Broncos trying to buck trend of slow starts
Englewood — Tim Tebow has tried everything else. Now, he’s going to set his alarm for the crack of dawn.
Maybe the early bird will get the offense rolling.
With the Denver Broncos relying on his last-minute magic to pull off six comebacks in the eight games he’s started, Tebow joked that maybe he should arrive at the stadium even earlier than he already does on game days, perhaps toss a few more pregame passes than usual.
He’s open to anything to try to find his rhythm sometime before halftime instead of well after.
A faster start may definitely be needed with Tom Brady leading the high-scoring New England Patriots (10-3) into Denver for a showdown with the resurgent Broncos (8-5) on Sunday.
The Broncos’ coaches are also busy trying to decipher why the offense has been such a slow starter.
Since Tebow began running the show, the Broncos have managed just six scoring drives in 49 first-half possessions. They have only a dozen scores in 76 drives through the first three quarters.
But that all changes in the fourth quarter, when Tebow roars to life.
Take away the first drive of the final quarter — when it’s not yet Tebow Time — and the Broncos have scored on 16 of their 28 possessions, including overtime.
That wait-until-late-in-the-game-to-rally formula probably won’t cut it against the Patriots, who are averaging 30.5 points.
The Broncos have won games with Tebow despite scoring 18, 17, 17, 16 and 13 points.
“I’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and find a way to get a little bit better in practice,” Tebow said. “Try to improve and just try to get better as a quarterback and as a player and find a way to get this offense in the end zone early.”
Should that happen, it would take the pressure off a defense that has been keeping the Broncos close until Tebow finds his traction. He’s appreciative of the defense’s effort and realizes that side can’t be expected to hold New England out of the end zone all game. The Patriots have only been held under 20 points once this season.
“It does get frustrating when we do see the defense on the field a lot,” receiver Eric Decker said. “We want to take pressure off them. We know we have to do a better job of scoring points and executing out there.”
The sluggish start is baffling to the Broncos. They make it a top priority to begin each game with a sense of urgency, but it’s not translating on the field.
“I’d love to get out early on a team and rest, let some other guys play,” said Willis McGahee, the team’s leading rusher with 920 yards. “But it doesn’t work like that.”
Coach John Fox has a theory on why the offense sputters early in games. He believes it takes a few series to figure out what a defense is doing to counteract the Broncos’ rather unorthodox offense.
It’s a notion that McGahee supports.
“There’s certain times when we’re starting out that you can’t really get a finger on how they’re handling us until the second half,” McGahee said. “I tell my coach, ‘OK, I figured out what I need to do.’ Then he says, ‘OK, let’s do it’ and we get the train moving.”
The train can’t be stuck in the station too long against the Patriots, or the game just might be out of reach before Tebow Time rolls around.
“They’re a very potent offense,” Fox said. “They’ve got world championships. They’re well-coached. They’ve got outstanding personnel. It will be a big test. I’d say that’s kind of concerning.”
Part of the reason for Tebow’s late-game success is this: That’s when the Broncos go to more of a no-huddle approach. It’s also when defenses drop into more of a prevent look, opening up lanes for the unconventional quarterback.
A no-huddle scheme right from the start may just be something the Broncos attempt versus a Patriots defense that’s effective at slowing down the run, but struggles against the pass.
At this point, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy isn’t ruling anything out.
“We’re trying to feel teams out the way they’re going to play Tim,” McCoy said. “It’s not always going to be the same you see from the five previous weeks. We’ve got to make some adjustments. Regardless of what they’re doing or regardless of what I call, it comes down to execution.”
Tebow’s recent ability to lead the Broncos to wins, and not so much his pedestrian passing stats, has garnered him quite a few Pro Bowl votes.
“There are a lot of guys that deserve to go far ahead of me,” Tebow said. “I hope a lot of those guys get a lot of votes, too.”
He will see one of the game’s best in Brady on Sunday. He may even try to pick up a tip or two.
“He does a lot of things very well and is very cerebral and understands the game very well,” Tebow said.
And that’s the level Tebow is trying to ascend to.
It starts with, well, starting faster.
“We’ve had opportunities,” Tebow said. “I think it’s just finding a way to execute, get a first down so we can kind of get adjusted and kind of get rolling.”
Notes: DBs Andre’ Goodman (concussion) and Brian Dawkins (neck) were limited in practice Thursday. … Jockey, which uses Tebow as a pitchman, unveiled a promotion Thursday in which the company will give away $1 million worth of product if Tebow leads the Broncos to a victory in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
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