While the Bills running back is a rare breed, given his deadly speed and incomparable agility, there is another player, in the same division even, who possesses those same weapons in his arsenal.
Reggie Bush has been causing problems for NFL defenses for seven seasons now and, like a fine wine, the back continues to become more elegant with age. That is where the comparisons to Spiller, and the concerns of Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, begin.
“Absolutely, he’s a dynamic player. I think you have to know wherever he is when he’s on the field,” Belichick said of Bush. “He could be in the backfield, they could hand him the ball, they could throw him the ball and he can get it in a lot of different ways.
“It’s similar to Spiller, that type of player, very hard to match up with in coverage. He’s a tough guy to defend. You have to know where he is.”
Just like Spiller, Bush has game-breaking speed and the skillful moves that send chills down defenders’ spines while watching film — and on game days. But while Spiller is using that versatility to dominate defenses this season, Bush has been doing it for going on seven years now.
Belichick’s concerns can be understood, given Bush’s track record — over 1,300 total yard last season — and after witnessing Spiller slice up the Patriots’ defense for 131 total yards on just 13 touches three weeks ago. So, with that skill set ready for another go at the Patriots this weekend, Belichick knows his defense will need to be prepared.
“There’s no question, you can’t line up out there and not know whether he’s in the backfield or offset or out of the backfield. You have to have an awareness of him,” Belichick added. “He can take the ball on any ball and be a check-down or a handoff or a screen or anything and go 60, 70 yards. You make a mistake on him, he’ll make you pay for it.”
That sort of breakaway speed hasn’t really been on display since Bush suffered a knee injury in a Week 3 loss to the Jets. At that point, Bush was averaging over 100 yards per game and seemed on track to compete for the rushing title he coveted so dearly at season’s start. Since then, Bush has struggled to find consistency, even getting benched in a loss to the Titans, and just didn’t seem like the same playmaker who single-handedly made teams second-guess their defensive schemes before, during and after facing him.
Last week, Bush saw a resurgence in his play, though, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown against a stingy Seattle defense. That is the type of performance that can set off a domino effect of sorts, and the Patriots may be the unlucky ones first in line to fall victim to it..
Devin McCourty, who has really embraced his role as defensive captain, understands the rare talent Bush possesses and the challenges he’ll present on Sunday.
“He’s a guy that’s so athletic in his vision. A lot of guys have good vision, but not everybody has the ability to go one way and cut all the way across the field and make a guy miss,” McCourty said. “He’s a dynamic player, and the biggest thing is he can go the distance everywhere on the field. So, it’ll be a team effort to try and stop it.”
With that blazing speed and those Barry Sanders-esque moves, Bush is a challenge not to be overlooked. And the Patriots are making sure the only thing Bush is able to elude on Sunday is the end zone.