Young, Bush hope to shine on MNF stage

The last time Reggie Bush and Vince Young squared off, a national title was on the line in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, 2006.

On that night, Young put his Texas Longhorns teammates on his back and led them to a stunning come-from-behind 41-38 victory over Bush's USC Trojans. A few months later, Bush and Young became the second and third overall draft choices for the Saints and Titans, respectively, and helped jump-start their moribund franchises.

That's what makes Monday's game so intriguing.

"You have two guys, two up-and-coming guys in the league who are kind of faces of their teams," Bush said. "And then the fact that we played against each other in college and it was such a great game. Obviously he won that battle. That's what it's about.

"You have two up-and-coming athletes who are the face of their franchise coming in playing on Monday Night Football on a national stage. The game's all built up to be a great game."

And for the Saints, it might be a must-win game. After making an improbable run to the NFC title game that became the story of 2006, the Saints' 0-2 start this season has drawn "one-hit wonder" accusations.

The Saints have been outscored by 48 points, and they've given up five touchdown passes of 24 yards or more. If you really want to be cruel, they've been outscored 111-38 over their last three games, going back to last season's 39-14 playoff loss in Chicago. This season, Bush has 22 carries for 65 yards and has scored one less touchdown than the player taken ahead of him in the 2006 draft, Texans defensive end Mario Williams.

After being torched by Peyton Manning and Jeff Garcia on the road, the Saints may be looking forward to playing a Titans team that has lived and died by the run.

"We've got to stay the course but play together," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "The big thing is that they[the players] don't sense panic. Our job as coaches is to make them relax so they can just play."

Drew Brees has completed more than 63 percent of his passes, but for only 5.3 yards per completion. He's also thrown three interceptions, been sacked three times and fumbled once.

"I think we've made it more complicated than it is by trying to make every play and be perfect," he said. "We need to simply be loose, get some confidence and get our swagger back. Every phase of the team has been subpar."

Part of the problem is the Saints' offensive line -- it's been awful. All-Pro left tackle Jammal Brown was embarrassed by Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney in Week 1, and now he faces Titans Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had 10 tackles and a sack against the Colts last Sunday.

After producing a combined 19 sacks during the 2005-06 seasons, Vanden Bosch was moved to the right side where he's playing next to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who had six tackles, a sack and a pressure against Peyton Manning last week.

The move put the talented Vanden Bosch in a position in which he would have more one-on-one matchups. He and Haynesworth have become a formidable duo, using stunts to confuse blockers. The improved play along the defensive line has allowed linebackers Keith Bulluck and Ryan Fowler to make plays.

On offense, the Titans have relied mostly on the run. Young hasn't done much damage through the air, but he has 16 carries for 75 yards last week, putting the Titans on the verge of pulling an upset against the Colts. The Colts used safety Bob Sanders to help neutralize Young, but the Saints don't have a player of that caliber.

"He's pretty impressive," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said of Young. "The way he breaks tackles is impressive. He breaks every arm tackle everybody attempts. You can talk about their passing game not [being] that sharp, but their third-down conversions are 50 percent."

Will Bush and Young put on the kind of show last seen at the Rose Bowl? Those two players combined for 644 yards of offense (467 by Young, 177 by Bush) in the title game, so it will be tough. But don't be surprised if two of the NFL's bright young stars shine on the "Monday Night Football" stage.

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com.