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NEW ORLEANS 19, CLEVELAND 14

Bush Is Satisfied With Debut

September 11, 2006|From the Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Reggie Bush strolled down the hallway toward the team bus wearing a backpack, a blue Dodgers baseball cap and a smile. He looked like a college kid headed home from class.

School may be over for Bush, but on Sunday he passed his first pro test. "I would probably give myself a 'B,' " he said. "I didn't get in the end zone."

Bush didn't dazzle, but he didn't disappoint in his pro debut. He and Drew Brees led the rebuilt New Orleans Saints to a season-opening 19-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Bush, whose arrival in New Orleans has given the city's football fans renewed optimism after Hurricane Katrina's devastation, finished with 141 total yards. The Heisman Trophy winner had 61 yards rushing in 14 carries, caught eight passes for 58 yards and returned three punts for 22.

He never got loose on one of the trademark breakaways he made commonplace at USC, and a few times he would have been better off falling down than trying to escape tacklers.

"I just wanted us to get a win," Bush said. "I wasn't focused on anything else. This was a perfect first step."

John Carney kicked four field goals, the last one with 5 minutes 42 seconds left, and Brees, who signed a six-year, $60-million free-agent contract in March, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to rookie Marques Colston in the third quarter.

The Saints also got 90 yards in 22 carries from Deuce McAllister, making his return after sitting out the final 11 games last season because of knee surgery.

New Orleans didn't put away rookie Coach Sean Payton's first win until the final two minutes, when safety Josh Bullocks intercepted a pass that deflected off the hands of Braylon Edwards in New Orleans territory.

The frustration was too familiar for the Browns. On their first play on offense, Edwards got behind the Saints' defense for a 74-yard touchdown reception that got called back by a penalty.

The Browns fell to 1-7 in openers since returning to the league in 1999, and Coach Romeo Crennel was short with reporters afterward.

"The other team played better than we did," snapped Crennel.

"Are you angry?" he was asked.

"I'm just peachy," he said.

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