Commentary

One giant step for the offense

Every Saints play hides a nifty trick: Forcing linebackers to make a false step

Updated: November 6, 2009, 5:19 PM ET
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine
Tom Dipace for ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the Nov. 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Reggie Bush just revealed the secret to success in the NFL. And we nearly missed it.

To be fair, it's easy to get distracted around the Saints these days, especially in their frenetic locker room. A few feet away from Bush, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb crushes Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" on Guitar Hero III. Drew Brees just raced through on his way to a meeting. Defensive players mill around in Spinal Tap-inspired T-shirts that read "Smell Greatness." Then there's Bush, dressed in a yellow towel and shower flip-flops, his words of wisdom garbled behind half a Sonic double cheeseburger.

Luckily his secret doesn't require speech. To communicate it, Bush just gets in a linebacker's ready stance and takes one step forward. "Mum mep," he says. [One step.] "Mat's mip." [That's it.] Forget the millions of dollars spent on players and the thousands of man-hours devoted to film study, training and practice. Turns out, the key to the Saints' record-breaking offense comes down to simple physics: Through misdirection, deception and play-calling balance, the Saints routinely force linebackers to take one false step, throwing the entire defense off-balance. "It's all a battle for that first step," says Bush. "When you control that, you can do whatever you want."


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