NOTEBOOK: Wide receivers know they have to step up to win at Cleveland

Posted Oct 8, 2013

QB Matthew Stafford expresses his confidence in TE Brandon Pettigrew, receivers know they have to improve and Lions face a familiar foe in Cleveland

The Lions have needed someone to step up in the passing game with receiver Nate Burleson out of the lineup the last two weeks and receiver Calvin Johnson missing Sunday's game in Green Bay.

In the absence of the team's top two receivers, quarterback Matthew Stafford has counted on tight end Brandon Pettigrew to make plays, and he's responded.

"Pettigrew is the guy that I have the ultimate trust in," Stafford said Tuesday. "He's a guy that came in with me. We were drafted together. He was a guy that was a focal point for me early on in my career, especially just anytime you got a great tight end as a young quarterback he can be your best friend.

"He's a guy that works extremely hard. We see the work that he puts in week in and week out no matter what his role is in the offense. He's ready for anything. The last two weeks have proved that. He's a guy that has been asked to do more. He's making plays for us."

Pettigrew has blocked well in the run game all year, but he's been more a focal point in the passing game just recently. The first three weeks of the season, Pettigrew had five catches for 38 yards. The last two, he has 11 receptions for 111 yards.

Pettigrew took a lot of criticism the first few weeks of the season for a couple drops and a fumble as well as being a non-factor in the passing game in Washington, but the last two weeks he's been the most reliable receiver Stafford has had.

"He knows the trust that I have in him and the trust that Scott (Linehan) has in him," Stafford said. "We look forward to big things from him. He's a talented guy that can really help us win."


Kris DurhamWR Kris Durham (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

The Packers played a combinations of zone, match-up zone and man-to-man defense Sunday vs. the Lions. Through it all, there weren't a lot of plays made by Lions receivers for a number of different reasons.

Everyone involved is aware something has to change this week against a very talented Cleveland defense.

"(The Packers) threw us a curve ball last game (playing more zone than man early on) and I feel like we need to make adjustments," receiver Ryan Broyles said. "We did a good job of that in the second half, but we have to pick that up and recognize it a little earlier."

Receiver Kris Durham said it's a simply a matter of the other guys executing better when Johnson isn't in the game and coverage isn't rolled to his side.

"We have to execute and catch the ball," he said. "I had a big drop. I was targeted a few times and wasn't able to make plays. We have to keep the pressure off the quarterback and make plays."

There's a perception out there, which was backed by the Lions performance on offense Sunday, they can't perform without Johnson.

"I don't think that is entirely true," Stafford said. "Obviously he is a big part of what we do on offense. At the same time, we have to have guys step up. I have to play better. As an offense, we know we have to play better.

"We made some plays in the game. We just had too many negative plays. Too many sacks that I took. Too many runs that were negative plays put us in long yardage on second down. We have to tighten it up a little bit and play a little better than we did."


The Lions played in Cleveland Week 2 of the preseason, a game the Browns won 24-6.

So, what can the Lions take from that game that they can apply to this weekend's matchup?

"Personnel," Stafford said. "Scheme may not be the same. A lot of the same guys are going to be playing on Sunday for them. You get a peek at how guys play and how they move. Strengths, weaknesses and that kind of thing.

"Scheme-wise, who knows whether they are going to change or not. You just want to see their guys play when you're looking at a preseason tape like that. Just watch them move and play and try to find ways to attack them."


Even after a loss in Green Bay, and thanks to a Chicago loss to New Orleans, the Lions remain in first place in the NFC North and even own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bears.

Maybe more significant for the Lions early on this season is they are one of just six teams in the NFC with a record above .500.

But don't think for a minute Lions players or coaches are looking at anything beyond Sunday's matchup in Cleveland.

"Honestly, we actually talked about it this morning with Coach Schwartz. He's like, 'Playoffs are a long way off. We have to take this one week at a time,'" Stafford said.

"I know it's cliché and you guys hate hearing it, but it's the truth. Every week is a different challenge whether it's who you are playing, who's playing for you or whatever it is. Every week is a different challenge. We're up for the challenge."


The Lions released receiver Charles Hawkins from their practice squad and signed receiver Jeremy Ross to the practice squad.

Ross played in three games with the Packers this year. He had one catch and returned both punts and kickoffs.