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With McAllister out, Saints lean on Bush

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007

Is Reggie Bush a legitimate feature back?

New Orleans, which hosts the Carolina Panthers today, is about to find out.

The reeling Saints have little choice but to turn to Bush after Deuce McAllister suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.

That may seem like an odd way to phrase Bush's elevation to No. 1 running back on the Saints, considering how much fanfare accompanied him to the NFL.

But Bush, the second overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft, had considerably more success as a receiver and punt returner than as a runner in his rookie season.

And through three games this season, he has managed just 80 rushing yards and averaged a paltry 2.8 yards per carry.

Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, is dynamic in the open field but there are questions about whether the 6-foot, 203-pounder is the kind if runner that can -- and will -- pound the ball between the tackles.

Shortly after the Saints learned they had lost the popular and bruising McAllister for the season, Bush visited coach Sean Payton in his office and assured him that he is ready to carry the load on offense.

Somebody better do it.

The Saints, a popular pick to go to the Super Bowl before the start of the season, are 0-3 and have scored four touchdowns on 34 possessions.

"This is something I've been looking forward to for a long time now," said Bush of becoming the team's feature back. "I hate that it came off such a big loss for us in Deuce. But I feel confident in myself that I'll be able to carry the load and make up for what we're losing with Deuce, and we won't miss a beat."

Payton said he will be mindful not to overwork Bush, who split time with McAllister in 2006 and through the first three games this season.

He said Bush will carry the ball between 18-20 times a game. The Saints also figure to utilize him as a receiver out of the backfield and get the former USC star in open space.

As for questions about his size, Bush dismissed them.

"For me," Bush said, "I look at guys like Barry Sanders, Warrick Dunn, Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, guys who were my size if not smaller, and who did a pretty good job showing they could be an every-down back."

Marking his calendar

Defensive end Trevor Pryce is targeting the Ravens' Nov. 5 game against the Steelers at Heinz Field as his return from a broken wrist.

"I'm almost 90 percent sure I'm playing against Pittsburgh," Pryce said last week.

The four-time Pro Bowler can't get back on the field soon enough as far as the Ravens are concerned.

The Ravens have just one sack in their last two games -- Pryce got hurt in Baltimore's 20-13 win over the Jets on Sept. 16 -- and the defending AFC North champions gave up 27 points in an embarrassing loss to the Browns last week.

They had 60 sacks last season, with Pryce getting 13 of them.

"It's hard to watch," said Pryce, who still has metal pins in his left arm as a result of surgery. "Watching last week's game was by far the hardest to watch."

All points bulletin

If you're going to get 'em, get 'em early.

That is the book on the Dallas Cowboys, one of only four undefeated teams in the NFL.

The Cowboys have scored the most points (151) in the NFL, and the bulk of them have come in the second half.

The Cowboys have scored 107 points after halftime, and they have gained 1,047 of their 1,763 total yards following intermission.

"It's a combination of wearing them down, pass protection-wise and run-wise," said first-year Dallas coach Wade Phillips, whose team visits Buffalo for a Monday Night Football game.

Indeed, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens may be the best pass-catch combo this side of Tom Brady and Randy Moss, but Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said strong play up front has been the key to the Cowboys' prodigious offense.

The Cowboys have put up the fourth-most points through four games since the NFL merger.

Wide receiver Patrick Crayton said the Cowboys want to break the season record of 556 points set by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998.

"I'm not backing away at all," Crayton said last week when asked about the goal, "even if we need 57 the last game."

Quotable

"I want to use this opportunity to publicly apologize to Brian for that bitterness. I'm going to make a point to see him on Sunday. He's been the man in this deal and I haven't. He's been the adult. I've been the childish one, and I want to end that right now. I still strongly disagree with it, but there's a difference in disagreeing with a decision and letting that decision bring bitterness in somebody." -- 49ers quarterback Trent Dilfer on the softening of his stance toward Ravens coach Brian Billick, who did not bring back Dilfer as Baltimore's starting quarterback the season after it won the Super Bowl. Dilfer will start for the injured Alex Smith today when the San Francisco 49ers host the Ravens at 4:15 p.m. today.

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