Buccaneers 21

(0-4, 0-2 away)

Saints 24

(4-1, 2-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, October 8, 2006

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 7 0 7 721
NO 3 7 7 724

Top Performers

Passing: B. Gradkowski (TB) - 225 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: D. McAllister (NO) - 15 CAR, 123 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Galloway (TB) - 4 REC, 110 YDS, 1 TD

Bush makes first NFL touchdown a game-winner 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With a few waves, Reggie Bush beckoned the crowd to its feet as he awaited a critical punt. Soon, he would have all of them in ecstasy.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...
Saints quarterback Drew Brees (right) played mistake-free football and relied on running back Deuce McAllister.

The Buccaneers did a good job on the back end in coverage by being physical on the perimeter and disrupting the flow of the Saints' passing attack. But the Saints attacked on the ground to set up their short, controlled passing attack against a fast, aggressive Buccaneers defense.

Again, the Saints' defense struggled against the run as the Buccaneers controlled the line of scrimmage. Rookie quarterback Bruce Gradowski gave the Saints a few problems with his mobility and reacted well to blitz pressure.

Shut out of the end zone in his first four games as a pro, Bush took the punt 65 yards with under five minutes to lift the New Orleans Saints to a 24-21 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Bush escaped the Buccaneers' initial pursuit by scampering across the field to his right, then accelerating quickly as he cut upfield, leaving several defenders grasping for air as bedlam erupted in the Louisiana Superdome. He pointed at the fans in the end-zone seats as he scored.

"When you see Reggie take those high steps, you know he's bound to make something happen," Saints defensive end Charles Grant said. "I knew he was gone."

The celebration was interrupted briefly while referees sorted out a flag thrown against the Buccaneers, then fans jubilantly chanted "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as the score was made official. Bush was hugged by numerous teammates as he made his way back to the sideline.

While it was only his fifth game as a pro, his first touchdown seemed a long time coming for a player drafted with immense fanfare after winning the Heisman Trophy at USC. After all, rookie receiver Marques Colston, drafted in the seventh round and making millions of dollars less, already had three scores.

"Once I turned that corner I was just trying to turn on the jets," Bush said. "It was so wide open the slowest guy in the world probably could have scored that touchdown. The monkey's off my back now."

Peppered with questions recently about whether he was frustrated or pressing, Bush responded he did not care about scoring as long as the surprising Saints, now 4-1 and atop the NFC South, kept winning. They might not have beaten Tampa Bay if not for him.

"He's a guy who can change games -- and today he changed one," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

The runback spoiled a valiant effort by winless Tampa Bay (0-4), which rallied from a 10-point deficit to take the lead in the second half.

"I tip my hat to Reggie Bush," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "He lived up to his expectations today. Shame on him."

Tampa Bay might have regained the lead if not for an untimely penalty that often goes uncalled.

Joey Galloway, the Bucs' top receiver on the day, was flagged for setting a pick on defensive back Jason Craft, wiping out a long pass to Ike Hilliard that would have set up a first-and-goal. The drive stalled and the Saints ran the clock down to under 30 seconds before giving the ball back to the Buccaneers.

Elias Says
Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush became the first rookie in NFL history to score a game-winning touchdown on a punt return in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime. Bush scored on a 65-yard punt return with 4:17 remaining in the Saints' 24-21 win over the Bucs. (Honorable mention to Tamarick Vanover, who scored a game-winning punt-return TD in 1995, his first season in the NFL. But Vanover was not a rookie because he had played in the CFL.)

• For more Elias Says, click here

Craft had seen the Bucs get away with a similar pick earlier in the game and specifically asked the referees to look for it. As soon as he ran into Galloway and lost track of Hilliard, Craft turned to the referee with his hand out.

"Before I knew it I just got cracked and I'm looking for a flag," Craft said. "Luckily, the ref was watching out for it ... because I couldn't do anything about it. It was over with for me."

Gruden was seething with a scrunched face and spittle-spewing shouts of anger immediately after the call. He was more diplomatic after the game.

"I couldn't see it from where I was," Gruden said. "It's a play we've used a lot in certain situations. We'll see the tape. All I can say is that it's unfortunate."

Bucs quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, pressed into service because of Chris Simms' ruptured spleen, made only one costly mistake, fumbling while being sacked near his 20-yard line -- a turnover that led to a New Orleans touchdown.

Otherwise, he hardly looked like a rookie making his first NFL start on hostile ground.

He completed 20 of 31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He hooked up with Galloway four times for 110 yards, once for an 18-yard TD and once on a 52-yard pass that set up Mike Alstott's 1-yard touchdown run.

"There is a lot of promise in that young guy. He played his brains out," Gruden said. "I like everything about him."

Gradkowski's 3-yard touchdown pass to Alex Smith on third-down gave Tampa Bay a 21-17 lead.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Gradkowski said. "There's a lot of good that came out of this game. Guys made great plays, the receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen were blocking their butts off ... running the ball well."

Deuce McAllister helped the Saints take a 10-7 lead into the half with a tackler-shedding, 57-yard carry that set up a field goal. He added a 24-yard touchdown run, had 117 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 123.

Drew Brees was 21-of-33 for 171 yards and one touchdown, to tight end Ernie Conwell from 9 yards that gave the Saints a 17-7 lead in the third quarter.

But Tampa Bay roared back behind big plays from Gradkowski and the running game. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams had 111 yards rushing on 20 carries. His 34-yard carry to the New Orleans 6 set up the Buccaneers' final touchdown.

Game notes

Saints receiver Devery Henderson was inactive despite practicing for several days this week. He also missed the Saints' previous game with a sore shoulder. ... Conwell's touchdown catch was his first since the third week of the 2005 season at Minnesota. ... Saints safety Roman Harper hurt his left knee.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1815
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6658
Total Yards406314
Yards per play6.25.4
Total Drives1312
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-31-2
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

tbTD10:55Joey Galloway, 18 yd pass from Bruce Gradkowski (Matt Bryant kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 61 yds, 3:08
noFG1:15John Carney 21 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 83 yds, 5:04
noTD1:52Deuce McAllister, 24 yd run (John Carney kick is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 88 yds, 4:05
noTD5:59Ernie Conwell, 9 yd pass from Drew Brees (John Carney kick is good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 25 yds, 1:33
tbTD2:55Mike Alstott, 1 yd run (Matt Bryant kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 74 yds, 3:02
tbTD10:08Alex Smith, 3 yd pass from Bruce Gradkowski
Drive info: 5 plays, 40 yds, 1:46
noTD4:33Reggie Bush, 15 yd punt return (John Carney kick is good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 5 yds, 1:59