Why Tony Scheffler Is Key for a Lions Victory Against the Vikings

Chris MaddenAnalyst IISeptember 29, 2012


"Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefit from their labor."

Ecclesiastes 4:9

I'm usually not one to mix football and religion. I'll leave that up to Tim Tebow. Nevertheless, the above quote is particularly appropriate for the Detroit Lions' Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

Especially with regard to the tight end situation. For Detroit, two are definitely better than one.

For the past few years, two-tight-end formations have been increasingly popularity in the NFL. The New England Patriots have shown how dominant an offense can be with two athletic tight ends, a possession receiver and nothing else.

The rest of the NFL has tried to follow suit. The Lions included. They drafted Brandon Pettigrew in 2009 and signed Tony Scheffler a year later.

Both are skilled receivers and they represent a matchup nightmare for most teams. Defenses have to adjust their formation whenever they're on the field together.

This is especially true for the Minnesota Vikings. They're one of only three teams in the NFL that still run the cover 2 (or Tampa 2) as their base defense (Tampa Bay and Chicago are the other two).


The cover 2 used to be all the rage in the NFL. Tony Dungy popularized it with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and they went on to win the Super Bowl with it.

However, with the advent of two-tight-end formations, the cover 2 has become less popular. It is vulnerable to those types of packages. It's vulnerability lies in the seam between the outside linebacker and corner.

Obviously, that is the seam tight ends frequent the most.

The Vikings' vulnerability to tight ends has been proven year after year. In two games last year the Lions' tight ends put up 18 receptions, 173 yards and one touchdown.

This season the Vikings have already given up 171 touchdowns and two touchdowns to tight ends.

They have a very good defense, but there is no denying they're vulnerable. The Lions would be wise to make their tight-end duo a focus this Sunday.

Especially since they will have Scheffler back from injury. Last week they didn't have him and Will Heller was used in two-tight-end sets. No offense to Heller, but he's not exactly a downfield threat. He's a great blocker and goal-line receiver, but Scheffler brings a lot more to the table.


The Lions' inability to consistently move the ball for most of the game against Tennessee is a testament to how much he means to the offense.

His presence will be a huge boost to the Lions as they'll be able to run their offense as it was meant to be run. He'll also give Matthew Stafford extra confidence as he loves to checkdown to both his tight ends.

Scheffler hasn't had great success against the Vikings. Pettigrew has been the beneficiary of Minnesota's vulnerability. Their total from last season that I already mentioned was almost all his. In fact Scheffler only contributed one reception for four yards.

Even more reason to believe he will come up huge in this game.

The Vikings know Pettigrew has killed them in the past, and they're not likely to let it happen again. They'll do their best to shut him down and that will open things up for Scheffler. He should have the mismatch this time around and the sure-handed tight end will make the most of it.

Pettigrew might be Matthew Stafford's security blanket, but on Sunday he won't need one. He'll have Tony Scheffler.

 * All stats in this article are courtesy of ESPN.com