Bush closes in on 1,000-yard season
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – After spending most of the first two months of the season as Darren McFadden’s backup, Michael Bush seemed to have little chance to reach the 1,000-yard milestone coveted by NFL running backs.
With McFadden slated to miss his eighth straight game with a sprained right foot, however, Bush is now getting in range of that target. He has 841 yards rushing this season for the Raiders (7-7) with two games remaining, starting with Saturday’s visit to Kansas City.
“Every back wants to get 1,000 yards,” Bush said. “The o-line has been doing a good job. I bring it every week, so hopefully we get that number and let everyone know how good a job the offensive line is doing even though we’re missing Darren. It’s always nice to get 1,000 yards. It lets everyone know how hard they have been working. It all just goes hand in hand.”
Bush has had some of his best performances against the Chiefs during his four seasons in the NFL, including a 137-yard performance in the season finale at Kansas City a year ago that helped the Raiders avoid an eighth straight losing season.
His 497 yards rushing in seven games against Kansas City are his most versus any opponent and the 71 yards per game are the most against any team he has played more than once.
“I personally like playing in their stadium,” Bush said. “Their fans are always loud and against you and hostile, and I love it.”
There’s much more on the line Saturday as Oakland needs to win to keep alive its hopes of winning the AFC West. The Raiders also likely need to win to have any chance at a wild-card berth, making this one of the most important games for the franchise in years.
The fact that the Raiders are in this position despite losing their most dynamic offensive player in McFadden midway through the season is a credit in part to Bush’s play.
Bush is sixth in the NFL in yards rushing per game since McFadden went down in the first quarter against the Chiefs on Oct. 23, averaging 87.9 yards per contest. He has been a workhorse during that span, with only three other backs averaging more than his 21.4 carries per game, showing that he can be a lead back if given the chance.
He has also shown that he is a versatile back with 33 catches for 381 yards.
“I am always one of those guys that when it’s my turn, I am always taking advantage of it,” he said.
That opportunity could come soon as Bush is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason if the Raiders do not place the franchise tag on him or sign him to a long-term deal before the start of the new league year.
Bush has not wanted to talk about his impending free agency, focusing instead on a strong finish to this season.
His performance has lagged a bit in recent weeks, perhaps a reflection of the heavy workload. After averaging 5.3 yards per carry in his first three games as the primary back, he has been held to 3.3 yards per carry over the past five games.
He has been limited in practice this week by a shoulder injury but is expected to play.
“He’s carried the ball quite a bit,” coach Hue Jackson said. “There was a stretch there where he was averaging 30 attempts a game. At some point in time that catches up to you. He hasn’t carried as much the past couple of weeks. We’ve played some physical teams and he’s been slamming that ball up in there the way you have to run the ball. He’s done an excellent job.”
The Chiefs are expecting to see plenty of those opportunities on Saturday, knowing the Raiders offense is built off the running game and Bush is the only reliable back right now.
“He’s big, he runs hard, he’s fast, and when you get him to the second level he’s extremely hard to tackle,” Chiefs interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “He can catch also. I forgot to mention that. He’s the total package.”
Notes: Jackson said it is unlikely WR Jacoby Ford (left foot), S Michael Huff (hamstring) or DT John Henderson (knee) would be able to play after missing all three practices this week. … WR Denarius Moore is expected to return punts in his second game back from a foot injury.