Brandon Pettigrew has 12 catches on the season for 92 yards. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park -- In 57 of the 61 NFL games Brandon Pettigrew has played, he's caught at least one pass.
So despite all the criticism heaped on the Lions tight end for his drops and fumbles, he's been one of the team's most reliable players since being drafted in the first round in 2009.
One of those catch-less games came in Week 3 in the Lions' victory over the Redskins, and although Pettigrew only had two targets, he wasn't upset because his blocking helped the Lions win, 27-20.
"Whatever the role is, I'm still going to be out there doing what I do," he said last week.
Pettigrew was much more involved in the passing game in the Lions' Week 4 victory over the Bears, catching all seven passes thrown his way for 54 yards.
"You're always happy to get the ball," Pettigrew said. "I'm not going to be frustrated (when I don't). I'm a team player, and we've all got a main goal and that's to win and obviously get to the Super Bowl."
It may be premature to talk Super Bowl, but the Lions are 3-1 and appear to have enough talent to compete for an NFC North title.
In the Lions' first two games, Pettigrew had a combined five catches for 38 yards, but when wide receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm last Tuesday, it meant there would be more opportunities for other pass catchers. Pettigrew was the first to answer the call.
"In the beginning of the week, Pettigrew knew he was going to be a big part of the game plan in the passing game," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "He just stepped up and made plays."
While Burleson's absence meant there were more opportunities for Pettigrew, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said the coverage dictated Pettigrew's expanded role more than anything.
"I think these tight ends have a really tough job description, and he's the one that handles it on all situations -- first, second and third down," Linehan said. "He's invaluable for us."
Pettigrew's pass blocking will be critical Sunday against the Packers and blitzing linebacker Clay Matthews.
"He has all the moves," Pettigrew said. "You've really got to prepare yourself for everything."
In the Bears game, Pettigrew appeared to be making a conscious effort to keep the ball high and tight after making his catches. Last year Pettigrew fumbled four times, losing two, and he lost one in Week 1 against Minnesota.
Preventing fumbles, Pettigrew said, isn't something a player can really work on, but he tries to protect the ball every time he touches it in practice.
"I've obviously put it on the ground, so you want to make sure you keep that thing high and tight," he said.
In addition to the fumbles, Pettigrew had nine drops last season, but Linehan said the miscues didn't hurt his confidence.
"He doesn’t get low. He's a competitor," Linehan said. "He just gets more determined; that's what I see in him."