Hours Before Kickoff: Week 15

December 17, 2011

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Randolph Charlotin

Hours Before Kickoff: Week 15

About a month ago, I wrote a critical article about Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, declaring results won’t matter as much as his performance to secure the franchise quarterback role with the Broncos. His inability to pass accurately for a full game was the foundation of my argument.

Four weeks later, Tebow hasn’t lost a game. His winning streak is up to six games, and his record as Denver’s starting QB is almost perfect at 7-1.

I haven’t changed my opinion, even as Tebow continues to mock conventional wisdom.

I do celebrate Tebow’s success. He’s good for the league and he’s shutting up his detractors, to a degree (I guess that includes me for now). I haven’t heard ESPN’s Merril Hodge for over a month. Does it get much better than that?

But as happy as I am for Tebow and the Broncos, The perception that this success is all due to Tebow bothers me.

7-1 doesn’t happen just by Tebow’s will. Denver’s defense has been outstanding during Tebow’s tenure as starter. They’ve allowed 16.7 points per game in the wins. The Tebow-led offense, conversely, barely holds up their end of the bargain, scoring 22 points per game.

Not all those points can be attributed to the offense. Denver benefitted from 10 points off turnovers, 14 points scored by the defense, and 7 points from kickoff/punt returns. Take away these 31 points and the offense averaged 17.6. That would tie the Broncos with Washington for points per game, ahead of Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Kansas City and St. Louis.

Accusing me of unfairly handicapping the Broncos offense statistically? How about this: Denver ranks 21st in points per game with 20.7. Only one team that ranks below the Broncos in this statistic has a winning record. That would be Tennessee, barely above .500 at 7-6.

There’s nothing wrong with winning ugly. It happens all the time. But there’s something wrong with winning ugly all the time. With all the things that fell in Denver’s favor (recovered onside kick, missed field goals, running back running out of bounds), these factors won’t always break in the Broncos’ favor.

Head coach John Fox deserves an immense amount of credit for creating an offense that suits Tebow. Few, if any, coaches would go as far as Fox did to radically redesign the offense to suit Tebow’s strength. Trying to coach Tebow to be a dropback passer would be disasterous.

Tebow is improving as a passer to his credit. He’s done a tremendous job protecting the ball, throwing two interceptions to eleven touchdowns. His completion percentage is also climbing from 45 percent in his first four starts to 55 percent in his last three.

But his inconsistency through the majority of the games is a concern. There will be times when Tebow can’t be the hero to rescue games from the jaws of defeat. It’s going to catch up to Denver at some point.

Tebow’s success is the best and worst thing that happened to the young man. If this Tebow experiment was an unmitigated failure, Tebow probably wouldn’t get a second chance under center with another team in the future. But by winning with play that’s below acceptable for the average quarterback, he’s creating high expectations that would be unfair when Tebow-mania ends and the Broncos return to reality.

Certainly it’s better for Tebow to be wildly successful right now. If it’s going to last, he has to play well in all four quarters, not just during Tebow Time. It will run out on him and the Broncos at some point.

A few things I’m looking for:

I Spy: Might not be a bad idea to dedicate a defender to mirror Tebow on passing downs sometimes. Tebow makes his biggest plays when breaks the pocket.

Heavy Artillery: New England’s offense must make this a “take a knife to a gun fight” mismatch and pour on the points.

Self-inflicted Wounds: Denver thrives on mental errors so no turnovers, no bad penalties, tackle soundly, stay inbounds to run out the clock, etc.

New England head coach Bill Belichick will throw new wrinkles at Tebow defensively while the Brady-led offense sets a pace the Broncos can’t keep up with. The Patriots build an insurmountable lead Denver can’t close in time.

 

Question? Comments? Send to talktome@randolphc.com.

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