"This is exactly what we talked about when I was thinking about coming here," said Bush, who signed a $16 million, four-year contract in March. "We wanted to get me into space with a mismatch against a linebacker or a safety, and that's what happened. You can do that because of Calvin."
Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He finished with 21 carries for 90 yards and four receptions for 101 through the air.
Bush's performance helped the Lions overcome a slew of miscues while stopping an eight-game losing streak from last season, a miserable 4-12 year in which they were winless against NFC North teams.
"We had plays on offense, defense and special teams that can get you beat in this league, but we got through it and won the game," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "It's important to be able to get wins on days when you are making mistakes and things aren't going your way."
"It wasn't just Christian," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. "We've got to play better as a team."
Adrian Peterson did his part early, running for a 78-yard touchdown on his first carry and scoring on a 4-yard run to give Minnesota a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. He finished with 93 yards on 18 attempts.
"This is one of the best defensive fronts we're going to see all year," Peterson said.
At least in the opener, Bush was the speedy running back the Lions haven't had since Jahvid Best had his career ended by concussions. Detroit released him this year because he hasn't been able to play since 2011.
"We love his talent, but he's here because of the way he complements Calvin and the way Calvin complements him," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Fans at Ford Field have already become vocal supporters of Bush, chanting "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" much like crowds at the Silverdome used to shout "Bar-ry! Bar-ry!" for Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
The Lions made adding the former Miami and New Orleans back a priority and he showed why in one flashy, but tough afternoon.
"I did dislocate my thumb, it was pointing in the wrong direction, but they were able to pop it back in and tape it up," Bush said. "After that, I just carried the ball with my right hand. On the series after that, I pulled a groin muscle."
Stafford was 28-of-43 passing for 357 yards with two touchdowns. His final score was a 1-yard lob to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 6:47 left that sealed the win. Johnson was held to four catches for 37 yards and had a touchdown negated by review because he appeared to lose control of the football in the end zone.
Detroit botched a field-goal attempt on the opening drive when rookie holder Sam Martin dropped a perfect snap.
One snap later, Peterson ran through a hole, shifted his shoulders to the left -- prompting rookie defensive back Darius Slay to do a face plant into the turf -- juked to the right and outraced the rest of the defense on the fourth-longest run of his career.
After choosing to kick on a fourth-and-1, Schwartz went for it with the same down and distance early in the second quarter only to have Bell's fourth-down run negated by Brandon Pettigrew's holding penalty, forcing him to settle for a second field goal to make it 7-6.
"I wasn't by any means going for his knees," Suh insisted. "He knows that."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press