MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S FRIDAY FOCUS: Reggie Bush may not have recognized the level of his value

Posted Sep 20, 2013

As the Lions approach Week 3 with the possibility of playing without Reggie Bush, columnist Mike O'Hara takes a look at who needs to step up in his potential absence

If there was any doubt about what Reggie Bush means to the Lions' offense, it has been demonstrated in his absence.

One half of a punchless attack in last week's loss at Arizona while Bush was out with a knee injury was proof enough of the impact Bush makes as a dual-threat runner and receiver who gives the offense matchup advantages against opposing defenses.

The Lions don't want to find out what it's like to run their offense for an extended period without Bush, starting with Sunday's road game against Washington.

Bush was hoping to practice for the first time Friday after spending the beginning of the week taking treatment on the knee. A decision on whether he plays could come as late as 90 minutes before kickoff, the deadline by which teams are required to list their active roster.

With or without Bush, the Lions' role players have to do a better job of doing just that -- playing their roles -- to avoid a second straight loss that would drop their record to 1-2.

And from a historical perspective, the Lions don't want to continue the dead-end trip to Washington, where they have never won a game. They have lost all 21 road games since the franchise relocated to Washington.

History is the least of Coach Jim Schwartz's concerns.

"What happened 10 years ago, 20 years ago, everything else -- it's irrelevant in a lot of ways," Schwartz said. "We don't pay too much attention to storylines."

In this week's Friday Focus, the key storyline is Bush. The contrast of how the Lions performed with and without Bush could not have been more strikingly different.

The offense and Bush aside, other key factors include how the Lions defend Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and if he is more of a running threat than in the previous two games, eliminating costly penalties, kicker David Akers rebounding from last week's missed field goal attempts.

Sunday prediction:

It's a game -- another game -- that the Lions could and probably should win. No way are they outmatched physically in this game. But until they break the historical chains that shackle them to losing streaks in such places as Washington and Green Bay, you have to go with the trend. Washington 17, Lions 16.

Role playing:

Even Bush might not have realized his value until he watched from the sideline last week, except for one play.

The Lions did not gain a first down in the third quarter, were 0-5 on third-down conversions and did not score an offensive touchdown.

"We talked about when I was being recruited here, just of the opportunities and things I can do and just different ways I was going to be used," Bush said when asked about his value.

If Bush doesn't play, or has limited playing time, the burden is on others to pick up the slack.

Joique Bell has been effective as Bush's backup at tailback. However, he dropped two passes against Arizona, possibly because he was trying to do too much to account for Bush being out.

"He was running before he was catching it," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "I don't think it has anything to do with his role. I think it's just a fundamental thing, and he knows it."

But the point of players executing their roles and not trying to be something they aren't is a valid one.

"You put words in my mouth on that one," Linehan said. "That is exactly what they have to do."

Washington focus:

A lot of attention is being put on how Robert Griffin III has reduced his running in the first two games because of the knee injury he sustained in the playoffs last season. He has run only nine times for 25 yards in the first two games.

That has taken some of the pressure off defenses to account for Griffin running the read option, but the Lions will be prepared for it.

"We have faced different teams doing that over the years," Schwartz said. "We have a philosophy on how to handle it. We think we can play our scheme and be successful. We don't have anything in our scheme that is not sound versus all of that stuff."

Running back Alfred Morris cannot be overlooked. Washington has been so far behind in the first half of its first two games that Morris has not been used as much as Coach Mike Shanahan prefers, but he's stil been effective. Morris has 25 carries for 152 yards and a 6.1-yard average per attempt.

Personnel/Nick of time:

The Lions were without defensive tackle Nick Fairley last week, and his presence next to Ndamukong Suh on Sunday provides a dominant interior tandem. Fairley had 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery in the opening game against Minnesota.

As a unit, the Lions had one sack against the Cardinals with Fairley out.

On offense, slot receiver Ryan Broyles is likely to play for the first time. He is coming back from a knee injury sustained late last season. It isn't realistic to expect him to be at full strength, but his sure hands in the slot could help keep the chains moving.

If Broyles is effective, and the tight ends become more of a factor than last game -- three catches by Brandon Pettigrew and none for Tony Scheffler and Joseph Fauria -- it will open opportunities for Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson.

History:

Washington has a 30-12 series lead, and has dominated at home. The Lions have lost all 21 games since the franchise located to Washington, starting with a 31-7 loss in 1939.

Washington has beaten the Lions three times in the playoffs -- 31-7 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, 41-10 in the 1991 season and 27-13 in the 1999 season. The 1982 and 1991 Washington teams went on to win the Super Bowl.

All has not been lost on the road for the Lions in the history of the Washington franchise. The Lions won two road games -- 13-0 in 1933 and 17-7 in 1935 -- when the franchise was located in Boston and played its home games in Fenway Park.

The Lions relocated to Detroit in 1934. In 1933 they were the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans.

Win streak -- no kidding:

Buried deep in the dust of the Lions' long road losing streak in Washington is that the Lions have a two-game winning streak over Sunday's opponent. Both wins were at Ford Field -- 19-14 in 2009, and 37-25 in 2010.

The 2009 win was in Game 3, and it was the first NFL as head coach for Jim Schwartz and for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford completed 21 of 36 passes for 241 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
Stafford was limited to three games in 2010 because of injuries to his right shoulder. One of those games was the victory over Washington. He completed 26 of 45 passes for 212 yards and four TDs. He had one pick.

Stats pack:

Washington rankings: Offense -- 19 rush, 8 pass, 6 total; Defense -- 32 rush, 23 pass, 32 total.

Lions rankings: Offense -- 22 rush, 7 pass, 8 total; Defense -- 15 rush, 15 pass, 15 total.

Late charges:

Washington has trailed by a combined margin of 50-7 in its first two games -- 26-7 to the Eagles and 24-0 to the Packers.

All five of Robert Griffin III's TD passes have come in the second half. Three were at the end of drives of 80 yards or longer, and four were in the fourth quarter.

Stafford security:

Through two games, he has 635 yards passing, four TDs, one pick and a passer rating of 102.0. At the same stage a year ago, he had 585 yards passing, two TDs and a passer rating of 73.2.

Sam Bam:

Rookie Sam Martin's strong leg has shown itself in the first two games. Both were played indoors. Sunday will mark his first regular season game as a pro outdoors.

Martin averaged 52.2 yards on five punts last week at Arizona. All four of his kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks. Through two games, Martin is fourth in the NFL in net punt with an average of 44.1 yards. His gross average of 45.9 yards ranks 19th.

Washington punter Sav Rocca ranks last in gross average (38.8) and 27th in net (37.4). Both games were outdoors.