By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Superstar receiver Calvin Johnson and dual threat Reggie Bush keep defenses distracted, drawing their focus away from elements of the Detroit Lions offense. Just as it has for wide receivers Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree, tight end Joseph Fauria and others, the lack of attention serves Brandon Pettigrew well.
The tight end received much criticism in 2012, when he dropped 8.2 percent of the passes thrown to him – third-worst in the league – and fumbled four times. This season, the big mistakes have been replaced by big plays.
“It definitely adds match-up problems for me because I’ll get a man match-up a lot of the time because defenses are playing a safety over Calvin and kind of cheating to Reggie,” Pettigrew said, “and if I’m on the opposite side of the field, it’s a man matchup for me and something that we try to take advantage of.”
Through nine games, Pettigrew has 31 catches for 295 yards. He has caught 67.4 percent of the passes thrown to him. In six of the nine games, Pettigrew has had a catch for double-digit yardage. At 6-feet-5 and 265 pounds, Pettigrew also plays a crucial role in the Lions’ blocking schemes.
As for whether this is something of a redemption season, Pettigrew does not care to get into that. He just wants to be past that difficult 2012 season.
“I’m just trying to be accountable for the things I did wrong and just be consistent this year and be a big-time player,” Pettigrew said. “I’m not really thinking about last year. This is a new year for us, and I think we’ve all moved on from that.”
Going up against an aggressive Pittsburgh Steelers defense this Sunday, Pettigrew knows he will need to be careful lest he repeat last year’s mistakes of fumbling.
“You’ve always got to protect the ball,” Pettigrew said. “It’s usually the guys coming from behind you. Everybody always says it … these days guys tackling the ball. They aren’t trying to tackle you, so protecting the ball is high up there.”
It benefited Pettigrew last season and going into this one that quarterback Matthew Stafford would not shy away from throwing Pettigrew the ball even though the drops were more prevalent than they should have been.
“Man, it helps a lot,” Pettigrew said. “Not that I thought that he did. We’re a team. We all put in work. We’re here day in and day out. We’re all leaning on each other.”
In the end, Pettigrew cares more about what the Lions accomplish than what people think of him individually.
“I don’t play for the recognition, man,” Pettigrew said. “I play for my team and the other guys that are putting this work in every week. That’s what I play for. I play for the wins. We’ve all got to come and go. That’s the recognition I want.”