The Kansas City Chiefs helped Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler have the best game of his career last week in the Bills 41-7 victory over the Chiefs. Actually, Chandler had only one career reception before last weeks coming out party in which he had 5 receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns. It didn't help the Chiefs defense that starting strong safety Eric Berry left the game with an injury early in the first quarter. But Chandler torched the Chiefs defense on several big occasions.
It was Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw who were in charge of shutting down Chandler last week and that didn't happen, obviously. So when the Chiefs look at their opponent this week they will see a much more talented player at the same position in Brandon Pettigrew. They need to focus on containing Pettigrew if they are going to have success in this game.
Pettigrew is the third-year tight end drafted in the first round by the Lions out of Oklahoma State. Last year Pettigrew was coming off a torn ACL suffered on Thanksgiving day in '09, but still managed to be the third most-targeted tight end in the NFL while also finishing third in the league in receptions for a tight end. Last week he finished the game with six targets (2nd on the team behind Calvin Johnson-10), and four receptions for 57 yards in the Lions 27-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pettigrew is not much of a downfield threat in regards to big-play ability. He finished 23rd in the league last year among tight ends in average yards per catch (10.3). But he did have 71 receptions last season and that means that Lions quarterback Matt Stafford looks for Pettigrew often, and based on the Chiefs performance last week against the tight end it would only make sense for the Lions to try and take advantage of that as well.
The Lions have one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in all of football in Calvin Johnson. He is the main go-to-guy and the player with the big play ability that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. But it's Pettigrew that moves the chains with all of his receptions as a security blanket for Stafford, and if the Chiefs can limit Pettigrew's receptions, they can limit the chains moving and that's the ultimate goal.
Whether it's Piscitelli, McGraw, or someone else, the Chiefs need to find out how to shut down the opposing teams tight end now that Berry is out for the season. Outside linebacker Justin Houston may have to join in the party as well in trying to shut down Pettigrew on Sunday. The athletic rookie linebacker from Georgia showed us in preseason that he has the ability to get after the passer. But this may be his chance to show us another part of his game, and shutting down Pettigrew would go a long way in helping the Chiefs pick up their first win of the season.