GREEN BAY – Jim Schwartz wanted to come up with something more creative to explain the extra element that running back Reggie Bush brings to the Detroit Lions offense. But the Lions head coach could only come up with one phrase to sum it all up.
“I don’t want to say ‘Pick your poison,’ but I don’t know if there’s a better cliché than that,” Schwartz said Wednesday during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters at Lambeau Field.
In 2011 and 2012, the Detroit Lions ranked fifth and second in total passing yards, but struggled in the running game, failing to crack the top 20 in that category.
Now, having signed Bush to a four-year, $16 million deal in free agency last March, early returns would suggest that he’s helped the Lions high-powered offense become more of a balanced attack.
And the Green Bay Packers defense has taken notice.
“He's just opened up their whole offense,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “Their offense was already pretty dynamic, and now he took it to another level."
Schwartz didn’t give quite as much credit to Bush, but did say that having him at running back makes the Lions’ already good offense better.
“He complements what we want to do offensively. He really fit the role,” Schwartz explained. “Getting Reggie in that role was a big complement for our other pieces on offense, Calvin Johnson, in particular.”
As the Packers prepare to host the Lions on Sunday, Bush’s ability to impact how defenses play Johnson was evident to members of the secondary. Bush enters the game having carried 48 times for 254 yards (5.3-yard average) while also catching 11 passes for 179 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown.
Schwartz has certainly been pleased that opposing defenses have taken notice.
“It’s one thing when they cheat the defense to Calvin and you’re running the ball for 4, 5 yards, but Reggie’s churned out first downs,” Schwartz said. “That can be frustrating for a defense when you keep moving the chains.”
After missing the Lions’ Sept. 22 victory at Washington with a knee injury, Bush frustrated the Chicago Bears last week when he rushed for 139 yards on 18 carries, including a 37-yard touchdown run in a 40-32 win. That was the highest rushing total for a Lions running back since Jahvid Best ran for 163 yards on Oct. 10, 2011.
But his production is not limited to the ground game and he has proven he can be much more than a decoy in the passing game.
In the Lions’ week one win over the Vikings, Bush caught just four passes but tallied 101 receiving yards to go along with a touchdown.
"I definitely think their offense with Reggie Bush, he's made an impact definitely when he's played. I think that's stating the obvious,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. “He's very impressive both out of the backfield on the quick screens and the clean runs that they're giving him because obviously the threats they have in the passing game.”
Still, despite the many compliments Bush received from the Packers’ locker room on Wednesday, the defense isn’t panicking.
“Obviously in the open field he's one of the best in the league,” defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. “But, I have faith that we'll be able to tackle him.”
While acknowledging Bush’s unique talents when in space, Raji paid more attention to the players who will be lining up directly across from him come Sunday.
“It's not just Bush. They've gotten better in the run game (as a whole),” Raji said. “Up front, a little blocking, and getting some push up front. That's another kind of dynamic that helps Bush, make some plays in the open field.
“Ultimately, I think they've done a good job in the run game. [Joique] Bell's a pretty good back too.”
Indeed, the Lions have also gotten production from Bell, who’s carried 41 times for 131 yards (only a 3.2-yard average) but has scored three touchdowns. With Bush sidelined against the Redskins, Bell ran 20 times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
“We played without (Bush) for the Redskins game. We won that game on the road and Joique Bell stepped in and did a really good job there,” Schwartz said. “(Bell is a) different style running back. Joique’s a power running back, bounces off a lot of tackles, a lot of run after contact, things like that. Reggie’s more of a space, make-miss type guy, even though he is a lot stronger than a lot of people realize.”
There are no games scheduled for today.
There are no games scheduled for today.