Locals in the NFL: Khyiris Tonga finds new role as Bears fullback (+full Week 17 roundup)

Chicago Bears nose tackle Khyiris Tonga celebrates his fumble recovery during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago.

Chicago Bears nose tackle Khyiris Tonga celebrates his fumble recovery during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago. (David Banks, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

AROUND THE SHIELD — It hasn't been an easy rookie season for Chicago Bears nose tackle Khyiris Tonga.

But the former BYU defensive lineman may have had his best game of the season in the Bears' 29-3 win over the equally hapless Giants on Sunday.

Tonga, who has seen his playing time rise at nose tackle, started at fullback on the Bears' opening drive and paved the way for David Montgomery's 2-yard touchdown only 20 seconds into the game.

The Bears opened the game by sacking New York quarterback Mike Glennon inside the 10-yard line, and Montgomery put Chicago up a few seconds later with his touchdown run — aided by the 6-foot-4, 338-pound jumbo fullback in front of him.

"Right down the middle," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "He's like a bowling ball. That was fun to see."

It's not a new position for Tonga, who played on the offensive line and tight end at Granger High and even introduced himself at fullback on goal-line packages during his BYU career — remember the time he was the lead blocker on Dayan (Lake) Ghanwoloku's touchdown run in the Cougars' upset win over USC in 2019?

The nose tackle also finished with two tackles and a fumble recovery as Chicago held the Giants to 151 net yards of offense, including minus-10 passing yards, in a rare win under Nagy — who is expected by many reports to be fired after the season.

That included four tackles from former Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson in his return from Chicago's COVID-19/reserve list.

It's the fifth time this season Tonga has finished with multiple tackles on the interior of the Bears' defensive line, behind a career-high five tackles against the Browns in Week 3 and Ravens in Week 11.

Tonga also recovered the first fumble in his professional career for a Chicago side that had four sacks, two more tackles for loss, two interceptions and three fumbles.

But that jumbo package? That was something new. Or was it?

"Tonga's been running that (play) since college. He can literally get the ball and score," said Bears receiver Darnell Mooney, who caught seven passes for 69 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown from Andy Dalton. "We've been seeing it all year. We put that in during training camp."

The Bears led wire-to-wire Sunday, a rarity for a six-win team. But it was sorely needed for a squad eliminated from the playoffs and preparing for the future.

"It's nice to have one of these happen," Dalton said. "I think just where we've been at and everything that has gone on this year, this one felt good to have this one go like this."

Here's how other former high school and college football standouts from the state of Utah performed in Week 17 of the 2021-22 NFL regular season.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid argues a pass interference call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid argues a pass interference call during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (Photo: David Dermer, Associated Press)

Locals in the NFL, Week 17

Pittsburgh 26, Cleveland 14 (Monday Night Football)

Steelers (8-7-1)

  • Miles Killebrew, S, SUU: Reserve safety played mostly on special teams — and made Nick Chubb's highlight reel (on defense ... see below).

Browns (7-9)

  • Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU: Reserve linebacker posted three tackles and a tackle for loss on defense before exiting the game with a shoulder injury.
  • Porter Gustin, DE, Salem Hills: Reserve edge rusher made one tackle on defense, one on special teams.

Green Bay 37, Minnesota 10 (Sunday Night Football)

Packers (13-3)

  • Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Backup quarterback completed 2-of-4 passes for 19 yards; ran one time for 10 yards.
  • Tipa Galeai, LB, Utah State: Reserve linebacker made one tackle on special teams.

Vikings (7-9)

  • No locals on the active roster.

Chicago 29, NY Giants 3

Bears (6-10)

  • Patrick Scales, LS, Utah State/Weber: Made one tackle on special teams in 11 special-teams snaps.
  • Khyiris Tonga, NT/FB, BYU/Granger: Starting fullback had two tackles and a fumble recovery at nose tackle.
  • Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Starting cornerback made four tackles.

Giants (4-12)

  • Devontae Booker, RB, Utah: Reserve tailback ran for 46 yards on 18 carries, was tackled in end zone for safety.

LA Rams 20, Baltimore 19

Rams (12-4)

  • Terrell Burgess, S, Utah: Reserve safety played sparingly.
  • Matt Gay, K, Utah/UVU/Orem: Missed 56-yard field goal, made two PATs, with four kickoffs.

Ravens (8-8)

  • Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah: Starting quarterback completed 20-of-32 passes for 197 yards, one interception and took five sacks; ran for 54 yards on six carries.
  • Ty'Son Williams, RB, BYU: Reserve running back played mostly on special teams.

Buffalo 29, Atlanta 15

Bills (10-6)

  • Zack Moss, RB, Utah: Reserve tailback ran for 39 yards on five carries.
  • Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah/Bingham/Snow College: Reserve defensive tackle played sparingly on defense.
  • Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State: Starting nickel had four tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry.

Falcons (7-9)

  • No locals on the active roster.

Cincinnati 34, Kansas City 31

Bengals (10-6)

  • Jalen Davis, CB, Utah State: Inactive for Week 17.

Chiefs (11-5)

  • Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU: Reserve safety made three tackles on defense.
  • Zayne Anderson, DB, BYU/Stansbury: Reserve defensive back played mostly on special teams.
  • Marcus Kemp, WR, Layton: Reserve wide receiver was targeted once on offense, played mostly on special teams.

Las Vegas 23, Indianapolis 20

Raiders (9-7)

  • Andre James, OL, Herriman: Started at center.
  • Dallin Leavitt, S, Utah State/BYU: Reserve safety made one tackle on defense, one on special teams.
  • Jackson Barton, OT, Utah/Brighton: Inactive for Week 17.

Colts (9-7)

  • No locals on the active roster.

New England 50, Jacksonville 10

Patriots (10-6)

  • Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Starting linebacker made four tackles on defense to help clinch playoff berth.

Jaguars (2-14)

  • Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State: Inactive for Week 17.

Tampa Bay 28, NY Jets 24

Buccaneers (12-4)

  • No locals on the active roster.

Jets (4-12)

  • Zach Wilson, QB, BYU/Corner Canyon: Starting quarterback completed 19-of-33 passes for 234 yards with one touchdown, one sack taken; ran twice for no gain.
  • Javelin Guidry, DB, Utah: Reserve cornerback played sparingly on defense.
  • Kai Nacua, S, BYU: Reserve safety played mostly on special teams.

Tennessee 34, Miami 3

Titans (11-5)

  • No locals on the active roster.

Dolphins (8-8)

  • Eric Rowe, DB, Utah: Reserve safety made two tackles on defense.

Philadelphia 20, Washington 16

Eagles (9-7)

  • Sua Opeta, OG, Weber State/Stansbury: Rotated on the offensive line.

Football Team (6-10)

  • Dax Milne, WR, BYU/Bingham: Reserve receiver caught one pass for one yard on offense.
  • Nate Orchard, DE, Utah/Highland: Reserve defensive end played sparingly on defense.

LA Chargers 34, Denver 13

Chargers (9-7)

  • Michael Davis, CB, BYU: Starting cornerback had six tackles on defense.
  • Alohi Gilman, S, Orem: Reserve safety made one tackle on defense.

Broncos (7-9)

  • Garett Bolles, OL, Utah/Westlake/Snow College: Started at left tackle.

San Francisco 23, Houston 7

49ers (9-7)

  • Fred Warner, LB, BYU: Starting mike linebacker posted team-high 15 tackles, a tackle for loss, and forced a fumble on defense.
  • Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah: Punted four times for 159 yards (39.8 average) with a long of 52 yards and two punts downed inside the 20.

Texans (4-12)

  • No locals on the active roster.

Arizona 25, Dallas 22

Cardinals (11-5)

  • Leki Fotu, DT, Utah/Herriman: Reserve defensive lineman made one tackle on defense.

Cowboys (11-5)

  • Dalton Schultz, TE, Bingham: Starting tight end caught team-high 10 passes for 54 yards on offense.
  • Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton: Inactive for Week 17.

New Orleans 18, Carolina 10

Saints (8-8)

  • Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: Starting quarterback completed 17-of-28 passes for 222 yards, including 12-yard touchdown to Alvin Kamara, and one sack taken; also ran for team-high 45 yards on 12 carries.

Panthers (5-11)

  • Brady Christensen, OT, BYU/Bountiful: Started at left tackle.

Seattle 51, Detroit 29

Seahawks (6-10)

  • Bobby Wagner, MLB, Utah State: Starting middle linebacker was injured on the Lions' first play from scrimmage in the first quarter, will be evaluated for a sprained knee.
  • Cody Barton, LB, Utah/Brighton: Reserve linebacker posted season-high seven tackles, one tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup.
  • Bryan Mone, DT, Highland: Reserve defensive lineman had three tackles and a pass breakup.

Lions (2-13-1)

  • Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU: Starting running back ran for 22 yards on 11 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter; also caught three passes for 22 yards on offense.
  • John Penisini, DL, Utah/West Jordan/Snow College: Reserve defensive lineman made three tackles on defense.
  • Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills: Started at right tackle.

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