Lions take high-powered offense to the desert
(Sports Network) - One week into the NFL season, it looks like the tandem of Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson are set to terrorize opposing defenses with matchup headaches the size of Robert De Niro's resume.
Perhaps it might be time for Bush to dive into the Transformers world to come up with his own clever nickname.
The duo try to lead the Detroit Lions to a 2-0 start on Sunday when they visit the Arizona Cardinals and University of Phoenix Stadium.
Good things were predicted out of Bush when the Lions signed the former second-overall pick of the 2006 draft this past offseason and the playmaking back did not disappoint in Sunday's season-opening 34-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Bush racked up 90 yards on 21 carries and added another 101 receiving yards. The bulk of that came on a 77-yard catch-and-run score in the third quarter as the 28-year-old became the third player in Lions history to record 90-plus rushing yards and 100-plus receiving yards in a single game.
The other two? Just some guys named Billy Sims and Barry Sanders.
"It's definitely what we talked about," said Bush. "We talked about just getting me in space in situations where I'm mismatched on a linebacker, safety, cornerback, or somebody man covers and while they're worried about Calvin and some of the other guys, just taking advantage of it. I think we were able to do that today. I think you saw a little bit of what's to come in the future."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 357 yards, the second-highest total by a Lions QB on opening day, and complete a pair of touchdown throws. He nearly had a third to Johnson, but the wideout saw the score negated by review as he appeared to lose control of the football in the end zone.
It's not the first time the rules have taken away a TD catch by the athletic receiver.
"Yeah they got me again," said Johnson, who had four catches for 37 yards. "I'm going to have about four different pictures in (the rule book). I caught the ball and my feet touched and then I dove in. I mean, I don't know."
Detroit is still in position to win its first two games for the second time in three seasons as it begins a stretch of playing four of its next five on the road.
Unlike the Lions, the Cardinals were unable to open the season with a divisional victory, falling 27-24 on the road to the St. Louis Rams. Arizona led 24-13 with 1:47 to play in the third quarter, but St. Louis rallied for 14 points in the fourth quarter and went ahead for good on a 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds to go.
The loss spoiled the debut of head coach Bruce Arians and a new era in Cardinals football. Twenty-two players made their Arizona debut in Week 1, including seven rookies.
"Overall I was very pleased with the effort put forth. The execution at times was not as good as we needed it to be," noted Arians. "Late in the ballgame offensively we have to make some plays on third downs and keep drives alive to win the game. We ended up putting their offense back on the field and that is what cost us the ballgame.
In his Arizona debut, Carson Palmer threw for 327 yards, but was picked off once and had a crucial fumble in the game. He did complete a pair of touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals were looking to erase the taste of the 2012 season, when they won their first four games only to drop nine in a row en route to a 5-11 season. The only other victory that season came on Dec. 16, versus Detroit.
"It would have been great to start it off against a division opponent on the road and get a win. That would have been great and that's what we expect of ourselves. But we go back to work on Monday, we'll watch the tape, correct the mistakes and get ready for Detroit," said Fitzgerald.
Arizona's 38-10 win over Detroit last season, which saw the Cards turn four Lions turnovers into touchdowns with a pair of pick-sixes, extended its series winning streak versus the Lions to four straight.
Three of those wins have come in Arizona and the Cardinals will try to win their fourth home opener in a row.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Two of the game's top receivers square off in Fitzgerald and Johnson and both have quarterbacks capable of getting them the ball anywhere on the field.
That wasn't the case for Fitzgerald last year, but his 54 receiving touchdowns lead the NFL dating back to 2008, including the playoffs. Johnson is second in that span with 52.
After catching passes last season from the likes of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, Fitzgerald enjoyed his first multi-TD performance since Nov. 13, 2011, a span of 24 games. In all, the wideout caught eight passes from Palmer totaling 80 yards.
Palmer, who is 208 yards shy of becoming the seventh active quarterback with 30,000 career passing yards, became the first Arizona QB last week with a 65- plus completion percentage and 320-plus yards in a game since Kurt Warner on Nov. 15, 2009.
Still, Palmer was disappointed with not coming away with a Week 1 victory.
"I think we did a good job, obviously not good enough," he said. "I need to play better, I need to make more plays. It always falls on you as a quarterback and I expect more of myself. There are couple of plays I'd like to have back. I'll continue to work."
Johnson had a pedestrian game last week after setting an NFL record for receiving yards in a season last year (1,964), but made 10 catches for 121 yards last year versus the Cardinals. That was part of his NFL-record streak of eight straight 100-yard receiving games.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is hoping the field opens up more for Johnson this week after Bush's performance in Week 1.
"We like Reggie's talent, but what we really liked was the way his talent complemented Calvin's and the way Calvin's complements him. A lot of first downs, big plays and things like that," noted Schwartz.
Bush, meanwhile, was complimented by Joique Bell, who scored a career-high two touchdowns on the ground. The duo combined for 283 total yards in the game.
Despite suffering a pulled groin and dislocated left thumb versus the Vikings, Bush is expected to play this weekend, though tackle Jason Fox did not practice on Wednesday due to a groin injury suffered early last weekend. He did not return to the game and was replaced by Corey Hilliard.
Arizona did not have a huge effort on the ground last weekend, getting 60 yards on 16 carries from Rashard Mendenhall. The Cards face another tough task against the Lions run defense that allowed Adrian Peterson to rip off a 78- yard score on his first handoff before limiting the last year's MVP to just 15 yards on his next 17 carries.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley had 1 1/2 sacks to give him 5 1/2 over his last six games, while linebacker Stephen Tulloch had one of three Detroit interceptions while also getting a sack.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was held without a tackle, but still netted a reported $100,000 fine for a low hit on Minnesota's John Sullivan. He was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for hitting Sullivan in the knees during a block on DeAndre Levy's interception return, negating a likely pick-six.
Arizona's defense struggled to contain St. Louis tight end Jared Cook last week and also failed to register a sack. Defensive tackle Dan Williams, though, did take an interception two yards for his first career TD, while rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu highlighted his debut by chasing down Cook from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocking the ball into the end zone. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was beat in coverage on the play, recovered.
"It was one of the best plays I have ever seen at this level. It was all out hustle," said Arians of Mathieu, who wiped out a likely 55-yard TD catch for Cook.
Arians was less impressed with tackle Levi Brown, who was playing in his first game after missing all of 2012 due to injury and was beaten three times for sacks by Rams defensive end Robert Quinn.
The Arizona head coach isn't expected to make a switch on the line, though.
"He is our guy. No, there is no position change, someone would have already beaten him out," Arians said on Sunday.
Cardinals tight end Rob Husler did not play in Week 1 due to a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss another week.
The defensive backs will be in the hot seat for this game. Detroit will send out veteran Chris Houston and rookie Darius Slay, who had his struggles last week and was benched in favor of Rashean Mathis by game's end, to try and stop Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts.
The Cardinals counter with the super-athletic Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers, but the defense's struggles last week against Cook show that the middle of the field could be open again in Week 2 for Bush.
That could make it two weeks in a row that the Cardinals really miss linebacker Daryl Washington, suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
How about the nickname "Starscream" for Bush?
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lions 38, Cardinals 20
09/13 09:49:51 ET