By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – The Calvin Johnson-Reggie Bush duality worked exactly as the Detroit Lions dreamed it would in the team’s regular season opener Sunday.
Johnson only got 37 yards, stymied somewhat by the Minnesota Vikings defense but fully by the video replay that erased two almost-touchdowns. With the Vikings fixated on Johnson, though, Bush picked apart the defense for 101 receiving yards – including one lengthy touchdown jaunt of 77 yards – and 90 rushing yards.
“just his ability to run after the catch was huge for us today,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Whether it’s second and long getting back to third and short or converting a third down, the guy did it all.”
To boot, Bush did it all after dislocating his thumb and pulling his groin in the first quarter.
“It was facing the wrong direction. They just popped it back in. Thankfully I was able just to tape it up and carry the ball in my right hand,” Bush explained. “I pulled my groin early on. I think it was maybe a series after I dislocated my thumb, so everything was going against me early on.”
The bad luck did not last.
The Minnesota defense’s concentration on Johnson and the way the Vikings had game-planned around him worked out perfectly for Bush. He said the last time he saw six men at the line of scrimmage across from him was in New Orleans. That was in 2010.
When he was being recruited by the Lions this off-season, Bush saw just the type of schemes he saw Sunday, and that tape convinced him to come to Detroit.
“All they had to do was turn on a few plays and show me that they’re doubling Calvin, rolling the coverage over to him, six-man boxes, five-man boxes sometimes in there, and that’s a running back’s dream any time you get that,” Bush said. “I was facing eight, nine-man boxes in Miami, so this is very refreshing.”
All in all, having Johnson and Bush together worked out just as the Lions had envisioned.
“It’s definitely what we talked about,” Bush said. “We talked about just getting me in space and just constantly being in situations where I’m mismatched on a linebacker or safety or cornerback or somebody in man coverage and while they’re worried about Calvin and some other guys, just taking advantage of it. And I think we were able to do that today, and I think you saw a little bit of what’s to come in the future.”
Despite the injuries, Bush said that physically he felt good throughout the game, though he joked that his thumb will probably start killing him once the pain medication wears off.
“I took a few [shots] here and there, but really I feel good,” Bush said. “Even throughout that game I was just saying how good I feel. I wasn’t tired, I didn’t feel worn out, I felt good throughout the game, and I think that was because we were able to spread the ball around to a lot of different people. It wasn’t just focused on one guy, so the fact we were able to spread the ball around, I think it kept everybody fresh.”
Stafford targeted nine different receivers during the game, and six different players – Bush, Johnson, Nate Burleson, Joique Bell, Patrick Edwards and Joe Fauria – caught three or more passes each. With more weapons offensively – all of which are more open when defenses have to worry about Johnson and Bush – Johnson will no longer have to carry the team up and down the field all by himself. That, of course, was the whole idea of bringing in Bush.
“That was the dynamic that he brought,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “We like Reggie’s talent, but what we really liked was the way his talent complemented Calvin’s and the way Calvin’s complements him. Lots of first downs, big plays, things like that.
“Fantasy owners might not be happy,” Schwartz added, “but we’re sure happy.”