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Bush and McAllister

There's been a lot of ink spilled about Reggie Bush's rookie season with the Saints, not least about how he hasn't set the world on fire. Of all places, the New York Times had a decent article today about how Sean Payton managed to keep both Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush productive in the Saints' offense...

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 17 -- Like many landmark moments in the history of this city, the phone call came just after the minestrone soup and just before the redfish.

Caught between his appetizer and his entrée, Sean Payton answered the phone in the middle of Emeril's Restaurant last April 27. When he hung up, he simply pulled out a pen and started doodling on a cocktail napkin.

Any of the patrons eating at Emeril's that night could have peeked over at Payton's napkin and seen the opening chapter of the New Orleans Saints' playbook.

Payton, the Saints' rookie head coach, had already diagrammed plays for one star tailback. But the phone call changed everything. Now he had to diagram plays for two.

The dinner at Emeril's has become part of Saints' lore. It was there that Payton first learned that the Houston Texans were passing on Reggie Bush in the draft, and it was there that Payton first scribbled plays with both Bush and Deuce McAllister on the field.

When faced with concerns from both players about approach:

Payton was busy studying the 2005 U.S.C. Trojans, who managed to split one football among Bush, tailback LenDale White and quarterback Matt Leinart. At the end of the season, the players were all still friends, and they all became high draft picks.

Payton already had quarterback Drew Brees as his Leinart. He was going to use McAllister the same way Southern California used White. Bush, naturally, would play Bush. N.F.L. coaches do not generally copy college teams, but the 2005 Trojans were no ordinary college team.

"It was very similar and very easy for me to adjust," Bush said. "Deuce is a big bruiser-type back and I'm more of a scat back -- with some power."

And it certainly seems to have worked thus far:

By design or not, Payton keeps the tailbacks equally involved. This season, McAllister has touched the ball 300 times; Bush has touched the ball 289 times. McAllister has 1,418 total yards and 12 touchdowns; Bush has 1,618 total yards and 10 touchdowns.

And the final thought re: young Mr. Bush:

No one in the N.F.L. really doubted that Bush could run outside, catch passes and return punts. What he has proved during these playoffs, though, is that he can come back from the kind of hit he never had to take at U.S.C.

On the second snap of Saturday's game, Bush was laid out by Philadelphia's Sheldon Brown with one of the most vicious blows of the season. Bush tried to get up, fell to his knees and crawled across the Superdome floor.

For a moment, the bonus baby from Southern California looked as though he might ask out. Then he got up for good.

"There have been a few times this year that Reggie has done something big and I've looked over at Deuce right afterward," said Mike Karney, the Saints' fullback. "He's always cheering."

Bush got up? But I thought we only played pansy football in the Pac-10? Next thing you're going to tell me that Maurice Jones-Drew has turned into a mini-power-running back or something preposterous like that.