Letting it fly
It’s often tough for spread quarterbacks entering the NFL to realize what “open” is in the NFL versus college. Broncos executive John Elway said what everyone was thinking this week: Tebow needs to “pull the trigger” faster when his receiver has a step on defenders.
This has really shown up the last two weeks. Tebow continually passed up on throwing into one-one-coverage against Kansas City. Things were worse against Buffalo.
On Tebow’s first interception of that game, he had his primary read wide open on the play but passed on it. He scrambled for a while, and eventually threw across his body into an interception.
On his last turnover of the game, Tebow’s primary read was his running back in the flat. He pump faked even though the running back was open. By the time he re-set to throw the ball, a defender hit Tebow from behind and popped the ball in the air and was taken back for a touchdown.
One of my big takeaways from watching all the games: Tebow generally has a lot of time to throw. Almost too much time. Tebow holds the ball waiting for the perfect play, and then winds up taking a sack. He’s been sacked 15 times over the last four weeks, leading to 7 fumbles over that span.
This is all partly by the opposition’s design. Rushers are hesitant to fly up the field because they don’t want Tebow to run.
Coaches now have a lot of NFL film on Tebow, and have adjusted how they attack him. Now he has to adjust back. Tebow has only rushed for 54 yards on 16 carries over the last two games. Denver may be hesitant to call too many runs for him because of the fumbling, but this is a do-or-die game.
Denver’s best chance may be to double down on the option plays. Let Tebow run even more. When the team has absolutely needed a drive, that’s what they lean on. It doesn’t always work – like in the Chiefs game – but it’s clearly where Tebow’s decision making is at its most confident.
The Steelers are a difficult matchup because they are disciplined and tough to run against. But that beats trying to throw against them.
Pittsburgh would love Denver to be more aggressive through the air. They give up 5.6 yards-per-attempt passing, which is best in the league by a massive margin.
It’s not like the Broncos will need to score a lot to win Sunday. Pittsburgh’s last three road games: A 13-9 win over Kansas City, a 20-3 loss in San Francisco, and a 13-9 win against Cleveland.
That is exactly the type of game the Broncos want to play. Denver can run all game and keep things close. They have the powerful running game, not the Steelers. Denver’s offense is at its most dangerous when Tebow is a threat to run almost every play, and they mix in some well-timed vertical throws.
No use for logic
Was Denver’s six-game winning streak the start of something lasting? Or was it just a special moment in time, a poorly written sports movie, a string of increasingly improbable endings that made everyone a little crazy – good and bad – for six weeks?
The NFL is a cruel business. Job security is only as good as your next four-game losing streak.
If Broncos executive John Elway was lukewarm on Tebow’s future heading into the season, another disastrous performance will call into question how much progress Tebow truly made this year. A strong outing against a great defense would go a long way towards easing Elway’s fears.
Logic points to Tebow struggling badly. It’s rational to expect the league’s top-ranked pass defense to stop the 31st ranked passing offense.
Yet we’ll watch Sunday, still half-expecting something incomprehensible to happen. Tebowmania has never been about logic and rationality.