positive for COVID-19. Later on Saturday, it came out that Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu also had tested positive, forcing the NFL to postpone the game.

More tests, including one taken at 6 a.m. ET on Monday, returned no additional positives from either team.

In retrospect, the Patriots (2-2) probably wish the game was delayed even longer so they could get their QB back.

Brian Hoyer (Michigan State), who has now lost 11 straight starts for three different teams, was 15 of 24-for-130 yards and an interception before getting benched. Jarrett Stidham led the Patriots to a touchdown to close to 13-10, but he also threw two interceptions, including the pick-six to Mathieu that propelled the Chiefs to their fourth straight 4-0 start.

O'Brien out as Texans coach

The Houston Texans fired coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.

The firing comes a day after Sunday’s 31-23 loss to the Vikings dropped the Texans to 0-4 for the first time since 2008.

“In this business, it’s a bottom-line business and we weren’t able to get it to where we needed to get it,” O’Brien said.

Bill O'Brien

After assuming the role of general manager in the offseason, O’Brien received almost universal criticism when he shipped superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson and draft picks.

Asked to reflect on some of his personnel decisions, O’Brien said he had no regrets.

“Every decision we made was always in the best interest of the team,” he said. “We had long conversations. We put a lot of research into them. There were things that happened within the walls of an organization that the outside public will really never know. And that’s just the way it is.”

The pressure on O’Brien only intensified as the Texans limped out to the terrible start with Johnson struggling as their running game was the worst in the NFL and with the defense allowing the most yards in the league.

O’Brien was in his seventh season in Houston where he compiled a 52-48 record. He won the AFC South four times in his tenure, including the past two years.

He came to Houston after spending 2012-13 as the coach at Penn State. The Texans job was his first NFL head coaching job, but he spent 2007-2011 working for coach Bill Belichick in New England, rising to the role of offensive coordinator in his last season.

Team owner Cal McNair announced the decision Monday and thanked O’Brien for his work with the team.

Romeo Crennel, who was the team’s assistant head coach, will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.

Raiders fined

Darren Waller and several Las Vegas Raiders teammates have been fined for attending his charity event that violated COVID-19 protocols.

A person familiar with the punishment said that Waller was fined $30,000 and his teammates were docked $15,000 each for their actions at last week’s fundraiser for his foundation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the punishments weren’t announced by the league.

NFL Network first reported the fines.

Among the players seen in attendance were quarterbacks Derek Carr and Nathan Peterman, tight ends Jason Witten, Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier, receivers Zay Jones and Hunter Renfrow, cornerback Nevin Lawson, offensive lineman Erik Magnuson, and Waller.

“I’m well aware of that, yes,” coach Jon Gruden said Monday. “I know our players are going to handle them individually. I know they regret any harm they may have caused. They’re very sensitive about it and we’ll handle it the right way.

Players were seen without their masks mingling with guests, who also didn’t have face coverings. The city of Henderson fined the DragonRidge Country Club $2,000 for four violations of the Nevada governor’s COVID-19 emergency directives, including people not wearing masks and more than 50 people at the event.

The event raised $300,000 for Waller’s foundation that helps young people overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

This is just the latest punishment handed to the Raiders for violating COVID-19 protocols this season.

Gruden was fined $100,000 and the team docked $250,000 when Gruden didn’t properly wear his mask on the sideline during the game against the Saints, the person said on condition of anonymity.

The person also said the Raiders were fined $50,000 for allowing an unauthorized employee in the locker room following that game.

Gruden said last month that he had the coronavirus in the offseason.

All clear

The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs returned all negative results, allowing their game rescheduled for Monday night to be played, and the Tennessee Titans have their first day clear of positive results in a week, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.

The Titans’ outbreak reached 20 cases Sunday with the team’s sixth straight day of at least one positive with 18 returned since Tuesday. But Tennessee had no positives back Monday morning. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because neither the NFL nor the Titans announced the latest results.

Tennessee will need continued negative results to host Buffalo (4-0) on Sunday, and Wednesday is the earliest the Titans can get back inside their facility as long as the franchise has back-to-back days of negative test results.

Titans linebacker Will Compton wrote on Twitter, “No positive tests. Victory Monday.”

COVID-19 concerns are affecting at least one other team.

Coach Ron Rivera confirmed Washington canceled a multiplayer workout scheduled for Monday because of virus concerns. The Athletic and NFL Network reported that concern stemmed from one player, but the entire workout was called off.

“We just wanted to make sure and get it right, so we did that,” Rivera said. “And I apologize. We as an organization apologize to those players we brought out. This was a legitimate tryout. We’re constantly shaking the bottom of our roster, the bottom of our practice squad to see if we can find players. Unfortunately, we had to turn some guys away and we truly do apologize to them.”

Minnesota, which lost to Tennessee a week ago, beat Houston, 31-23, on Sunday following new protocols for teams exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The negative test results Sunday include New Orleans Saints fullback Michael Burton, who falsely tested positive on Saturday. The Saints learned of the positive test after leaving New Orleans for Sunday’s scheduled game in Detroit and ran another series of tests on players and staff overnight.

The Saints beat the Lions, 35-29, in Detroit.

Tennessee’s outbreak appears to have started Sept. 24 when the team placed cornerback Greg Mabin from its practice squad on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Then outside linebacker coach Shane Bowen’s test result came back positive Sept. 26, and he did not travel with the Titans to Minnesota.

Then eight positives come back Sept. 29 when the NFL told the Titans to close their facility.

That was the first of six straight days of positive results putting key players on the reserve/COVID-19 list — defensive linemen DaQuan Jones and Jeffery Simmons, wide receiver Adam Humphries, long snapper Beau Brinkley, cornerback Kristian Fulton and outside linebacker Kamalei Correa. Fullback Khari Blasingame will be added to that list today after being the last player to test positive.

After the NFL postponed the Titans’ game set for Sunday against Pittsburgh, the league rescheduled the game a day later for Week 7 on Oct. 25 during Tennessee’s bye. The league also moved Baltimore’s bye to Week 7, so the Ravens now can play Pittsburgh on Nov. 1.

Officials from the NFL and its players’ union met with the Titans on Friday reviewing the situation around the team’s outbreak.

Personnel dept.

Cleveland’s powerful Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb will miss “several weeks” with a sprained ligament in his right knee, a major blow to the improved Browns, who are off to their best start since 2001.

Chubb injured his medial collateral ligament in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Cowboys, moving the Browns to 3-1 for the first time in 19 years.

...Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will be out for at least the next three games because of a hamstring injury he suffered during Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers.