By Ashley Dunkak

CBS DETROIT – The Detroit Lions looked strong in their season opener against the New York Giants. Some of their success might be attributable to the weaknesses of the competition, but Lions running back Reggie Bush said the team’s performance had most to do with new head coach Jim Caldwell.

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“Coach Caldwell, he knows the formula of winning,” Bush told Stoney, Bill and Sara of 97.1 The Ticket. “I think you’ve started to see our team take on the personality of our head coach. Everything that he preaches on – finishing games, not turning the ball over, not beating ourselves in crucial situations, making plays when we need to make plays – you saw all those things, and obviously defending home field … It wasn’t pretty. We still made some mistakes here and there, but we won in a dominant way.”

The Lions did not necessarily dominate in the run game, however. Many of their rushing attempts went for little or no gain, especially early on. Detroit ended up with 76 yards on 30 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per rush. The Lions did better in the run in the fourth quarter, but until then, that facet of the team’s game looked rough.

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“We struggled a little bit running the ball,” Bush agreed. “They were also bringing extra guys, more guys in the box than we could block, and when teams do that, you throw the ball, and you saw Stafford and Calvin connect on a lot of deep balls, and Stafford threw some more great passes down the field, and that’s what happens.

“It’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game,” Bush added. “When teams bring more guys in the box than you can block, then you play action throw the ball down the field and we have receivers who can make plays, and when they want to play back, run the ball.”

As solid as Detroit looked in so many respects Monday, the Lions might get a more stringent test of their collective ability Sunday.

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“Carolina, man, their defense, they pose a lot of difficulties,” Bush said. “Their front seven is really tough, probably one of the best in the league, so we’re going to have a tough day set out for us. I feel like this game is going to really define this team early.”