You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Tebow sends defenses back to the drawing board

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Bury the blueprints on how to thwart Tim Tebow. He can beat you with his arm as well as his legs.

The formula up until last weekend was to stack the box and dare him to beat you with all those errant passes.

But coming off his worst game as a pro, the most maligned quarterback in football morphed into a conventional quarterback Sunday in snapping out of a three-game funk and sending the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers to an early playoff exit.

Tebow, whose record-setting redemption kept Denver's thrilling roller coaster of a season roaring right along, is more challenging than ever to defend. So, the top-seeded New England Patriots are preparing for deep passes as much as the Broncos' bothersome read-option offense.

"They're a tough team to prepare for because they do a lot of different things," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "There aren't really any other teams like them in the league."

After relying all season on the league's best ground game, Tebow turned into an Aaron Rodgers-Drew Brees-Tom Brady lookalike by throwing for 316 yards against the league's No. 1 defense in his first playoff appearance.

It wasn't just his 80-yard bullet to Demaryius Thomas, which allowed the Broncos to beat the Steelers 29-23 on the first play of overtime. In the second quarter, Tebow completed four passes of 30 yards or better, something that hadn't been done in the NFL in half a century.

Belichick insists this isn't Tebow 2.0, however.

"I think he's done a lot of those things all year," Belichick said. "He had a great game against Pittsburgh, no doubt about it. But he's played well throughout the season, whether it be managing the team, making decisions, running the ball, throwing the ball, scrambling, any and all of the above. He's a good football player."

One who's now multidimensional.

At John Elway's urging, Tebow was more aggressive Sunday, heeding his boss's advice to "pull the trigger."

"Yeah, I think I did play pretty aggressive in the game," Tebow said Tuesday after the Broncos returned to work following their exhilarating weekend win. "We were playing a very good team, very good defense. And you have to be willing to take some chances to make some big plays against them, because they have so many good players and so many good guys that are rushing, getting to the quarterback. And the offensive line did a great job and the receivers stepped up and made huge plays."

The Broncos (9-8) need an encore performance to beat the heavily favored and well-rested Patriots (13-3).

Tebow's 31.6 yards per completion Sunday were the second-most ever for an NFL quarterback in the regular season or playoffs, surpassed only by Joe Namath's 33.7-yard average against Baltimore in September 1972.

"It was big for us because in this league, you have to keep people off balance," wide receiver Eddie Royal said. "Before last week, people knew they had to stop the run. Stop the run and shut down our offense. But now, they have to second-guess themselves, `Oh, they can throw the ball and be explosive and make some pass plays.' "

It was the Broncos' reliance on the run that sold the play-fake on the first snap of overtime — they had rushed on 23 of 25 first downs up to that point.

"It's always good to see us get the big passes, especially because everyone says we can't throw the ball," said tailback Willis McGahee, who had implored the Broncos to improve their passing attack to enhance an already stout ground game.

The Broncos' formula during their eight wins under Tebow had been to play stout defense and spectacular on special teams to keep the grind-it-out offense within striking distance until Tebow could pull off his last-minute magic.

Now, they're mixing in explosive plays.

And Tebow doesn't have to be pinpoint with his passes if the safeties come up and cornerbacks cover the receivers 1-on-1 because his reads will be simpler. He'll have more margin for error if players such as Thomas, who has great hands, have more room to maneuver and fewer defensive backs to get in his way.

"We were just waiting for him to come out and play the way we knew he could and show everybody," Royal said.

Eric Decker, who sprained his left knee on the first play of the second quarter last week, isn't expected to play against the Patriots.

Although he was the Broncos' best receiver in the regular season, with 44 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns, half his scores came with Kyle Orton at quarterback. Tebow's top target was actually Thomas, who caught every one of his 32 receptions for 551 yards and four TDs from the lefty.

Over the last two months, Thomas has been one of the most dominating players in the league despite playing in a conservative offense that doesn't allow receivers to strut their stuff too much.

On Sunday, he amassed 204 yards on just four receptions.

"I remember watching him at Georgia Tech and seeing this guy," Royal said. "He didn't get many opportunities there. But when he got them, he made big plays and that's the type of player that he is. I can't imagine what he would do with 20 targets a game. The sky's the limit for this kid. I just hope he continues to get better and I know he will."

In an interesting twist, former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who took a chance by drafting both Thomas and Tebow in the first round two years ago, has rejoined the Patriots' staff in time to help them try to end Denver's season.

"You know, he's a very good coach and I wish him nothing but the best, and I'm very thankful for him having the confidence in drafting me," Tebow said. "But I'm very excited about the coaches that we have here."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) looks to pass in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 114-93. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Wizards’ Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. hoping for big splash on small stage

  • Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is surrounded by fans that rushed the field and security as he is escorted off the field following their 45-38 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    SNYDER: RG3 worth his weight in bronze to Baylor

  • Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado (13), celebrates his two-run homer with Adam Jones left, with Nick Markakis, at right, during the 11th inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. The Orioles won 8-2, in 11 innings. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Accidental rivalry: Nats-Orioles doesn’t have much edge

  • Celebrities In The News
  • (Image from DeAngelo Williams' Facebook post)

    NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket

  • ** FILE ** In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo actor George Clooney attends the premiere of "Gravity" at the AMC Lincoln Square Theaters, in New York. George Clooney has chastised a British newspaper over an article claiming his fiancee's mother disapproves of the impending marriage for religious reasons. Clooney said that the claims about his future mother-in-law Baria Alamuddin were untrue and irresponsible. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

    Website apologizes for Clooney mother-in-law story

  • Kim Kardashian arrives at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment 2014 Upfront at the Javits Center on Thursday, May 15, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

    Kim Kardashian visits Jersey shore