- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bush wrecked the Bears for 112 yards on 11 attempts in the first half to help Detroit build a 30-13 lead at intermission, before hanging on to capture a 40-32 win and first place in the NFC North. Chicago slowed down Bush in the second half, limiting him to 27 yards on seven carries. But by then, the damage had already been done.
“We just missed a lot of tackles,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “He did a good job of making his moves. You have to give credit where credit is due. He’s a good back.”
Bush made that known almost immediately. Julius Peppers stopped Bush for no gain on the running back’s first attempt, but he ran for gains of 9, 11 and 17 yards on his next three attempts.
Bush’s first two attempts of the second quarter gained 15 and 16 yards.
“I think they had a good game plan for us in the run game. They have Israel Idonije over there, who was a long time player for us, and who also happens to really know our defense,” safety Chris Conte said. “So they really had a great scheme going. But we just have to have a better effort individually. That’s all there is to it.”
Idonije played nine seasons in Chicago, and at least one of the team’s current players suspects his former teammate tipped off the Lions to what the Bears were doing defensively. The player said that Bush broke most of his big gains when Chicago called for its “power” stunt. A stunt involves defensive linemen altering the path of their rush in a coordinated fashion in an attempt to confuse opposing offensive line, which in turn, makes it more difficult for them to block.
Because of Bush’s production during when Chicago ran that stunt, the Bears abandoned the call altogether, according to the player.
Bush broke a highlight-reel run for a 37-yard touchdown with 2:43 left in the second quarter to help the Lions go ahead 30-10 after the extra point, and there’s a good chance Detroit caught the Bears on that play in their “power” stunt.
“A sweet run,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It was a play that, honestly, we have been working in practice all week knowing that they were going to blitz us. Instead of getting out of it, we just ran right into it. Dom [Raiola] made a great call up front. [Tight end Brandon] Pettigrew had a great block. We sealed off the backside, and then Reggie did the rest.”
The Bears played a good portion of the opening half in a nickel defense, which features five defensive backs, and just six players in the box to defend the run. Bush admitted to becoming “very excited” upon seeing Chicago’s personnel grouping.
“When we have them in nickel, and there’s six guys in the box, we’ve got to take advantage of that,” Bush said. “We definitely felt that was an area we could take advantage.”
Detroit certainly did that.
Bush said on some runs he “really didn’t get touched a whole lot until I got to the secondary.” By then, all Bush had to do was turn on the speed or juke the defender in space.
“If we don’t tackle, we’ve got trouble,” said Bears safety Major Wright, “especially with a back like that. Today, he came out and had a good game because we didn’t tackle him. Reggie Bush is special. He has speed. He can shake you. He can do everything.”
The Bears knew as much going in. The problem is they couldn’t do anything to stop it, which is a concern moving forward for a Chicago defense whose main goal always is to stop the run first.
The Bears played without franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Nate Collins played the nose tackle spot, with Paea moving into Melton’s place as the three-technique.
Collins and Paea admitted the Bears are depleted up front without Melton in the mix, but each repeated the team’s next-man-up mentality for dealing with injury. Paea called Bush “another Adrian Peterson, if not quicker,” while Collins mentioned that an inch of daylight for the running back is often too much.
“He’s got quicks. He’s got jukes,” Collins said. “The running plays they had, if there was just a little sliver, he could still get through it quick going downhill. A guy like that, it’s hard enough to tackle him. But when he gets a little space, gets going and gains speed, that makes it even worse.”