ALLEN PARK, Michigan — Reggie Bush is a pivotal player for the Detroit Lions.
The speedy running back has scored four times, run for at least 78 yards and averaged almost five receptions in Detroit's five wins. He is scoreless in four losses while being held to 50 or fewer yards and an average of three catches. Bush missed one game, a win at Washington, with a banged-up left knee.
"He is the catalyst for their offense, and for their whole team," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday.
The Lions (6-4) are hoping Bush bounces back Sunday at home against the Buccaneers (2-8) after perhaps his worst game this year.
"He's definitely a key and we need to get him back on track," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Schwartz replaced Bush with Joique Bell and rookie Theo Riddick in last Sunday's setback at Pittsburgh. Bush lost a fumble for the second time in three games, ran for just 31 yards on 12 attempts and made a season-low two catches.
"When you turn the ball over and put your team in a bad situation, you might get benched," said Bush, who guaranteed he will not fumble again this season. "I've been in this league long enough to know that can happen."
The Lions signed the seven-year veteran in March to a $16 million, four-year deal, and he has hit more than missed as the impact player they were banking on him being right away. He has accounted for more than 1,000 yards of offense and his average of 113.3 yards from scrimmage a game trails just three running backs: LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte.
Bush was spectacular in his Lions debut with 191 yards of offense and a score in a win over Minnesota. He has run for 100-plus yards twice, both times in victories against the Chicago Bears.
When Detroit wins, Bush is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. When it loses, Bush is averaging almost half as much on the ground each time he's handed the ball, and teams are limiting the effect he has on the passing game.
"Everybody makes our engine go, so to speak, but he's definitely an important player for us," Schwartz acknowledged. "He can free Calvin (Johnson) up and Calvin can free him up. When we've played our best offensively, that's been going. Plus, we have gotten contributions out of a lot of other guys."
Schwartz chose to go with other guys in the backfield against the Steelers after Bush struggled on soggy surface.
"Reggie in horse racing wouldn't be called a mudder," Schwartz explained. "He's an explosively quick guy. He's better on a fast track."
Bush disagreed, saying he prides himself on being able to run in all conditions. And, Bush believes running backs have an advantage over off-balance defenders in mud.
His poor performance, coupled with Schwartz doubting how suited he is for running in certain situations, seems to have given Bush an added incentive against Tampa Bay.
"I'm extremely motivated," Bush said. "I would've played the game (Tuesday) if they would've let me. Anytime you have a game like I had, the fumble, and not playing as well, the (next) game can't come fast enough."
NOTES: Lions S Glover Quin didn't practice Wednesday after not finishing the Pittsburgh game because of a sprained left ankle, which was protected by a walking boot. He said he is "planning" on playing the Buccaneers. ... Detroit WR Nate Burleson expects to play Sunday, two months after breaking his left arm in a one-car accident. ... Lions DE Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah (left ankle) and CB Bill Bentley (knee) practiced Wednesday, taking a step toward playing after being inactive for the last two games.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage