When free agent Reggie Bush made his recruiting visit to Detroit last offseason he wasn’t exactly wined and dined. Instead, he went to the movies.
The Lions’ coaches showed him game films. The star was, of course, Calvin Johnson. But what Bush looked at was everything else. He saw the holes in defenses that schemed to make Johnson’s life difficult. He saw the lack of respect opposing defenses paid to Detroit’s running game and how a sure-handed, speedy back could make hay in the passing game.
Everything that Bush brought to the table represented commodities the Lions sorely lacked. They needed him.
And he needed them, or at least the opportunity playing for the Lions presented.
Bush had been in the NFL for seven years and had gone over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season only once. He had 742 receiving yards as a rookie with New Orleans in 2006, but hadn’t come close to that number since. In fact, he hadn’t reached 400 yards in catches in any of the most recent four years.
Reggie Bush was good. He had never really touched on greatness. “I haven’t accomplished half of what I set out to,” he said during the preseason.
The Lions needed something different, and Bush needed to make a difference.
During much of Sunday’s opener against Minnesota the Lions were simply the Lions. There were touchdowns, yes plural, negated by either penalty or by rule. The offense threw an interception; the defense dropped one that was a sure six points. There were 11 penalties, including a silly taunting flag. There was the lack of discipline that coach Jim Schwartz’s critics claim permeates the culture.
But in the third quarter, with Detroit holding a tenuous 20-17 lead, Bush took a screen pass from Matthew Stafford, got perfect execution from his blockers, and turned on the jets. Reggie has been around awhile, but he is just 28 and rarely will he be caught from behind running north and south.
He went 77 yards for the touchdown, finished with 101 yards through the air and 90 yards on 21 rushing attempts. The Lions, warts and all, looked complete.
There were some stunningly poor rushing figures from around the NFL. Pittsburgh had 32 yards on 15 attempts. The Steelers! Miami netted 20 yards on 23 carries … and won. Yes, the Dolphins beat the Browns, who handed the ball to Trent Richardson just 13 times while quarterback Brandon Weeden attempted 53 passes. Go figure.
Sure, the NFL is a passing league, but it’s nonetheless surprising to note that 21 of the 32 teams failed to rush for 100 yards. More often than not in the past couple years the Lions would have been among the 21. On Sunday, they finished with 117 yards on, just as importantly, 33 rushes.
With Stafford producing 357 yards on 43 attempts, the Lions sported the kind of pass-run balance that keeps defensive coordinators awake nights and the kind of play action and deception that makes 77-yard screen plays possible.
Calvin Johnson? He was targeted nine times and caught but four of them. The Vikings won that battle but lost the war. “You saw a little bit of what is to come in the future,” Bush said.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.