Saints v. Seattle Preview: Run Reggie, Run!

The question on the mind of Saints fans everywhere is probably a pretty straightforward one if they've watched the injury reports over the past few days... with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both out for the season, can Reggie Bush, former Heisman trophy winner (and returner) and #2 pick in the 2006 draft truly the franchise back for the New Orleans Saints? Can he run north and south? Is he a threat if the Saints give him 20-25 touches? Is he fully healed from the broken leg he suffered early in the year?

And there's a reason for the concern -- the Saints are going to need a running game if they're going to win on the road. While Drew Brees and the receiving crew can be counted on for high-pressure aerial attacks in domed stadiums and warm-weather climes, the Saints taking the road less travelled to the Super Bowl this year -- the only change they've got of a home game between now and the Super Bowl in Dallas is if the Saints and Green Bay Packers are the last teams standing in the NFC Championship game.

Which means the Saints have got to have a running game. Rookie Chris Ivory took that mantle and, er, ran with it earlier in the season, offering the first true carry-guys-for-extra-yardage running threat since Deuce McAllister's performances in the early Aughts. Pierre Thomas, while not quite the hefty back that Ivory quickly became, offers a one-two punch with Bush in the backfield, including Thomas' signature rambling screen plays.

Now, Bush is going to have to go it mostly alone; he's joined in the backfield by veteran running back Julius Jones, the former Cowboy, former Seahawk who has been, for the most part, a disappointment in the Saints running game. Both Bush and Jones are veterans, though, who are able to come up with key pass blocking when called on.

Two newly signed backs -- call them Whatsits and Whosie, both signed from practice squads in faraway lands -- are unlikely to contribute big-time in the Seahawks games and would become unlikely heroes if they had breakout playoff experiences for the defending champs later in the post-season.

Which brings us back to Bush. Now is his time. He's got to run between the tackles. North and South. Cut back to find the quick gap -- not just to find the opposite sideline. Do his duty in protection schemes, dribble out of the backfield on designed screens and check-down routes. It's on him, this game, this playoff, this Saturday.

That said, there is hope:

Although Bush finished the regular season with just 36 carries for 150 yards, there is a precedent for his stepping up in the postseason. That's what happened last season as the Saints won the Super Bowl. The Saints were cautious with Bush, who was dealing with a knee injury most of the regular season.

Reggie's got a great supporting cast, with Brees, Colston, Shockey and tight-end David Thomas likely to play.

And he's a talented guy with a lot of heart. It's not like he's 100% the wrong guy to put your faith in.


Previous Comments


I lost faith in Reggie Bush in the 2005 BCS Championship Game. When USC was a head in the game and need to run out the clock, where was Reggie? On the sideline with Pete Carroll. They Heisman Trophy winner not in the game when it mattered most. It allowed Vince Young to have a championship game winning drive that might be one I remember for the rest of my life. After that game, I realized that Bush would never be an Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas, Walter Peyton, Adrian Peterson ect and so forth guy in the pros. If he was on the sideline for the biggest game of his career (at that point) when it mattered most, he would never be the type of player to pin your hopes on. I could be wrong......

Bryan Flynn

Well, in the end, I don't know what the verdict is on Reggie -- clearly he's injured and apparently not fully recovered. I'm concerned that he'll never really be the same Reggie -- hopefully he just needs an offseason to heal and work out. Before he left the game on Saturday, he had some catches in the flat and some opportunities in the open field -- and the "Reggie burst" just wasn’t there. He didn't seem to have an ability to get away from guys, and was even closed on from behind, despite some (blessed) North-South running. (Although the rushing totals up low, Reggie was a factor in the first half in the game, with some impressive gains.) A nice wrap-up on the Saints season down the stretch is here by Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune. He points to three problems for the Saints -- running game, defensive QB pressure and special teams. I think he fails to focus on one more just a bit more than he could have -- injuries. On a critical drive-ending play in Seattle, the Saints handed the ball to a back who had been signed earlier in the week. By the end of the game, every "starting" running back was injured or inactive, Shockey and Thomas clearly playing hurt, Graham was out, Colston was coming off surgery in the past 10 days, Jenkins was out, Harper and Sharper both slow for some reason (age? injury?), Courtney Roby out... not only do all of these affect the three areas the Duncan talked about, but I think there's also an intangible for Brees and Vilma as leaders on the team -- with all the injuries you're playing with different guys every week, out of sync, unable to build both camaraderie and a sixth sense about what the guy you're working with is going to do -- what his quirks are, what his strengths and weaknesses are. Even the coaching takes a hit with this many injuries -- the Saints had two short weeks in a row and in the span of those weeks the outlook went from the Saints having four name-brand backs apparently healthy and ready to play to the team, by the Fourth quarter of this playoff, literally being left with guys who had gotten their Saints jerseys this past week. (The exception, Heath Evans, actually filled in at running back and caught a few passes on Saturday. You know the Saints were hurting when your check-down -- not a designed trick play or two-yard touchdown pass -- is to Evans.) The Saints were in the red zone seven times and got four touchdowns and three field goals... one more touchdown would have made the difference? How nice would it have been to hand off to Pierre Thomas or Chris Ivory instead of Julius Jones or DeShawn Wynn? But, in the end, there was one other intangible that seemed to be missing as this season wore on compared to last -- desire. The Saints just didn't have that same spark -- the desire to win despite the odds. There's a lot of talent on this team, but perhaps the weight of those rings on their fingers slowed them down just a touch this year. So it's a tough loss, and perhaps it's one of those that stick with the players through the off-season. Maybe it'll give these Saints (at least, those who return) something to think about, focus on and use to fire themselves up for next year. I, for one, am looking forward to it! ;-)

Todd Stauffer


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