Backup plans work out for surging Lions

7/1/2000
BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT – Calvin Johnson caught four passes for 44 yards and one touchdown Sunday.

And the Detroit Lions scored 40 points.

It’s nice to have a Plan B and a Plan C, etc.

Of course, coach Jim Schwartz said there has always been a Plan B.

“There’s a difference between having a Plan B and executing a Plan B,” he said.

Well, then, the Lions executed to the tune of a 40-32 win over the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Detroit's Reggie Bush runs for a 37-yard touchdown during the second quarter as the Lions beat the Bears. STORY ON PAGE 6.
Detroit's Reggie Bush runs for a 37-yard touchdown during the second quarter as the Lions beat the Bears. STORY ON PAGE 6.

The fact that this one wasn’t finalized until Kris Durham covered an onside kick with 42 seconds left is sort of silly considering how dominant Detroit was for most of this game.

They were sloppy down the stretch, careless with the ball. They breathed a little life into the Bears. The Lions can still be the Lions.

But they can be so much more, too.

Megatron has an off day? How about Reggie Bush breaking loose for 139 yards, an average of 7.7 yards per carry, and catching four passes to boot?

You lose your No. 2 receiver to a broken arm in a traffic accident? How about Brandon Pettigrew catching seven passes, dropping none and fumbling none? How about Durham coming out of nowhere to catch three for an average gain of 19.3 yards?

“It’s great to have weapons at your disposal,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Calvin is always going to be Calvin. He’s going to make big plays when we need him. But some other guys stepped up.”

And there’s nothing wrong with Plan B and Plan C.

“You don’t know when it’s your moment so you just have to be ready,” said Bush, who returned after missing last week’s game at Washington because of a knee issue. “When I was out, Joique Bell stepped in and was the reason we played so well.”

The way it has gone, the last guy who’s going to worry about an off day by Calvin Johnson is the man himself.

“We have hungry guys in here,” the standout receiver said. “That dude [Bush] does special things out there. We have too many weapons for guys not to want to get a piece of the action.”

And the Lions’ action, until the very end, was scary good.

They settled for field goals on a couple early drives and trailed Chicago by 10-6 with about 10:30 left in the second quarter. Less than eight minutes later it was 30-10 Detroit.

The Lions stole the momentum with the help of a 57-yard punt return to the Chicago 22 by Michael Spurlock and an interception and 41-yard return to the Bears 2 by strong safety Glover Quin.

The last TD in that 24-point sequence was a 37-yard run by Bush that featured his ooh-and-aah hurdle of Bears’ defender Major Wright, who made the mistake of going for the ankles.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Lions led 40-16 and nobody was happy with the way they finished it out.

But the 64,552 fans at Ford Field will have a lot to mull over while considering the Lions, 4-12 a year ago, are off to a 3-1 start.

And here are two of those things.

This team has a decent offensive line. Even with right tackle Jason Fox out and Corey Hilliard getting the start the Bears hardly laid a hand on Bush.

“I really didn’t get touched a whole lot until I got into the secondary,” Bush said, adding that the line was “the key factor why we were successful on offense.”

Another reason was field position. Detroit’s defense forced four turnovers and now has 11 takeaways in four games. Louis Delmas, the free safety who had three career interceptions before Sunday’s game, had two in this one against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

“Our guys have proven this year that they can do that,” Schwartz said. “It was a big problem for us last year. We didn’t get very many turnovers on defense.”

The last one Sunday was more along the lines of what the Lions are known for. Ndamukong Suh sacked Cutler and forced a fumble. Nick Fairley, the 300-pounder, picked it up and rumbled into the end zone from four yards out.

“I do a little dance, man,” Fairley said of his celebration. “I can dance.”

There was a lot of that going on Sunday at Ford Field.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.