MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Reggie Bush delivers the play of the game

Posted Aug 22, 2014

On a night when the stars didn’t shine the way the Lions hoped they would, somebody had to make people walk away from a grungy preseason game knowing that they’d seen something special.

On a night when the stars didn’t shine the way the Lions hoped they would, and when Coach Jim Caldwell had to wonder when the penalty-prone team he inherited will correct itself – if it ever will – somebody had to make people walk away from a grungy preseason game knowing that they’d seen something special.

Reggie Bush took the star turn Friday night with an 86-yard touchdown run in the Lions’ 13-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Game 3 of the preseason at Ford Field.

It was the highlight play of the game for the Lions – and perhaps of the entire preseason.

On their second possession of the game, the Lions had first and 10 at their 14 when they huddled up to get the play call from quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“Matthew called two plays,” Bush said after the game, recalling the situation. “He checked (at the line of scrimmage) to the better play.”

It is a play that Bush probably has run thousands of times – sometimes for no gain, sometimes for decent yardage, and very occasionally going the distance.

Friday night, Bush went the distance, running in his ninth pro season like a rookie with fresh legs.

As Bush cut upfield, Jaguars cornerback Alan Ball closed on Bush around midfield in front of the Jaguars bench.

It was game on, and Bush found another gear to outrun Ball to the end zone for the touchdown.

For Bush, it was a meaningful run in a meaningless preseason game.

“My whole mentality was not to get caught from behind,” Bush said. “I didn’t want to get back to the sideline with guys talking trash about getting caught from behind.”

He wasn’t done running when he got to the end zone. He finished off the play with a flourish, swooping through the end zone.

Someone asked if he was taking a victory lap.

“I was kind of jogging the rest of the way,” he said.

The TD run was one of two official carries Bush had in the game. He had a nine-yard gain on the first play of the game. Four plays later, Bush had a 24-yard gain around right end that was called back by a holding penalty called against tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Bush’s three runs – the two that gained 95 yards and the 24-yarder that was called back – were a microcosm not only of Friday night’s game but also last week’s loss at Oakland.

The Lions have done some good things on offense and defense, but they have yet to correct the penchant for getting penalties that has gotten them the reputation of being undisciplined. They’ve been their own most formidable opponent in recent seasons with penalties, and it’s something Caldwell has worked to correct.

When he was hired in January, Caldwell said the Lions would play smart football and would not be a team that beat itself.

Last week at Oakland, the Lions were penalized 11 times for 74 yards. That was just a warmup for Friday night. They were flagged 15 times for 131 yards. In the last two games, the Lions have given the opposition nine first downs on penalties.

No run or pass play or anything on offense or defense will make up for the number of flags that continue to shower down on the Lions.

“I’m concerned about it,” Caldwell said. “Yes, absolutely ... 15 is too many. I don’t expect it to go away overnight, but I expect it to improve in a hurry.

“It’s one of those things that I think bothers you, and you have to get them straightened out because they are preventable. There’s an old coaching adage, ‘You achieve what you emphasize,’ so we just have to keep emphasizing.”

Bush spoke about the penalties. He seemed as perplexed as anyone.

“It’s a little of everything,” he said. “It’s a little the officials. It’s a little us being undisciplined.”