DETROIT – Reggie Bush wasn’t a factor at all in the running game for the Detroit Lions on Thursday night.
But he was more than OK as a receiver.
Bush, the multi-purpose back brought in to provide a spark for Detroit this season, ran for a single yard on six carries, but he had five catches for 103 yards in a 40-9 victory over New England.
The Patriots’ first-team offense, meanwhile, which was precise and efficient in the first two games of the exhibition season, was anything but in preseason game No. 3.
Four of New England’s first five possessions ended in turnovers as tight end Zach Sudfeld and running backs Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen all lost fumbles and Tom Brady threw an interception. The other possession was a three-and-out that ended with Zoltan Mesko’s punt.
Brady played four series in the first two preseason games combined, completing 18 of his 20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in two victories. But in a half of work Thursday at Ford Field, he was 16 of 24 for 185 yards and the second-quarter interception by Detroit cornerback Chris Houston.
Lions starter Matthew Stafford also played the entire first half and helped lead Detroit’s first team to a better showing than it had in its first two exhibition efforts.
The starters played seven series in those games — a win over the Jets and a loss in Cleveland — and managed only a pair of field goals.
They produced three more field goals from David Akers against the Patriots, but also added Stafford’s 9-yard touchdown toss to a diving Tony Scheffler in the end zone that gave the Lions a 10-0 lead 2 minutes into the second quarter.
Akers’ first field goal, a 23-yarder, was set up by Bush’s 67-yard catch and run.
Stafford finished 12 of 25 for 166 yards, but did so again without top target Calvin Johnson.
The star wide receiver also missed last week’s game in Cleveland, largely as a precaution. He has been bothered by a bruised knee.
Johnson, who caught three passes in Detroit’s preseason opener Aug. 9 against New York, is expected to be ready to go once the regular season starts in two weeks.
Kellen Moore, who backed up Stafford in Shaun Hill’s absence, led the Lions on a touchdown drive to open the second half, throwing a 22-yard scoring pass to tight end Joseph Fauria. That score, which gave the Lions a 23-3 lead, was sandwiched by Akers’ field goals of 49 and 47 yards.
Hill sat out the game to rest, as he did this week in practice.
Moore threw another TD pass, a 15-yarder, to wideout Micheal Spurlock in the fourth quarter.
Another of Detroit’s key free-agent signings, defensive end Jason Jones, had a big game, sacking Brady twice and recovering a fumble. And the oft-injured Louis Delmas, who returned after missing much of the preseason while recovering from a knee injury, also recovered a fumble.
Ryan Mallett directed the Patriots for the entire second half, with New England’s coaches opting not to play third-stringer Tim Tebow. A contingent of fans at the game broke into a “We want Tebow!” chant.
The former Heisman Trophy winner has passed poorly but run well in the preseason and is not considered a lock to make the team.
Both teams need to get down to the NFL-mandated 75 players by Tuesday. The Patriots finish the exhibition schedule Aug. 29 against the New York Giants, while the Lions play at Buffalo that evening. The final cut to 53 comes two days later.
NOTES: Detroit special teams ace and former UMaine player Montell Owens fell to the turf without being touched during a second-quarter rushing attempt and had to be helped off the field after several minutes. He did not return. … wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins led the Patriots in receiving with eight catches for 116 yards. … Lions rookie punter Sam Martin had a 57-yard boot late in the first half that landed at the 5 before making an abrupt left turn and dribbling out of bounds inside the 1. … A 9-yard pass from Mallett to running back James Develin accounted for New England’s lone TD.