Pettigrew played the role of the Lions' run game at Minnesota

Posted Sep 26, 2011

Brandon Pettigrew had a career day at Minnesota - 11 catches for 112 yards - as Matthew Stafford's "security blanket."

"I love throwing the ball to him," said Stafford after Detroit's 26-23 overtime win. "He's got great hands, (is a) big, physical guy and he understands the game."

Pettigrew caught fire in a strong second-half showing by the Lions, who trailed 20-0 at the half.

The Stafford-to-Pettigrew connection brought rhythm to an offense that was flustered in the first half – trying to do too much in an environment that was so loud, the players had a tough time getting off the ball.

When they settled down, they saw the soft spot in the middle of the field and Pettigrew took full advantage of it.

"They were playing cover two, but they were cheating to a side, so it left a gap in there," said Pettigrew. "I was just filling in the gap and getting open."

Stafford targeted Pettigrew in seven of his first 12 second-half pass atttempts, finding the 6-5 tight end six times for 67 yards in the first four drives.

With Pettigrew as a catalyst, the Lions put up 17 total points, narrowing Minnesota's lead to three.

"Every pass play has its point of progression. When he drops back and sees me, it opens up," said Pettigrew. "It's kind of automatic to him. He's going to see it - it's right in the middle of the field."

Head Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday that the Lions were essentially using Pettigrew as their run game, using the center of the field to negate the Vikings' aggressive pass rush.

"They were short, controlled passes," said Schwartz. "The way that they were playing, the way that they were rushing up front and the way their front four - and even front seven - were playing, we needed that.

"I don't know that we get in position to win the game without Brandon Pettigrew."

The Lions finished the game with 20 rushing yards on 19 attempts, but Schwartz cited nine yard's worth of negative run plays that affected the total.

Additionally, the pass plays to Pettigrew and Jahvid Best, who turned a screen pass into a 60-yard gain, factor into that facet of the offense as well.

"If you're a pitcher that has an unhittable fastball, you can't just keep going with it," said Schwartz. "You need to be able to develop a change-up and a curve and things like that - they're all important.

"We need our run game. We did have one third-down-and-short that we were able to convert - I thought that was important. We had a couple efficient runs."