Delaney has blinding speed—10.3 for 100 meters in college, 4.36 for 40 yards—but it's that unexpected cutback, the surprising disdain he shows for tacklers, that helped him break such biggies as a 61-yard pass play in a 27-0 defeat of Oakland on Oct. 11 and the 82-yarder that sewed up the 28-14 win over Denver on Oct. 18. It's a dangerous way to travel, but it's given the Chiefs something they haven't had in a long time—an offense with real zip to it.
How ironic that for four years Andra Franklin was the plow horse back at Nebraska, blocking for such noted I-backs as I.M. Hipp and Jarvis Redwine and Rick Berns, and now Franklin is the second leading ballcarrier for the Dolphins, and that Cornhusker trio is nowhere, nowhere and nowhere. How ironic that Miami Coach Don Shula prayed that Pitt's Randy McMillan would be available on the first round of the draft and, when he wasn't, settled for Oklahoma's David Overstreet, picking up Franklin one round later as insurance; and now Franklin has gained 63 yards more than McMillan, who plays for the Colts, while Over-street has fumbled his season away in Montreal.
Franklin got his chance when Woody Bennett, the Dolphins' regular fullback, went down in the season's third game, against Houston, and Franklin caught the winning pass in the fourth quarter. At Nebraska he caught six passes in four years. His blocking never had been a problem. At 5'10", 225, he's built for heavy duty. And he's not a fumbler—only two lost after 10 games. Shula also has to love the new toughness up the middle that Franklin provides, something that has been missing in Miami since the Larry Csonka glory years.
Right Guard Ed Newman sums up Franklin's power-running in this way: "Against the Colts, I got a stalemate with my man, Herb Orvis. I figured we'd get about a two-yard gain. But Franklin takes the ball and suddenly the Colts are looking at a mouthful. Andra got an eight-yard gain out of it. All I had to do was drive, and he's driving, too." Or as Dolphin publicist Bob Kearney says, "It looked like ants moving an apple."
The Bengals last made the playoffs six years ago, when they finished first in the NFL in passing. Since then the air routes have been a losing operation, and in the last two years Cincinnati slipped to 24th and 21st in the NFL pass rankings. How can you throw successfully when your receivers are always hurt? Along came Cris Collinsworth, a 6'5", 192-pounder who reminds Ohioans of Gary Collins of the Browns and reminds Bengals owner Paul Brown of his old superstar in Cleveland, Dub Jones. "He's built just like him; he's a sprinter, which you can't tell by looking at him," Brown says.
David Verser, a wide receiver out of Kansas, was Cincinnati's No. 1 draft choice, but the intricacies of pro pass routes have so far eluded him. Collins-worth, the No. 2 pick, out of Florida, has been the saver: 10 catches in an overtime win over Buffalo, 44 receptions on the year, second to Dan Ross on the team. Blessed with such an inviting moving target, Ken Anderson has become the Comeback Quarterback of 1981, and after 10 games the Bengals were ranked third in the AFC in passing. And once again the playoffs are in the cards.
Forget for a moment that Dan Reeves came to the Broncos armed with a Dallas playbook that had more formations than Napoleon's army. Forget that he brought from the Cowboys, for whom he had played and coached for 15 seasons, a concept that relied on the cerebral as well as the physical, that for once the Broncos just might outcomplicate somebody, as Dallas has been doing for so many years. The real contribution Reeves has made, say the Bronco veterans, is that he has brought back a spirit lacking since former Coach Red Miller's rookie year of 1977, when Denver went to the Super Bowl.
"He has definitely had a stabilizing effect on the team, because he's a consistent person, which I think is the key to leadership," Quarterback Craig Morton says. "Win or lose, he doesn't get uptight about it. He tries to get everybody to work harder, but he doesn't get all upset about it."
Or, as Halfback Dave Preston says, "Number One, he brought in a new offense that regenerated team enthusiasm. We believe in it. He understands the attitudes of the players and the demands and frustrations. I'm sure that a lot of times he'll call certain plays because he feels we need those plays. We need to know we can run them."
Morton is having his best year ever; the offense is more wide open, the defense is again No. 1 in the NFL. The personnel is basically the same as it was last year. The super-rookie on the Broncos is the coach.