FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was a vanilla, simple play. Botched, it probably looked like a rookie mistake. Or maybe just an indicator that Reggie Bush is no average seven-year veteran running back.
With 4:13 left in the third quarter of Sunday’s season-finishing 28-0 loss to the Patriots, and the Dolphins on New England’s 3-yard line, Ryan Tannehill took the snap and stuffed the ball right in Bush’s stomach. Bush had his feet set. His hands were in position. He just dropped it.
Dont’a Hightower took the late holiday gift, happily falling on the ball and securing an eventual shutout, the first time all season that Miami didn’t score a point.
In the last game of his seventh season in the NFL, the 27-year-old Bush ran for just 26 yards on eight carries. The lackluster effort marked the fourth time this year Bush failed to run for 30 yards, as he fell short of the 1,000-yard mark by 14.
With his two-year, $10 million contract coming to a close (he said he’ll sit down with his agent soon, but declined to discuss his future Sunday), Bush gave a reminder that, while he does have seven years of experience, he’s still learning.
“If you think about it, his experience in New Orleans was good, but it wasn’t as much as he’s doing now,” said backup quarterback Matt Moore, who, like Bush, joined Miami in 2011 and will head to free agency this offseason.
Through five seasons with the Saints, Bush averaged just 105 carries per season, or about 10 carries a game (he appeared in 50 games with New Orleans). He surpassed the 200-carry mark twice with Miami.
“But I think that might have prolonged his career a little bit,” Moore said. “Just watching him the past two years, his game as a runner has elevated. He’s rushed for more yards than he has in his career. I think he’s only going to get better.
“His time is not short by any means. The way he takes care of himself and the way he works, he can play as long as he wants to.”
Despite being a feature back for two years in a row, Bush entered Sunday ranked 16th among active rushers with 959 career attempts. And for the first time since his rookie season, he played all 16 games.
Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin said Bush was just as explosive in Week 16 as he was in Week 1.
“No question,” Martin said. “I think he’s an elite running back.”
Before Bush joined the Dolphins, they ranked 21st in the NFL with 102 rushing yards per game. The last two years, they’ve been 11th and 13th in the league.
“That guy deserved [1,000 yards this season] more than anybody,” center Mike Pouncey said. “He’s the guy that comes in every day and works harder than everybody. I wish we could have gotten it done for him.”
Among the last players to leave the locker room to board the Dolphins bus for possibly the last time, Bush was asked how his body felt now, compared with season’s end in years past, and said, “Pretty much the same, man. It’s always the same.”