Reggie Bush vs. Ben Leber and Chad Greenway
Every team has a player that is their offensive sparkplug. For the Vikings, that player is Adrian Peterson. For the New Orleans Saints, that person is Reggie Bush. Perhaps no team in the league uses a running back in the same way that the Saints use Bush. He is the team's leading rusher, the league's leading receiver and one of the most dangerous return men in the game. In tonight's game, it will be the job of linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber to contain Bush and keep him from making the big play that swings momentum away from the Vikings – making this the mnatchup to watch this week.
It can be argued that few players are as overrated as Bush, because despite having electrifying speed, his average per rush and per reception are extremely low. Last season, Bush had 230 touches (157 rushing attempts and 73 receptions), but didn't have a play that covered more than 25 yards. He averaged 3.7 yards per rushing attempt and just 5.7 yards per reception, but those numbers don't tell the entire story.
Bush has already eclipsed both of those numbers this season and has four touchdowns in the Saints' first four games – one rushing, two receiving and one on a punt return. He is used like few other running backs in that he isn't viewed as the primary between-the-tackles runner. That would be veteran Deuce McAllister. But what Bush does has an impact on a defense like few others do.
In an average series, if the Saints run 10 plays, at least half of them have Bush either lined up as a wide receiver or put in motion. When he moves, so do several members of the defense. He is a player that defenses must keep an eye on and keep in containment. That is where Leber and Greenway come in.
The Saints have the league's most potent passing offense, despite being without leading receiver Marques Colston for all but three quarters of the season and without tight end Jeremy Shockey for the last two games. They incorporate a vertical pass offense that attacks deep down the field and leaves huge areas of the field uncovered by design. It is this aspect of the game that makes Bush so dangerous.
Because of the deep passes that are such a staple of the Saints passing attack, the defensive linemen are going to be on orders to rush quarterback Drew Brees so he won't have time to throw 50-yard passes. Unlike other teams who drop their defensive ends into coverage to take away screens to Bush, the Vikings aren't going to go away from their basic philosophy of bringing pressure from the outside. They will be coming with the heat and leaving Greenway and Leber on an island.
With the Saints offense crippled without their two starting wide receivers (Colston and David Patten) and their starting tight end (Shockey), it can be argued that the team will rely even more on Bush, who is averaging 13 rushing attempts and eight receptions a game. It wouldn't be inconceivable to see Bush rushing a dozen times and catch a dozen passes. His ability to make a big play is his calling card and it will be the top priority of the Vikings to make sure that, if the Saints hurt them offensively, that it doesn't come from Bush – making his battle with Greenway and Leber in the open field this week's key matchup.
Matchup to watch: Bush vs. Greenway/Leber
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