Broncos’ Tebow Finds Solutions to His Own Problems
October 26, 2011
Some years ago, when FM radio was more irreverent than it is now, WEBN in Cincinnati invented a company called Brute Force Cybernetics. In a series of comic advertisements, it promoted products such as the encephalographic printout device, which could record the insights of a dysfunctional brain.
The fictional company’s motto: “We create a need, then fill it.”
This is what Tim Tebow did Sunday, playing so uncertainly for three quarters that he created a need for the marvelous comeback he engineered in the fourth.
It’s not just me saying that. It’s him.
“It’s my fault that we were in that situation in the first place,” the ever-honest Tebow said afterward. “I just have to play better in the first three quarters so we don’t have to make that comeback in the fourth.”
“I think he’d tell you, I know I’d tell you, I liked the last five minutes better than the first 55,” coach John Fox said Monday.
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Tebow’s most avid fans, of course, will tell you none of the first 55 minutes was his fault; all of it was on the play-callers, who unaccountably tried to sabotage him. But let’s go with Tebow’s account, shall we?
Did he flip a switch? Did Miami?
A review of the game video suggests some of both. Adhering to the NFL defensive handbook, the Dolphins backed off a bit up 15-0 in the fourth quarter. Like the Chargers two weeks before, they figured there wasn’t enough time left for multiple scoring drives as long as they kept everything in front of them and didn’t give up big plays.
And, like the Chargers, they didn’t count on a turnover accelerating the process. In Miami, the Broncos’ special teams made the play, recovering an onside kick everyone knew was coming.
When I asked Fox the trick to pulling that off, he smiled. “I’ve been involved in 357 games in my coaching career and it’s never once happened to me,” he said.
So when the Broncos insist this was a team win, they’re not just pulling another cliche from the handbook. If D.J. Williams doesn’t strip the ball from Matt Moore in overtime, there’s no telling how it comes out.
But Tebow also came alive in the fourth, suddenly hitting moving targets in the passing game he had been missing by 10 yards earlier.
The Dolphins, who employ a base 3-4 defense, deployed eight men within spitting distance of the line of scrimmage for much of the game. This was designed to stop the run, which it didn’t do very well, considering the Broncos ended up with a season-high 183 rushing yards, 65 of them by Tebow.
When Tebow dropped back to pass, the Dolphins generally rushed four, one of whom was sometimes in “contain” or “spy” mode. Sometimes, they rushed four with a fifth, usually Jason Taylor, in spy mode. They also employed various blitzes.
On five of their seven quarterback sacks, the Dolphins had at least five defenders focused on Tebow. The only time they sacked him during the Broncos’ two scoring drives, they brought seven and had an eighth in spy mode.
By contrast, during most of his completions down the stretch, they dropped seven into coverage in more of a “prevent” defense. The two notable exceptions were the two scoring plays, from the 5- and 3-yard lines, respectively. Miami rushed seven on the first and Tebow spun away from linebacker Cameron Wake to find Demaryius Thomas in the end zone.
“He should have been sacked on that play,” CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots said. “He has eyes in the back of his head.”
On the second touchdown, Miami rushed six, playing into the hands of Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who called a misdirection tight end screen.
“He made some incredible plays,” Wilcots said on the telecast. “You love his resiliency because, let’s face it, before that previous drive, it hadn’t been pretty. Champ Bailey even told us, at first it isn’t pretty, but he is a magical kind of player. Kind of Doug Flutie-like, is probably the best that I could explain it.”
So, give Tebow credit for a thrilling comeback against the winless Dolphins, but also give him and Matt Prater’s missed field goals credit for making it necessary.
Tebow is now 2-2 as a starter, good enough to earn the job on a team 4-14 in games he hasn’t started over his brief career. But Canton can wait. There’s still plenty of work to do.