NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
Will the Patriots be able to stop Tebow Time?
That’s the question on everyone’s mind this week in New England. As difficult as it sounds, I’ve always been very neutral on Tim Tebow. I’ve never really had any reason to praise him, or to hate him. I liked the Florida teams he played on, but never grew overly attached to him personally. I thought he was a great college player, was never overly enamored with his pro prospects, but wasn’t surprised when he was taken in the first round in last season’s NFL Draft.
It’s certainly been fun watching his last eight starts as a football fan though. It may defy all logic, it might go against everything that we watch for and study in the pro game, but its fun. I hate the way he throws, but I love the way he runs. If anything, it would be fun to see him get to the AFC Championship game. But that’s as far as I’m going, for obvious reasons.
So how will the Patriots stop Tebow and the Broncos defense? That’s what I’m trying to look at today:
BUILD AND MAINTAIN A BIG LEAD
We all know that Tebow Time starts in the fourth quarter, so the Patriots are going to need to put the game away well before then. The Tebow-lead Broncos have only been able to score more than 18 points in two games this season: 38 against Oakland and 35 against Minnesota. Three teams have put up more than 18 points on the Broncos in that same time span: 45 for Detroit, 24 for Oakland and 32 for Minnesota. I don’t believe the Broncos can win a shoot-out against the Patriots, so that’s what Brady and co. will have to turn this game into.
The Denver defense is good, but not quite yet elite. They have an aging secondary that the Patriots will be able to throw against and two great pass rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. What the Broncos really excel against is stopping the run, especially recently. The Patriots best hope for stopping Denver would be to build a lead early through the air and try their damndest to put the game away in the second half with their run game. If the run game is going to step up, this is the week.
FORCE TEBOW TO THROW
Tebow has only had to throw the ball more than 30 times twice this season. The first time was when he went 18 for 39 against Detroit in his second start, and the next time was last week against the Bears. The Broncos lost to Detroit 45-10 and played their closest game of the year against the Bears last week. I believe that if the Broncos are forced to throw that many times against this Patriots defense, they will lose.
I’m expecting to see a lot of base sets from the Pats on Sunday. Try to confuse Tebow with different zone coverage looks, and stack the line with the front seven. The Patriots came into the season basically built to stop the run, they have four great run stopping linebackers in Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, Andre Carter and Brandon Deaderick can seal off the edges of the run game and all of the Patriots defensive backs are good tacklers.
It will be key to get at least one of Brandon Spikes or Patrick Chung back for this game. I’m certainly having my doubts about Chung though. He’s been seen in a walking boot all week and if anything it seems like his foot injury is getting worse as the season progresses, which is very scary.
If the Patriots can stop Tebow and Willis McGahee from running, it will force Tebow to throw, and he’s so inaccurate it will push the time of possession back in the Patriots favor. The Broncos offensive line can be pushed around. Last week the Patriots were exploited by scheme in the running game, this week they’re just going to have to overpower the Broncos weak offensive line, seal the holes and gang tackle Tebow and McGahee.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
One of the most impressive aspects of Tebow’s game so far is how little he turns the ball over. The Patriots are going to either have to reverse that, or not turn the ball over on their end. Hopefully Bill O’Brien woke Tom Brady up a little bit after his interception last week, because those throws can’t happen this week.
The Patriots are currently 5th in turnover differential with +9. They have 18 interceptions on the year, seven fumble recoveries and only 16 giveaways. The Broncos are currently 20th in turnover differential. They have only nine interceptions on the year and eight fumble recoveries. If the Patriots can get a few of their patented fluky turnovers in this game, it shouldn’t be close.
DON’T LET TEBOW/DENVER GET IN THEIR HEADS
The Denver Broncos are the only team in the league that Brady has a losing record against. Brady is 1-5 against Denver. There’s something about this team that seems to perplex Brady and Belichick. Well, this is a totally different team, and this is the same coach the Patriots beat in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
As for Tebow, the Pats have three players who played with him at Florida in Spikes, Aaron Hernandez and Jermaine Cunningham and they have a number of players who played against him, notably Deaderick, Mayo and Kyle Love. They all know how good he was in college, but they also know his game more than most players going up against him. Tebow doesn’t have any tremendous receivers, so if McCourty, Arrington and crew are on their games, it shouldn’t be hard to defend the Broncos passing game. In fact, Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are all among the league leaders in drop rate.
I thought the Redskins and Colts games would be a blow out, so I’m tired of making predictions, but I do think this Patriots team should beat the Broncos with ease. If anyone is built to beat the Broncos, it’s the Patriots. They’ve got a high powered passing offense, their defense was built to stop the run, and Tebow shouldn’t be able to beat them with his arm like most QBs can. The biggest battle I can see is whether or not the Patriots can force some turnovers out of Tebow.