Each week, John Lynch breaks down a dynamic NFL offensive playmaker, devises a game plan and discusses a strategy for success. This week, Lynch examines the unique challenges Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow presents for the New York Jets defense.
OK, I admit it — I’m a believer.
I also know there is no in-between with this guy. Everybody has an opinion about him, and a strong one, at that. You either like him, or you don’t.
The “guy” is Tim Tebow.
I think if you had a chance to spend some time with Tebow, you would see what I’ve seen. I’m telling you, there’s something special about this player. He has an aura, a special presence, if you will. I was in Denver a few weeks ago and did an interview with Tebow for the NFL on FOX pregame show. I talked to a few of his teammates, and it was really interesting what Champ Bailey told me. Bailey’s a guy who has been in the league for 13 years, and he told me that Tebow has this enthusiasm that makes you want to play harder, makes you want to win. He said Tebow’s positive attitude was contagious.
Trust me, I get it. If I hadn’t spent time around Tebow and gotten to know him, I probably would feel the way a lot of others do about him. He is completing only about 45 percent of his passes, his feet are all over the place and he’s not a natural thrower. But this kid is a winner.
He’s not going to be an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady, but there are certain intangibles he does bring. Most people think that can fly only in high school and college, that you have to have certain talent and abilities to be a quarterback in the NFL. That’s true, for the most part, but while it’s not always pretty — it can get pretty ugly, in fact — he has won everywhere he has been.
There is something to be said for that. And that’s what makes game-planning a defense for Tebow and the Broncos’ offense — my assignment this week — a little difficult.
Despite the fact Tebow might not be the greatest passer at this stage, the Broncos have won in three of his four starts this season. All three of those wins came on the road.
In a victory last week over Kansas City, Tebow attempted only eight passes the entire game. You saw that right. Eight. Total. Passes. But maybe even more incredible, he completed only two. And Denver still won. In fact, Tebow is only the fifth quarterback since 1980 to throw all of his team’s passes, complete two or fewer and still win.
So if I’m the Jets’ defense here’s my game plan:
First and foremost, I’m going start with stopping the Broncos’ best receiver, Eric Decker. Last week, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, Tebow hit Decker with a perfect 56-yard pass for a touchdown. Decker can make big plays, so you take him out of the equation. You put Darrelle Revis on him and tell Revis to shut him down.
Revis is the league’s model cornerback, and I think he’s playing some of the best defense in football. He won’t get tested much, obviously, because the Broncos don’t throw that often. But I expect Revis to be put on Decker and then you have guys like Antonio Cromartie to handle the Broncos’ next best option.
If Revis can’t play because of injury, you have Cromartie take Decker. And if there is any question regarding Revis’ health, I would err on the side of caution. Remember, the Broncos threw the ball eight times last week.
So now let’s get to the run. We know the Broncos like to run the ball — 55 times last week against the Chiefs. And the play they like to run the most is called the “read-option” for Tebow. So the Jets need to take away the read . . . and the option.
I start with the option. It’s called the option because the QB has the "option" to pitch the ball or keep it and run. Good defenses dictate to the offense, so I would take away the "option" that Tebow has and make him pitch it and pitch it early every time they run it. By doing that with defenders crashing from the outside you eliminate any read or option the offense has and you put hit after hit on Tebow. In his four starts, Tebow has rushed the ball for nearly 300 yards, and he averages about 10 carries per game. Every time he runs the ball, we’re going to let him know we’re there. We hit him, hit him hard, over and over again. Nothing cheap and everything within the rules. Eventually it will take its toll.
Finally, you add numbers up front. I don’t see the need for the safety in the middle to protect the long pass. I might not take him out completely, but I bring him up a lot to help out with someone breaking through the middle of the line.
The Jets have a good defense, ranked eighth overall in the league. But since this game is Thursday night, both teams are playing on a short week. This typically favors a defense because it’s easier for them to replicate the game plan. With the offense, you always feel like you have to put in a few new wrinkles, but Jets coach Rex Ryan is a schemer and it’s tough to do that on a short week.
As far as who has the edge this game, I think the travel equation will be the biggest factor, so I think the Jets have it tougher. Despite that, I think they have the better team.
It’s actually an important game for both teams — the Jets (5-4) being one game back in the AFC East race and the Broncos (4-5), believe it or not, only one game back in the AFC West.
That’s where the intangibles come in . . . and that is having someone like Tim Tebow.