Vikings’ defense crumbles at hands of Bush
Jennings catches just three passes in purple debut
DETROIT — Reggie Bush didn’t waste any time showing how well he fits into the Detroit Lions’ offense.
Bush, who was signed away from the Miami Dolphins as a free agent, had 191 all-purpose yards and a 77-yard touchdown reception to lift the Lions to a 34-24 season-opening victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field.
With perennial All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson drawing away defensive attention, Bush found plenty of room to operate.
“It’s definitely what we talked about,” said Bush, who had 90 rushing yards on 21 carries and gained 101 yards on four receptions. “We talked about getting in space and just constantly being in situations where I’m mismatched on a linebacker or safety or cornerback, somebody in man coverage, while they’re worried about Calvin and some other guys. Just taking advantage of it. We were able to do that today. You saw a bit of what’s to come in the future.”
Matthew Stafford, who passed for 357 yards with two touchdowns, is salivating at the prospect of having Bush as his primary back all season.
“The ability to run after the catch was huge for us today,” said Stafford, who completed 28 of his 43 pass attempts. “Whether it’s second and long and getting into a third and short, or converting a third down, the guy did it all. The more weapons you have as an offense, the more confidence everybody has that we’re all going to get it done.”
Joique Bell scored twice on short runs for Detroit, which finished 4-12 last year and lost its final eight games. Johnson had a relatively quiet day with four receptions and 37 yards Sunday, but had a potential touchdown catch overturned by replay and another close incompletion in which he barely stepped on the end line in the end zone.
Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson scored three touchdowns, including a 78-yard run on his first carry. Christian Ponder completed 18 of 28 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown but was also intercepted three times.
“We had too many three-and-outs, we had four turnovers and I had three interceptions,” Ponder said. “We’ve just got to play better, that’s the bottom line. We understand we can’t do it again next week (at Chicago).”
The Lions led 27-24 after three quarters. Bell gave them a 20-14 lead with a 1-yard scoring run after a replay review overturned an apparent Bush rushing touchdown, the first of two instances where Bush lost a score on officials’ reviews.
“I’d like to throw a shout-out to the big homey Reggie Bush for donating to the Joique Bell Touchdown Club,” Bell said. “He got me down to the one and all I had to do was punch it in.”
Following Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field goal, Stafford dumped a pass over the middle to Bush, who weaved through traffic and went the distance on the 77-yard connection.
Bush suffered a dislocated thumb and pulled his groin during the game, but that didn’t slow him down much.
“Our strategy obviously wasn’t very effective with what we wanted to do with Bush,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “We gave up some explosive (plays) to a running back and we’ve got to do a better job. We did a pretty good job on the back end against a star receiver but they had another guy we have to do a better job on and we didn’t.”
Peterson’s third touchdown, a 4-yard scoring pass from Ponder, cut Detroit’s advantage to three. Stafford’s 1-yard scoring pass to backup tight end Joseph Fauria with 6:47 remaining made it 34-24. That drive was aided by two Minnesota penalties, including a roughing-the-passer infraction that extended the drive.
Peterson blasted through the middle and outran the defense on his 78-yard score that gave Minnesota a quick lead. His second touchdown, a 4-yarder, came after a 44-yard pass from Ponder to Jerome Simpson.
The Lions pulled within 14-13 on Bell’s 2-yard run with six seconds remaining in the half. Bell leaped over the pile and just got over the goal line before the ball was knocked loose.
Notes: Simpson caught seven passes for 140 yards. … Nate Burleson had a team-high six receptions and 78 yards for the Lions. … Minnesota DT Kevin Williams, a five-time All-Pro, missed the game with a knee injury. Detroit RB Mikel Leshoure, who led the team in rushing yards (798) and rushing touchdowns (nine) last season, was inactive. … Stafford is the only Lions quarterback to make an opening-day start in each of the first five seasons of his career. He has reached 300 passing yards in 17 of his last 33 starts. … The Vikings lead the all-time series 68-34-2. Minnesota won both meetings last season.