BAILEY: Or that there's a lot of bad tackling.
BURKE: When I see the yards after the catch increase, typically that means more screen passes or a lot of check downs. To my amateur eyes it looks like a lot more wide receiver screens and rub routes—the kind of routes where you're really setting a pick. Picks are technically illegal, but if it's right off the line and part of the route, then it's fine. We're seeing that more often—that's what's driving some of those yards. Just get your best player the ball, let him get into open space and make somebody miss. I think there are a lot more plays like that being run this year.
LEACH: Can I get a copy of your homework? I want a copy of his homework.
SI: Seems like the concept of 'space players' is at a premium—the guys who can make people miss and find the open field. You've seen running backs Matt Forte of the Bears and Arian Foster of the Texans take short passes a long way.
LEACH: Whoever is your favorite running back, think about him with five yards of space in every direction around him and then tell me how good he is.
PAYTON: Bill Parcells said he's learned not to hold a certain criteria for height and weight. He wanted [running backs] to be built powerfully in the lower body. Darren Sproles is built that way. You have to have some guys who can solve problems, and Sproles [the 5'6" former Chargers back whom the Saints signed this year as a free agent] is a quick thinker. You can teach a choice route to 15 different backs and spend six months on it, and after they begin to master some of the techniques, pretty soon the smart guy always seems to be open. Our tight end, Jimmy Graham—you can stretch him out like a split end, and now before the ball ever hits the quarterback's hands, he knows whether it's man or zone or if there's potential pressure. [Former 49ers coach] Bill Walsh would have the tight end kind of post up over the center and when the quarterback felt the squeeze of the linebackers, he'd just throw it opposite the squeeze, like he was inbounding a ball in a basketball game. Those are guys that allow your quarterback to be more efficient.
LEACH (to DALTON): I've got something for Andy. TCU has always kind of been viewed as a run-first team, use the clock. But contrary to popular belief TCU in the last couple of years did it with all kinds of spread sets. My question is, How much adjustment was there to the passing game in the NFL?
DALTON: The last two years [at TCU] we spread it out a little more. The Number 1 thing we tried to do was get in and out of formations. Five-wide one play, two tight ends and two backs the next. That was really good for me, because I had the knowledge of all the different sets that we were getting into. TCU was very similar to how we're calling plays here in Cincinnati, the way we're adjusting routes and signaling things and setting protections. It's all new terminology, but it's the same style we did at TCU. Everything I was able to do at TCU has helped me out tremendously and made this whole transition a whole lot easier.
PAYTON (to LEACH): Mike, here's one for you. I've seen a ton of your tape at Tech. We'd agree that there's different ways to call the same play, but what does vary is route adjustment within a certain pattern. In the run-and-shoot there were a lot of variables depending on what a receiver did to the coverage. How much of that existed with your system?
LEACH: People can term themselves to death—all the terms that quarterbacks have to keep track of that I don't know the definition of. The one thing that's never changed in football in my opinion is leveraging numbers in space. If they overload players, you're at a disadvantage. If you can find or create space, attack it. We gave our guys a lot of latitude, say, on crossing routes. If our receiver was going across the middle and had space, he had the freedom to settle, because we didn't feel that affected the integrity of the route or the rest of the play. We constantly talked about attacking space.