Vikings Win, Bush Shines - NBC New York

Vikings Win, Bush Shines

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As usual Reggie Bush struggled to run the ball Monday night, managing just 2.4 yards 12 carries against Minnesota's immovable front line. And as usual he still made a huge impact for both the Saints and his fantasy teams, taking two punts back for touchdowns while nearly scoring on a third and catching seven passes for 64 yards.

    Everyone rightfully fawned over Bush's amazing all-around game in college, but while making big play after big play at USC he struck me as ill-suited to be a true every-down back. A measly 3.7-yard average on 376 pro carries has hammered home those concerns, yet my opinion of Bush has actually risen quite a bit since his college days.

    Bush may never be a great running back in the way that most people traditionally view the position, but coach Sean Payton has created an offense that allows him to thrive as a pass-catcher. Bush now has 199 catches in 33 career games and many of those grabs have essentially been extended handoffs. In other words, a 3.7-yard average on his carries doesn't begin to tell the story of Bush's impact.

    If you combine his carries and catches Bush has totaled 86 yards and 0.6 scores per game for his career while averaging 4.9 yards per touch. Even factoring in his work as a receiver that isn't the type of per-play impact people expected after seeing him at USC, but Bush is a perfect fit for Payton's unique attack and gives the Saints five yards per touch while getting the ball 18 times per game.

    Plus, as Bush showed the Vikings he can also do some things as a return man. Payton has limited Bush's opportunities on special teams, but he's now scored on four of his 40 career punt returns while averaging 12.3 yards per chance. By comparison, Devin Hester has scored on seven of his 100 career punt returns while averaging 13.1 yards per run back.

    I've come full circle on Bush, viewing him as a clearly flawed NFL prospect while at USC, confirming that opinion with his annual struggles running the ball for the Saints, and then gradually coming to realize that the things he does well greatly outweigh his inability to be a prototypical running back. He may never shake the "bust" label in some quarters, but he's long since shed that tag in my mind.

    While Kim Kardashian's beau stars in a losing effort Monday night and continues to look like a cross between Hester, Brian Westbrook, and Wes Welker, here are some other notes from around football .

    * After weeks of worrying about Brian Westbrook's injured ankle, that's suddenly the least of his problems. Westbrook's ankle looked relatively fine Sunday as he totaled 84 yards and a score on 18 touches, but he suffered a pair of broken ribs on the Eagles' opening possession. He was able to play through the pain thanks to a cortisone shot, but Westbrook's status for Week 6 is now in question.

    Westbrook missed one game with the same injury in 2004 and indicated during a radio interview Monday that he expects to be a game-time decision against San Francisco. "Do I want to be out there at 45 percent and not willing to take a hit? No," Westbrook said. "I'd rather have Correll Buckhalter take over and carry this team. I wouldn't want to set the team back like that."

    He may not practice at all this week and figures to be questionable on the injury report. "Right now he's very sore," coach Andy Reid said. "We'll see how things go here in the next few days." Westbrook has certainly played through plenty of pain in the past, but having a Week 7 bye may convince the Eagles to give him a two-week break in the hopes that he can finally get fully healthy.

    * Even after a bye week to rest his injured toe Darren McFadden sat out practice Monday while wearing a walking boot. However, new coach Tom Cable said that McFadden could've practiced and "will go for it Wednesday." Meanwhile, Justin Fargas used the week off to rest his strained groin and was able to put in a full practice Monday.

    Fargas was the Raiders' starter prior to the injury and seems likely to reclaim the job now that he's healthy. McFadden had a big Week 2 after Fargas went down, but has gained just 62 yards on 21 carries in two games since. They'll probably end up splitting snaps with Michael Bush also get in the mix, making the "starter" label fairly meaningless, but Fargas will definitely return to a significant role.

    Two-Minute Drill:Bobby Engram played 33 of 51 offensive snaps in his season debut Sunday, catching eight of the team's 14 completions . Coach Tom Cable said Monday that the Raiders will strive for more "balance" and "shots down the field" offensively, which will give JaMarcus Russell a chance to emerge as a QB2 option . After barely playing in his season debut, Ben Watson was on the field for 77 of 81 offensive snaps Sunday . Meanwhile, Laurence Maroney played 17 snaps Sunday and keeps moving further from fantasy relevance . Coach Tom Coughlin welcomed Plaxico Burress back from his suspension Monday by saying that "he's ready to go" as a Week 6 starter . Jesse Chatman also returned from suspension Monday and may quickly get short-yardage work in place of Thomas Jones . Despite re-signing Kenny Watson, coach Marvin Lewis hinted Monday that Cedric Benson may see his role expand after gaining 30 yards on 10 carries in his Bengals debut . After trying it for one week with no success, the Lions announced Monday that they've scrapped plans to run a no-huddle offense.

    Red Zone:Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) revealed afterward that he played through a ton of pain while throwing for 313 yards and three scores Sunday, but coach Mike McCarthy indicated Monday that he'll be fine to start against the Seahawks in Week 6 . Randy McMichael (leg) landing on season-ending injured reserve Monday gives Joe Klopfenstein a chance to emerge as a TE2 option . Brodie Croyle (shoulder) said Monday that he'll resume starting for the Chiefs following their Week 6 bye . Coach Dick Jauron announced Monday that Trent Edwards (concussion) is considered "day-to-day" and he'll get an extra week for recovery due to the Bills' bye . Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Derrick Mason "should be fine" after suffering a thumb injury in Week 5 . Sidney Rice (knee) was a surprise scratch Monday night after playing some in Week 4 . According to coach Mike Holmgren, Deion Branch suffered a "bruised heel" in his season debut Sunday and is uncertain to play in Week 6 . Coach Romeo Crennel said Monday that Donte' Stallworth (quadriceps) should be ready to make his season debut this week following the Browns' bye.