Brandon Pettigrew's performance in the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Day overtime loss to the Houston Texans is microcosm of his NFL career.
Pettigrew hauled in eight catches for 74 yards. He was a key weapon in an offense that compiled 525 yards and scored 31 points against one of the league's top defenses.
The Lions, though, were plagued by Pettigrew's overtime fumble and coach Jim Schwartz's “red flag” mistake that cost them a touchdown.
Pettigrew's fumble ended an overtime drive at the Houston 32-yard line, a drive that might have won the game. He also dropped a pivotal fourth-quarter pass.
“You can't have turnovers. And I've dropped too many passes,” Pettigrew said. “I've dropped two touchdown passes (this season). That's a big no-no. Those are big plays. To be big time you have to make big-time plays.”
Earlier this season Pettigrew was stripped by Tennessee's Alterraun Verner late in the fourth quarter. The fumble was returned 72 yards for a touchdown in another game the Lions lost in overtime.
“That's on me,” Pettigrew said. “It's nobody else's responsibility to hold the ball high and tight except me.”
If Pettigrew, 27, can correct his drops and fumbles, he could develop into one of the league's elite tight ends.
A first-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2009, selected 20th overall, Pettigrew hauled in 83 receptions last season, third most among tight ends. His other receiving stats (777 yards, five touchdowns) also ranked among the league leaders.
But it's that other stat — eight dropped passes this season, 32 in his career — that has been a constant issue.
“I need to focus to make sure I look the ball in and catch it with my hands,” Pettigrew said. “That's something I've had a little bit of trouble with the past few years, dropping some very catchable balls. But that's coming. I'm working on those little things.”
Pettigrew, from Tyler, Texas, once again ranks among the NFL's top tight ends this season. He's fifth in receptions (54) and is close to the top 10 in receiving yards (513).
After last week's loss, Schwartz told Detroit media he still has confidence in Pettigrew, who was given the nickname “Superman” at OSU following a diving TD against Texas Tech and a game-winning score against Kansas State when he dragged defenders into the end zone.
“Obviously, turnovers are critical, particularly when you're in scoring range, particularly in end-game scenarios,” Schwartz said. “But he's made a lot of plays for us.