DETROIT – A year ago, Vikings defenders celebrated in the Ford Field visitor’s locker room after holding Calvin Johnson to 54 yards on five catches
Sunday, the Vikings limited “Megatron” to 37 yards on four catches. But the mood was entirely different.
A year ago, the catch phrase defenders used when asked to explain the game plan for Detroit was “Where Calvin at!?” Sunday, it could have been, “Where’d Reggie go?!”
Reggie Bush, signed by the Lions this offseason as one of the NFL’s more multi-talented running backs, just added a whole other dimension to an offense that already ranked third in the league a year ago. And the Vikings defense looked off-balance and unsure of what to expect the entire game because of it.
“We knew he was a dynamic guy who could make plays to change the game,” cornerback Chris Cook said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
The Lions amassed 469 total yards of offense, 61 more than last year’s average. Bush had 191 of those yards (40.1 percent) on 25 touches. He had 90 yards rushing on 21 carries (4.3) and four catches for 101 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown off what basically would have been a simple screen in the hands of most running backs.
“I knew he’d help those guys,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said. “Hats off to them [for signing him].”
For years, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been looking for another element to add to the deep ball that is quarterback Matthew Stafford’s forté. Sunday, Bush took the pressure off Stafford and an offensive line that started three new faces and then even had to go to a backup right tackle (Corey Hilliard) in the second quarter.
“Reggie allows the ball to get out of Stafford’s hands a lot faster,” said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had the only sack in a game in which Stafford threw the ball 43 times. “Now, they’re running swing passes to Reggie and screens to Reggie and check-downs to Reggie. And if he’s rushing the ball like he did today, now the whole thing opens up.”
The Vikings got little pressure on Stafford because of how quickly he was throwing the ball, even to targets other than Bush. Johnson was targeted nine times — three fewer than last year’s game in Detroit — but was a relative non-factor. He had a 20-yard touchdown catch overturned on review because he dropped it crossing the goal line. That led to the Lions settling for a field goal on their second possession.
Johnson caught only three more balls after that. But it didn’t matter. The Reggie Factor took over in its Detroit debut.
“Any time you can limit a guy like Calvin to four catches and 37 yards, you should feel good about the game you just played,” Cook said. “But we don’t feel very good right now. We have to use this as a learning experience because we play these guys again.”