Bush leads Saints past 49ers

December 4th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Bush leads Saints past 49ers

By Ann Killion
Mercury News Staff Columnist

It was just a matter of time. The Saints knew it. The fans knew it. And Reggie Bush knew it.
Just a matter of time before one of the most high profile player to ever come out of college exploded for a record day in the NFL.
It took the right set of circumstances: a Saints home game, a vulnerable 49ers defense. And - oh, yeah - some simmering anger over USC's stunning loss to UCLA on Saturday.
``I was sick last night,'' said Bush, who left the Trojans after last season to enter the April draft. ``It did give me some extra motivation. I had some extra aggression I wanted to take out on the 49ers.''
And, oh, did, he ever. Bush came into Sunday's game with just two touchdowns through 11 games and growing status as an average player. Bush changed that all in an electric performance, scoring four touchdowns, to tie a Saints record. He rushed for three and caught another, racking up 131 yards in receiving and 37 on the ground.
``We've all been waiting of that breakout game, where he just takes the game over,'' said quarterback Drew Brees. ``Coming out of college, he's used to running circles around people. It's different in the NFL, but he's gotten better every week and learned. At times he's gotten frustrated. He's a very prideful guy.
``God, I'm happy for him.''
Happiness reigned Sunday inside the brightly lit, well-scrubbed Superdome. Saints games have taken on the feel of a revival meeting. From the moment the team takes the field to the Green Day-U2 song ``The Saints are Coming,'' fans stand and cheer, boogie in the aisles and high five each other. Considering the horrors that took place within the building 15 months ago, the scene is downright mindblowing.
Highlights on the video screen of Bush being selected last April by the Saints are met with deafening roars. It seemed that half the 68,000 fans in attendance were wearing Bush No. 25 jerseys. And late Sunday afternoon, as the Saints ground out the clock, the chants of ``Reggie, Reggie`` filled the building. ``It was great to hear that,'' Bush said.
Thanks to Bush's explosive effort, the Saints won their eighth game and are in position to not only make the playoffs but to host a game. Local favorite Jimmy Buffett sang the national anthem and was given a game ball. He gave it back to Bush and said he'd wait to one from him in Miami - site of the Super Bowl. A preposterous idea a few weeks ago. Not so far-fetched now.
Both teams struggled to find any offensive rhythm early. At the start of the second quarter, the Saints found a formula that worked to perfection: a heavy dose of Deuce McAllister and a lethal dose of Reggie Bush. The Saints drove down the field and on third-and-seven Brees dumped the ball to Bush who juked one 49ers tackler and carried others down to the 1-yard line. On the next play Bush went in for a touchdown. Bush scored again before halftime, capping a long Saints drive that was sustained when Sean Payton decided to - yes, indeed, 49ers fans - go for it on fourth-and-one. Bush scored by darting around the left end for a touchdown.
He scored his third touchdown in the third quarter, catching a shovel pass and slipping through the line. In the fourth quarter, Bush caught another swing pass and sprinted 74 yards before angling to the sideline, and bobbling the ball out of bounds.
``Hopefully it won't be on the sports bloopers,'' Bush said. ``I felt like the guy was right behind me. Everyone told me afterwards there was nobody close to me. ``Bush still got the fourth touchdown, three plays later, on a 10-yard run.
``Today he showed how special he is,'' said tackle Jamal Brown. ``He had his A game.''
Bush unveiled his whole bag of tricks: his speed, his elusiveness, and his strength.
``He reminds me of four or five different players wrapped into one,'' said Pat Swilling, the former Saints linebacker who still lives in town. ``The power, the strength, the speed. And he's a rookie. He doesn't even know what he's doing.''
Swilling compared him to Barry Sanders, but a step faster. Bush showed Sunday that concerns about his size were vastly overrated.
``Those moves seemed all too familiar,'' said Alex Smith, who played with Bush in high school. On Sunday, Smith kept getting ready to go onto the field when the Saints were on third down, only to see Bush get the needed yardage.
``That quick jab, his burst and suddenness,'' said Smith, who exchanged hugs with Bush after the game. ``I've seen that too many times.''
The cameras kept focusing on Gordon Wood, in the stands. Wood coached both Bush and Alex Smith at Helix High in San Diego County but he wasn't even trying to straddle the fence Of course, Smith didn't give Wood much choice. He played one of his worst games of the season, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a quarterback rating of 41.5.
So you can't really blame Wood for wearing a Saints visor and dancing around, waving giant foam finger. He looked like your average Bush fan on Bourbon Street. There are thousands of them. And they've all been waiting for a day like this.
``Just feed him the ball,'' said McAllister, ``and great things are going to happen.''

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