Rare TD wasn't only big moment for Lions' Pettigrew

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson celebrate after Pettigrew's touchdown Sunday.

Allen Park — Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew's touchdown Sunday was his first since 2013, but he had another play that was just as important later in the game.

After receiver Golden Tate made two Packers defenders miss tackles, he ran toward the right half of the field on a late fourth-quarter catch. And Pettigrew leveled cornerback Casey Hayward to help clear a lane for Tate to gain 43 yards and reach the 5, setting up what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

"That definitely makes you feel good, to spring somebody for a big play and almost touchdown," Pettigrew said.

And for the veteran tight end, Sunday's game against the Packers provided several feel-good moments.

A first-round pick in 2009, the Lions won at Lambeau Field for the first time in Pettigrew's career.

"It felt great getting back in (the end zone)," he said. "It felt even better getting a win."

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Appearing on 46 of 65 snaps, Pettigrew had his highest playtime percentage (71 percent) of a season that's been marred by hamstring, elbow and knee injuries.

Pettigrew also made his fourth catch of the season, a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was his first score since Nov. 24, 2013.

"That was huge," wide receiver Calvin Johnson said. "He's made a lot of big plays for us since he's been here. Unfortunately, the last two years, they haven't been like that so much, but he still has playmaking ability. You've just got to give him the rock."

Since 2011, Pettigrew's targets, receptions and receiving yards have decreased each season, including career lows of 10 catches on 15 targets for 70 yards last season. With tight end Eric Ebron playing a bigger role in the passing game, most of Pettigrew's work the past two years has been as a blocker. But as he saw Sunday, he has to be ready to contribute as a receiver at any time.

Scoring a touchdown had become such a forgotten feeling that Pettigrew doesn't even remember exactly how he reacted last Sunday.

"It's been so long," he said. "I just kind of spazzed out and got my little prayer in and that was it. It felt a lot better getting a win."

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