Saints in tough at running back

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

TORONTO - The legs just got kicked out from under the New Orleans’ Saints hopes of a repeat Super Bowl party.

“That’s tough,” quarterback Drew Brees said after learning the Saints had lost both of its top power running backs for the remainder of the playoffs. Pierre Thomas has been placed on injured reserve with an ankle that bent the wrong way. That came one day after leading rusher Chris Ivory went bust with a left foot injury that occurred during Sunday’s season finale.

“You can’t deny this hurts just because of the physical presence they bring and obviously their productivity,” Brees said.

So the Saints are reloading at running back with Reggie Bush and Julius Jones. Bush missed eight games himself with a fracture in his leg and has rushed for only 150 yards and hasn’t scored a TD this season. But he is a game-breaking type of runner and Jones is a scat-back. There are still a lot of teams on which they would be the go-to running backs. But one thing they don’t give the Saints is that power running game to grind out yardage late in games.

“Naturally, I’m going to have to step up,” Bush said. And he did look quicker and faster Sunday when he had 70 yards rushing on just nine carries. He also caught five passes.

What it means is that the Saints still should have plenty of horsepower to get past Seattle and its 7-9 season record Saturday in the wild card. The Seahawks aren’t exactly a well-oiled machine. It wasn’t until Thursday after practice that coach Pete Carroll finally confirmed Matt Hasselbeck as his starting quarterback.

Brees, meantime, is optimistic that the versatility of the Saints offence will help overcome the loss of Ivory and Thomas.

“In the end, you just work to the strengths of the guys that you have. You don’t worry about what you don’t have, just what you have,” Brees said. “While you would love to have all of the guys and all of the elements that they bring, I feel like Reggie Bush can do some pretty special stuff and Julius Jones can do some pretty special stuff ... You realize that the passing game may have to pick up some slack.”

As the playoffs approached the Saints had been optimistic their offence would be better with Thomas, who scored memorable touchdowns in both the NFC title game and Super Bowl last season.

After a left ankle injury limited him to six games, he appeared solid gaining 102 yards in Week 16. But he aggravated the injury in practice last week and sat out the season finale.

His absence might not become a fatal flaw this week against the slum-lord Seahawks. But it could get tricky after that when they’ll have to face tougher defences in either Atlanta or Chicago.

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bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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