Despite winning a Super Bowl ring in New Orleans, Reggie Bush came to Miami this past summer with plenty to prove. He started slowly as the Dolphins dropped their first seven games, and a third consecutive losing season cost coach Tony Sparano his job.
Even so, by many measures this has become Bush’s best year.
In Sunday’s victory at Buffalo, Bush ran for a career-best 203 yards, which left him 27 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season. He also had a career-high 25 carries, further evidence to disprove skeptics who long questioned his toughness.
The Dolphins (5-9) face wholesale changes this offseason, but they’re set for 2012 at running back, where Bush has showed he can handle a full load that includes running between the tackles.
“It definitely means a lot,” he says. “It means that I’m doing everything that I expected I was going to be doing. This isn’t so much me being surprised this happened. It’s more the fact this is something I expected.”
After five seasons with the Saints, Bush embraced the trade to Miami because it meant a chance to be an every-down back for the first time. He never carried more than 157 times in New Orleans, and his workload declined each of the past three years.
Bush says he understood why many doubted whether he was built for more than a part-time role.
“I’m 205 pounds on a good day,” Bush said. “I don’t think any of the questions bother me. It was more the lack of opportunity that bothered me. I know what I can do when given the right opportunity.
“I understand the questions. I was hurt a few years and I wasn’t getting a lot of touches and yards. Rightfully so, people should be questioning whether I can do it or not. But I know given the opportunity, I can show that I can be a good back.”
Doubts persisted early this season, when the Dolphins were losing every week. Bush netted only 119 yards in the first four games and had a modest average of 3.0 yards per carry.
But they kept giving him the ball, and he began finding room to run. In the past 10 games he has rushed for 854 yards while averaging 5.5 per attempt.
He had only one 100-yard game with New Orleans but has reached the mark each of the past three weeks. His yardage at Buffalo exceeded his total for all of 2010.
“You talk about a spark plug for a team – he’s the guy,” Miami quarterback Matt Moore said.
Brees, Brady lead record charge
Drew Brees and Tom Brady are leading NFL quarterbacks on a record-setting pace this season.
Saints star Brees has 11 300-yard passing games in 2011, the most in a single season. There have been 105 300-yard passing performances this year, the most collectively in a season – with two weeks remaining on the schedule.
New England’s Brady threw for two TDs in a win at Denver and has 35 touchdowns passing in 2011. He joins Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 35 TD passes in three seasons.
Rookies also are setting marks. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton each have passed for more than 3,000 yards, the first time two rookie QBs have done it in the same season. Newton, the No. 1 overall draft pick in April by Carolina, is 17 yards away from Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 3,739 yards passing.
Around the league
Chicago Bears receiver Johnny Knox was placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery. Knox was taken from the field on a cart early in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks and had surgery a day later to stabilize a vetebra in his lower to mid back. … New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said he was feeling good and did not need follow-up tests after injuring his neck during the team’s game at Philadelphia on Sunday. Sanchez said he expects to take all the snaps in practice today. … Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has not yet been medically cleared to resume practice following a concussion, and it remains unclear if he will play again this season. Coach Pat Shurmur said McCoy is improving and remains day-to-day.