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Bush explodes as Saints roll past 49ers

NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 3, 2006) -- Like his father, Reggie Bush was a 49ers fan growing up.

Not in Week 13.

With San Francisco in town, Bush's father, LaMar Griffin, attended a game in the Louisiana Superdome for the first time since his son turned pro, wearing Bush's No. 25 Saints jersey. Bush delighted his parents and everyone else wearing black and gold, showing like never before that all those electrifying plays he made in high school and college could translate to the NFL.

"Obviously, I haven't had the flashy runs or the breakthrough game like everybody has been expecting, but at the same time, I'm adjusting to the NFL. I'm learning," Bush said. "It's the kind of a game I've been waiting for, too. It finally came today."

Bush tied Joe Horn's franchise record by scoring all four of the Saints' touchdowns and gained 168 total yards as New Orleans beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-10. The victory helped New Orleans (8-4) remain alone in first place in the NFC South, while reducing the 49ers (5-7) to playoff longshots.

Most of Bush's gains were modest, but his stunning acceleration, fancy footwork and leaping ability were evident in all of his touchdowns and numerous drive-sustaining plays. He finished with 131 yards on nine receptions and 37 yards on 10 rushes.

It was fitting that Bush looked more comfortable than he had previously in his young pro career, since so many elements from his past had converged in this game.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith was Bush's high school quarterback in San Diego. They won a pair of championships together. Their high school coach also was at the game. And Bush said he needed an outlet after watching his alma mater, Southern California, lose its chance for a national title by falling to rival UCLA a night earlier.

"I was sick last night. I wanted to throw up. I couldn't believe they lost," Bush said. "I had a little extra aggression and I wanted to take it out on the 49ers."

San Francisco was as close as 14-10 early in the third quarter after Smith connected with Antonio Bryant for a 48-yard score. But Smith was done in on two subsequent passes intended for Bryant, both of which were intercepted by Mike McKenzie and led to 10 points for New Orleans.

That left Smith to watch Bush do the types of things he had seen many times before when the two were high school teammates.

"He's a special talent. I knew it from early on ... He's unique," Smith said. "He has a lot of potential, a lot of game-breaking potential."

Bush's first touchdown was a 1-yard dive over the pile, although the gain that set that up was even more impressive. The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner turned a short pass out of the backfield into a 14-yard gain by badly faking out a first defender on a stutter-step, then carrying a band of tacklers on his back down to the 1.

"At some point the athlete takes over and there's only so much you can draw on the drawing board," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "I'm sure the fans were all waiting for that breakout game where he just takes the game over."

Bush's second score came when he bounced outside and used his speed to gain the corner, stepping inside the pylon for an 8-yard touchdown run. His slippery moves helped him snake through traffic for his third touchdown on Brees' shovel pass on a third-and-goal from the 5.

Then he put the game away by turning a short pass into a 74-yard gain to set up his fourth TD, a slicing 10-yard run in which he dived and stretched to reach the goal line while taking a hard hit. After crouching for several seconds, he rose and jogged to the bench as the crowd chanted, "REG-GIE, REG-GIE."

Missing leading receiver Marques Colston, who was inactive with a sprained ankle, and Horn, who aggravated his previously injured groin on his first catch of the first quarter, Brees failed to reach 300 yards passing for the first time in six games. He finished 17 of 28 for 186 yards.

Deuce McAllister rushed for 135 yards on 27 carries, including a successful fourth-and-1 conversion, and the Saints rushed for 190 yards as a team.

Smith, who was sacked four times, finished 14 of 28 for 171 yards. The Saints held Frank Gore to only 40 yards rushing and 28 yards receiving.

Notes: San Francisco offensive lineman Adam Snyder had to be helped off the field with an apparent injury to his right leg in the first quarter. He was taken to the locker room on a cart and did not return. ... Saints owner Tom Benson drew a big applause when he spoke to fans from the sideline during the two-minute warning, thanked them for selling out the Louisiana Superdome for the season, and announced a freeze on season-ticket prices for next year.

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