NEW ORLEANS — The question is complicated and asked often.
How do you replace a multi-talented, versatile player like Reggie Bush?
Here’s the simple two-word answer: Lance Moore.
Since Bush’s injury last Monday night against San Francisco when he recovered his muffed punt in a Saints win, coach Sean Payton has managed a flurry of questions about his star like an all-pro quarterback sidestepping an oncoming blitz.
With confidence and clarity.
Moore, the sixth-year receiver from Toledo, electrified the Louisiana Superdome crowd with a 72-yard punt return to the Falcons’ 6 before the Who Dat Nation could stand up and Get Crunked.
Call it 2010 AB, as in 2010 after Bush.
Little did the Saints faithful know, he was just getting started.
Moore finished with six catches for a career-high 149 yards and two scores, including an 80-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter for an early 14-7 lead.
It would be easy to say had Bush been healthy, the outcome would have been different than a 27-24 Falcons’ overtime win on Sunday.
And those who say that would be wrong.
Turnovers, missed opportunities and the inability to stop the run are the culprits in this one.
What is clear, however, is how the touches that normally go to Bush will be distributed until his return.
“It’s the story of my career,” said the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Moore, who has started only 10 games for the Saints since 2005. “You never know when it is coming, but you have to be ready when it does.”
There is truth to the notion that great players make great coaches, but the New Orleans offense may be the exception to that theory. This offense, with Payton as its architect, simply plugs in another player and goes about its efficient business.
Moore is Exhibit A after catching just 14 passes in seven games last season.
“Lance is one of my favorite teammates,” Brees said. “He is a playmaker. Obviously, he is a guy that we want to get opportunities to. He’s a big-play guy and you saw that today.”
There is no question that Bush would make this offense better. The former Southern Cal star is like leather seats. They are nice to have in your car but not a necessity in trying to get to where you want to go.
No, there are only two musts in this offense. First is Payton, who excels with great players but also gets more out of his players than anyone else in the league with his ability to exploit specific match-ups. Moore’s second score of the day came on a 16-yard catch at the end of the third quarter when he was matched with a linebacker, a play usually reserved for Bush.