Allen Park — Already without tight ends Eric Ebron (hamstring) and Joseph Fauria (ankle), the Lions were pressed to get as much as they could out of Brandon Pettigrew, their only experienced tight end, in Sunday's 24-23 victory over the Saints.
Pettigrew played 61 of the Lions' 70 offensive snaps (87 percent) in the game and had his most productive outing of the season, with 28 yards on four catches — Pettigrew's first game this year with more than two catches.
To provide a backup for Pettigrew, the Lions promoted Jordan Thompson from the practice squad, but Thompson played just 12 snaps (17 percent) in his first NFL game. Thompson, primarily a receiving tight end, was targeted just one time in the passing game, but he couldn't hold on to the ball and the tipped pass was intercepted by the Saints in the red zone.
Following the game, Pettigrew was limping and revealed that he was playing through some pain in the second half.
"It was (hurting) a little bit — I battled through it though. It's football," Pettigrew said. "You're going to get those little nicks that you've got to go through some times. Especially in a game that's a grind like that, your team needs to be at full force and you've got to do what you've got to do."
Without much experienced depth at the position, Pettigrew had to play through the injury and give the Lions a chance for their frantic comeback in the last four minutes.
"When you're thin and you've only got two tight ends, there's a little bit of pressure involved," he said. "More so than that, you've got to want it. A little bit of pain is worth it to fight through that."
OTHER NOTABLE SNAP COUNTS
Receivers: Golden Tate 63, Jeremy Ross 62, Corey Fuller 62, Ryan Broyles 6.
Analysis: Calvin Johnson missed his second straight game and Corey Fuller got the start. The offense clicked better, with Tate, Ross and Fuller each playing about 90 percent of the snaps. Tate had another breakout game, with career bests of 10 catches and 154 yards, including a critical 73-yard scoring play. Fuller had his best game, with three catches for 44 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left. Ross added three catches for 32 yards, including a 26-yard reception.
Defensive tackle: Ndamukong Suh 64 (of 74), Nick Fairley 47, C.J. Mosley 22, Caraun Reid 8.
Analysis: On a defensive line that prides itself on having depth and rotating players, Suh had an increased workload, playing 10 more plays than last week against the Vikings. None of the other three had more snaps compared to last week. The line applied pressure in the last two drives of the game, holding the Saints without a score during the final four minutes. Fairley had two tackles and Suh and Mosley one each, but their production isn't always best measured in those stats.
Running back: Joique Bell 52, Reggie Bush 18.
Analysis: Bush had a much reduced role, playing just a handful of snaps in the second half, but coach Jim Caldwell said that was due to Bush's ankle injury, not poor play. Bell accounted for 48 yards on 18 carries and two catches for 19 yards. Bush was a little more active in the passing game, with five catches for 22 yards and just four rushes for 10 yards.