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Bush scores first NFL TD on punt return, Saints win

Oct 8, 2006 - 8:51 PM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Reggie Bush picked the perfect time to get his first NFL touchdown.

Bush had another solid all-around game and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a punt return in the fourth quarter as the New Orleans Saints continued their surprising start with a 24-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the Saints (4-1) trailing 21-17 with 4 1/2 minutes to play, Bush fielded a punt at the New Orleans 35 and finally got to show the explosiveness he exhibited during a brilliant college career at Southern California.

The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner raced to his right, made one Buccaneer defender miss and sprinted up the sideline for a 65-yard TD.

"I think I was at my most comfortable point (of the season) today," Bush said. "When I turned that corner, I had to turn on the jets. It was so wide open. Once I got past that first guy, it was wide open.

"A lot of credit goes to my teammates, who were out there blocking. All I had to do was make one guy miss, and from there it was daylight."

Coming in leading all rookies and NFL running backs in receptions, Bush finished with 11 catches for 63 yards, added 23 yards rushing on nine carries and had 75 yards on three punt returns.

"Hats off to Reggie Bush. He made a great play," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "He lived up to his expectations today. He's a fast guy. He plays like a wide receiver."

Tampa Bay (0-4) trailed 17-7 in the third quarter but rallied to take the lead behind rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.

A sixth-round pick out of Toledo who was making his first career start, Gradkowski completed 20-of-31 passes for 225 yards and two TDs. He threw a three-yard scoring pass to tight end Alex Smith with 10:03 to play to give the Buccaneers a 21-17 lead.

Gradkowski acquitted himself well while starting in place of Chris Simms, who had his spleen removed following a 26-24 loss to Carolina on September 24.

Less than five minutes into the game, Gradkowski hit Joey Galloway with an 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead. Galloway finished with four receptions for 110 yards.

"(Gradkowski's) off to a very good start. He's a hard-nosed man and he played his brains out," Gruden said. "I liked everything about him. We used the audible, the no-huddle. Not a lot of rookies have done what he's done on the road against a very good team. He's a very exciting young prospect."

Coming off their first loss of the season, a 21-18 setback at Carolina last week, the Saints took a 10-7 lead at the half. John Carney kicked a 21-yard field goal late in the first quarter and Deuce McAllister ran for a 24-yard TD with 1:44 left in the second.

McAllister finished with 123 yards on 15 carries, although 117 of those yards came in the first half.

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who had rushed for just 107 yards on 42 attempts and one touchdown in three games, had 111 yards on 20 carries for Tampa Bay.

"We did some things well, just not enough of them," Galloway said. "We're 0-4, and no one here expected that. But that's where we are. We'll correct our mistakes tomorrow and move on."

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