Packers get production from tight ends

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Before Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury, fellow Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless marveled at Finley's penchant for breaking tackles and dragging defenders.

"When he left, I really wanted to match his intensity," Quarless said Sunday. "That's one of the things I told him in the hospital that day. I said he was playing with such intensity."

Before Sunday, though, Quarless was all talk.

In the first six games that followed Finley's injury against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 20, the Packers new starting tight end combined for just 13 catches for 102 yards without a touchdown.

That changed on Sunday. Quarless set career bests with six catches and 66 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard back-shoulder catch with 12:01 left in a much-needed 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.

Quarless' performance came only days after his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, said he needed more from the fourth-year tight end, who has finally recovered from the 2011 knee injury that kept him out of all last season. Quarless had just one catch for 7 yards in the Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions and also needed to improve as a blocker.

"Coming out of the last game on Thanksgiving, one of my biggest things me and him talked about was finishing," Quarless said. "I'm usually a good guy off the line but it takes four, five seconds every play, so you've really got to play every play all out. That was my approach, just really finishing. That was my biggest thing this week was to finish, and we finished with a win, thankfully."

That quarterback Matt Flynn went to Quarless on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter spoke volumes about the tight ends' role in Sunday's game plan.

"Andrew played a great game," said Flynn, who had 10 of his 24 completions to the tight ends. "When you've got teams that are locking on [receiver] Jordy [Nelson] and things like that, you've got to really utilize your tight ends. So, we gave them a chance to make plays, and they did it."

It wasn't just Quarless. Brandon Bostick caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 19-yard catch and run down the sideline in the second quarter. Ryan Taylor caught two passes for 7 yards.

As a position group, the Packers tight ends combined for 10 catches, 101 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. In the previous six games, they had just 20 catches, 206 yards and one touchdown.

"Jermichael's a hell of an athlete, a hell of a player, and it's tough to replace a guy like that," Taylor said. "But we have the talent in our room that we can put together a full game, and we can make an impact as a group. I don't know how many balls we caught today as a room -- I know I had two, Andrew had five or six, Bostick had two. If one tight end was catching 10, 11 balls, that would be a heck of a day."