You know it has to be killing Nate Burleson. Five games into the season, and the Lions wide receiver hasn’t been able to break out any of his well-planned, well-rehearsed touchdown dances.
But Burleson understands the bigger picture. If teams are keeping an extra eye on him and Calvin Johnson, the field must be open for somebody else. And that’s exactly what’s been happening.
“There are some things that you’re trying to scheme and you think might go to a particular player, but there are others where the quarterback has to go where the defense dictates,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “It would be different if our quarterback was putting balls in bad spots, but he’s not. He’s making good decisions, and the whole thing is, let the offense work efficiently.”
It is a tribute the weaponry of the Detroit offense that Burleson, the No. 2 receiver, can be lost in the shuffle for three games and the points keep coming. Burleson caught 12 passes for 153 yards in the first two weeks of the season. In the three games since, he’s had five catches for 34 yards.
It’s not that the Lions have gone away from him, it’s that defenses are giving the Detroit offense better options.
Johnson, obviously, is the one constant target — as he should be. But lately, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and even rookie Titus Young have been more available to quarterback Matthew Stafford than Burleson has.
Pettigrew has had 21 catches for 215 yards in the last three games after having just five catches for 64 yards in the first two. Young has had nine catches for 106 yards the last three weeks after catching five passes in the first two weeks.
“If the offense is working efficiently, then everybody is getting the right amount of footballs,” Schwartz said. “It’s a fact of life, there is one football and you can only score seven points for a touchdown regardless of how you did it or who got the ball or who’s gotten the most of them. The idea is to score points, and we’ll try to do that however we can.”
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