"Did we drop that many passes?" he asked Brown.
"No, hell no," Brown said.
"I mean, we dropped our share," Alworth said, "but not as many as today. We didn't get thrown to that much, so we had to make do with what we got."
The rule changes in 1978 that limited defensive backs to one bump of the receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage dealt a severe blow to the big, physical cornerback.
"You would escape Willie's first bump," Alworth said, "and you thought you were free, and wham, you'd get it again—from where you didn't expect it. It was always something to be concerned about, always something to get you off balance. Now even that first bump seems like a dying art. You don't see receivers knocked off balance the way they used to be. It's not really taught in the colleges or the pros."
"There are guys who can still do it, but not many," Brown said. " Albert Lewis of the Chiefs can; he's the best. Terry McDaniel of the Raiders is a comer. The problem is technique. Guys don't know what to do after they miss the bump."
"Number one," Alworth said, "you don't miss."
"But they do miss," Brown said, "and then I see them panic. 'Oh, hell, now he's going to go deep on me.' So they turn and they're running, running from behind. They don't know where to go. Next time, they're scared, and they're giving ground."
The new rules also brought in a new type of receiver, the 5'8", 160-pounder, who was practically unknown in the old era, when a Willie Brown or a Mel Blount of the Pittsburgh Steelers would knock him five yards off his pattern.
"There's still a place for the big receiver," Alworth said. "I like watching Art Monk, the way he fights for the ball. You don't see a lot of guys doing that. And Jerry Rice is in a class by himself."