DETROIT (AP) — Reggie Bush thinks he’s going to love playing with Calvin Johnson. With all that space in the middle of the field, it’s easy to see why.
Bush had a sensational debut with the Detroit Lions on Sunday, burning Minnesota for 191 yards of offense in a 34-24 victory. With the Vikings focused on stopping Johnson on the outside, the dynamic running back found plenty of room to roam.
“This is exactly what we talked about when I was thinking about coming here,” said Bush, who signed a $16 million, four-year contract in March. “We wanted to get me into space with a mismatch against a linebacker or a safety, and that’s what happened. You can do that because of Calvin.”
Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He finished with 21 carries for 90 yards and four receptions for 101 through the air.
Bush’s performance helped the Lions overcome a slew of miscues while stopping an eight-game losing streak from last season, a miserable 4-12 year in which they were winless against NFC North teams.
“We had plays on offense, defense and special teams that can get you beat in this league, but we got through it and won the game,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It’s important to be able to get wins on days when you are making mistakes and things aren’t going your way.”
The Vikings also made their share of mistakes, especially Christian Ponder, who threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
“It wasn’t just Christian,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ve got to play better as a team.”
Adrian Peterson did his part early, running for a 78-yard TD on his first carry and scoring on a 4-yard run to give Minnesota a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. He finished with 93 yards on 18 attempts.
“This is one of the best defensive fronts we’re going to see all year,” Peterson said.
At least in the opener, Bush was the speedy running back the Lions haven’t had since Jahvid Best had his career ended by concussions. Detroit released him this year because he hasn’t been able to play since 2011.
“We love his talent, but he’s here because of the way he complements Calvin and the way Calvin complements him,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said
Fans at Ford Field have already become vocal supporters of Bush, chanting “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” much like crowds at the Silverdome used to shout “Bar-ry! Bar-ry!” for Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
The Lions made adding the former Miami and New Orleans back a priority and he showed why in one flashy, but tough afternoon.
“I did dislocate my thumb, it was pointing in the wrong direction, but they were able to pop it back in and tape it up,” Bush said. “After that, I just carried the ball with my right hand. On the series after that, I pulled a groin muscle.”
Joique Bell ran for two TDs, including a go-ahead score that gave the Lions their first lead early in the third quarter.
Stafford was 28 of 43 for 357 yards with two TDs. His final score was a 1-yard lob to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 6:47 left that sealed the win. Johnson was held to four catches for 37 yards and had a TD negated by review because he appeared to lose control of the football in the end zone.
Ponder was 18 of 28 for 236 yards with a 4-yard TD pass to Peterson that got Minnesota within three late in the third quarter. Jerome Simpson had seven receptions and 140 yards receiving for the Vikings.
The Lions finished strong, outscoring the Vikings 28-10 after an awful start.
Detroit botched a field-goal attempt on the opening drive when rookie holder Sam Martin dropped a perfect snap.
One snap later, Peterson ran through a hole, shifted his shoulders to the left — prompting rookie defensive back Darius Slay to do a face plant into the turf — juked to the right and outraced the rest of the defense on the fourth-longest run of his career.
After choosing to kick on a fourth-and-1, Schwartz went for it with the same down and distance early in the second quarter only to have Bell’s fourth-down run negated by Brandon Pettigrew’s holding penalty, forcing him to settle for a second field goal to make it 7-6.
The Lions looked as if they were going to take their first lead two snaps later when linebacker DeAndre Levy returned an interception for a TD, but Ndamukong Suh was called for an illegal low block against center John Sullivan, who was well behind the play.
“I wasn’t by any means going for his knees,” Suh insisted. “He knows that.”
NOTES: Lions OT Jason Fox left the game with a groin injury, and was replaced by Corey Hilliard. … The Vikings were without DT Kevin Williams because of his injured right knee.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage