November 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm

John Niyo

Short memory goes long way for Lions' Reggie Bush in rout of Packers

Detroit No man is an island, but there Reggie Bush was Thanksgiving Day, all alone on the bench, looking more like a pitcher between innings of a no-hitter than a firing pin in of one of the NFLs most explosive offenses.

The Lions running back had just broken a promise hed made as much to himself as his teammates or the fans by fumbling again. Two weeks ago, after an early fumble and some ineffective play, Bush was effectively benched late in a loss at Pittsburgh. A couple of days later, he vowed of his nagging cough-up, It wont happen again.

But it did, as Packers linebacker Clay Matthews shook off a block and knocked the football free from Bush just as hed started to cradle it on a first-and-10 run from Green Bays 12. As a result, the Lions came up empty after an impressive opening drive, eliciting groans from the sellout crowd of 64,934 at Ford Field.

It was Bushs fourth fumble of the season and the third hed lost in the last five games. And coming as it did at the start of a must-win game against the Packers with the NFC North lead on the line, and perhaps the Lions playoff fate as well the fans werent the only ones cursing.

Bush heard the reassuring words from some of his teammates Just telling me to forget about it and move on to the next play, all the things that I already know, he said but then he found a quiet place to stew on the sideline.

Because I was really down on myself, really disappointed, Bush said.

And maybe a bit unsure what would happen next, especially after the way hed been benched though the coaching staff never acknowledged it in that game against the Steelers.

Obviously, in this league its about what you can do on the field, Bush said. And anytime you turn the ball over as a running back, thats a cardinal sin. So you dont know.

Getting the ball back

It wasnt long before he did, though. After the defense forced a punt something those dirtbags did plenty of Thursday, as it turned out the Lions went right back to their featured back.

The first play from scrimmage on Detroits second drive was a handoff to Bush. So was the second, as Bush took it 13 yards up the middle. It was effective, and it was no accident.

We took a Twitter poll to find out if we should give him the ball and the Twitter audience said to stick with him, so we did, head coach Jim Schwartz said, unable to contain his sarcasm after the win.

Im sure Twitter appreciates the plug and Schwartzs scaredy-cat gag is getting a bit comical now but the Lions turnover problems of late are no joke. And after three more in the first half Thursday including a strip-sack fumble of Matthew Stafford that gave the Packers a 10-3 lead the Lions were a minus-15 in turnover margin over their last 4 games.

As Bush noted, In the playoffs, or in a bigger game, that will get you beat.

In this game, he was determined to make sure it didnt.

Every time Reggie makes a mistake, you can see him just kind of get quiet, guard Rob Sims said. And its not because hes going in the tank. Its because hes (mad).

Emotional response

This Thanksgiving, it certainly showed, as Bush made his presence felt and let emotions show in ways we probably hadnt yet seen here in Detroit, breaking tackles and finishing a few big runs with demonstrative gestures.

Bush caught all five passes thrown his way, including a 32-yarder down the sideline on a wheel route to spark the Lions touchdown drive in the second quarter. And he finished with 20 carries for 117 yards his third 100-yard rushing day this season. (All three have come against division rivals Chicago and Green Bay.)

Asked later if the fumble had anything to do with all that, Bush smiled.

Maybe a little bit, he said. Just because I wanted to quickly erase it. I wanted to move on. And I wanted to get a little bit of revenge.

So did the Lions offensive line, by the way. And when Sims said after the game, We just stood behind Reggie, that wasnt quite right. Truth is, they paved the way for him and Joique Bell, who added 19 carries for 94 yards.

In early October, the Packers held the Lions to 64 rushing yards and sacked Stafford five times in a 22-9 victory at Lambeau Field.

We knew Green Bay got us last time, and that was probably the mark against us this season, Sims said.

Line comes through

Thursday, the Lions got full marks, however, as they rushed for 241 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in what Sims called the lines best performance in his four years in Detroit.

Granted, the Vikings did much the same thing a week ago at Lambeau. But when I asked Dominic Raiola if hed say the same, the veteran center in his 13th season with the Lions paused before answering, It might be.

Bush and Bell were hit just twice in the backfield all day, and each finished with more yards from scrimmage than Green Bays entire offense. Stafford, meanwhile, was sacked just once in 37 dropbacks. And it was just the second time in franchise history the Lions rushed for 200-plus yards and passed for 300 or more in the same game. (The previous came against the New York Yanks yes, the Yanks in 1950.)

Im gonna enjoy this one, Raiola said. This one felt good, the way we did it.

They did it the way few teams can, I suppose, but theres no arguing with the result.

When we get out of our own way, Bush said, we can be pretty special.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com
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Reggie Bush reacts after a second-quarter gain that carried the Lions into the red zone. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News