NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Reggie Bush had the breakout game New Orleans was waiting for, and the Saints maintained their hold on first place in the NFL South.

Bush tied Joe Horn’s franchise record by scoring all four of the Saints’ touchdowns and gained 168 total yards Sunday as New Orleans beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-10.

Most of Bush’s gains were modest, but his stunning acceleration, fancy footwork and leaping ability were evident in all of his touchdowns and numerous drive-sustaining plays. He finished with 131 yards on nine receptions and 37 yards on 10 rushes.

San Francisco was as close as 14-10 early in the third quarter after Alex Smith connected with Antonio Bryant for a 48-yard score. But Smith was done in on two subsequent passes intended for Bryant, both of which were intercepted by Mike McKenzie and led to 10 points for New Orleans.

That left Smith to watch Bush do the types of things he had seen many times before when the two were high school teammates in San Diego.

Bush’s first touchdown was a 1-yard dive over the pile, although the gain that set that up was even more impressive. The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner turned a short pass out of the backfield into a 14-yard gain by badly faking out a first defender on a stutter-step, then carrying a band of tacklers on his back down to the 1.

His second score came when Bush bounced outside and used his speed to gain the corner, stepping inside the pylon for an 8-yard touchdown run.

His slippery moves helped him snake through traffic for his third touchdown on Brees’ shovel pass on a third-and-goal from the 5.

Then he hurt the Niners by turning a short pass into a 74-yard gain to set up his fourth TD, a slicing 10-yard run in which he dived and stretched to reach the goal line while apparently getting the wind knocked out of him. After crouching for several seconds, he rose and jogged to the bench as the crowd chanted his name.

Missing leading receiver Marques Colston, who was inactive with a sprained ankle, and Joe Horn, who aggravated his previously injured groin on his first catch of the first quarter, Drew Brees failed to reach 300 yards passing for the first time in six games. He finished 17-of-28 for 186 yards.

The Saints also chose to run the ball more after taking the lead early in the second quarter, with Brees even adding a drive-extending 16-yard scramble in the third quarter.

Deuce McAllister rushed for 135 yards on 27 carries and the Saints rushed for 190 yards as a team.

The 49ers went ahead on Joe Nedney’s 29-yard field goal, finishing off a 13-play, 64-yard drive. Kick returner Michael Lewis helped New Orleans respond quickly. His 47-yard return near midfield set up a seven-play scoring drive capped by Bush’s first score to make it 7-3.

Bush’s second TD made it 14-3 at halftime.

After Bryant’s long touchdown, the 49ers caught the Saints napping and converted a clean, uncontested onside kick. But on the next play, Bryant fell down on a pass intended for him, allowing McKenzie to step in front for the interception. McKenzie returned the ball 54 yards to the San Francisco 6. The Niners forced a fourth-and-goal from the 1, and the Saints settled for John Carney’s 19-yard field goal and a 17-10 lead.

McKenzie dived in front of Bryant for his second interception on a long pass deep into Saints territory in the fourth quarter. That set up Bush’s long run and final touchdown, which made it 31-10.

Smith, who was sacked four times, finished 14-of-28 for 171 yards. The Saints’ held Frank Gore to only 40 yards rushing and 28 yards receiving.

AP-ES-12-03-06 1657EST


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