Tebow still a bystander for Jets

Mark Sanchez was mostly miserable in Miami. Tim Tebow was
ineffective despite getting more snaps than he had in the New York
Jets’ first two games.

Sanchez has shown a knack for coming through late in games – as
he did late in the Jets’ 23-20 overtime victory over the Dolphins
last Sunday. But in a few situations that appeared perfect for
Tebow, the playmaking backup remained on the sideline.

That had many fans and media wondering: Where’s Tebow?

”I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Tebow, who was on
the field for about 14 offensive plays in Miami. ”I’m just trying
to be ready anytime my number is called and find a way to help the
team.”

Well, Tebow’s role on the offense remains a mystery as the
once-secret wildcat package has been rarely used. After all, that
was the major selling point on Tebow this summer, that the Jets
acquired him from Denver to add a dynamic yet unpredictable
presence to the offense.

So far, it’s been unpredictable. Dynamic, not so much.

But the fact opponents have to prepare for Tebow is part of the
game plan, both coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony
Sparano have insisted. So, Buffalo must have been surprised when
Tebow was in on just nine offensive plays in the opener. Same for
Pittsburgh, which saw Tebow for just three offensive plays – all
during one third-quarter possession.

”I’m not sure,” Tebow said Wednesday when asked if he might be
used more this weekend against San Francisco. ”I’m just trying to
get through practice every day and improve in that. We’ll see what
happens on Sunday.”

So will the 49ers, who know better than to overlook Tebow, even
though he has yet to throw a pass with the Jets.

”We know he’s capable,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said.
”He’s running the ball out of it most of the time. … But, he’s a
quarterback, so we know that he can throw the ball at any
time.”

It certainly seems the Jets’ struggling offense could benefit
from Tebow being in games for more than just a few plays here and
there. His biggest play at Miami was calling a fake punt on
fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25 and running it 5 yards for a first
down on a drive that led to a field goal.

But there was also the play shown countless times on the
highlight reels when Sanchez zipped a pass to Tebow – and hit him
square in the helmet. Tebow said after the game that he ”wasn’t
expecting it that quick,” which led to plenty of chuckles by those
who have doubted this experiment would even work in the first
place.

Early in the third quarter, the Jets had the ball on second down
from the Dolphins 2 and brought Tebow on the field. He was sacked
and lost 5 yards, and Sanchez came back in – and was promptly
intercepted.

At the end of the quarter, Sanchez connected with Jeremy Kerley
on a 66-yard pass, giving New York the ball at Miami’s 5. This
time, it was not Tebow Time – leaving many scratching their heads
as the Jets ended up settling for a field goal.

Meanwhile, Sanchez struggled mightily at times for the second
straight game with some dismal passing numbers: 21 of 45 for 306
yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a 58.2 quarterback
rating. He overthrew Jeff Cumberland and Chaz Schilens on plays
that probably should have been touchdowns. But, he also wasn’t
helped by inconsistent receivers who couldn’t make plays at times
for their quarterback.

Santonio Holmes was the exception, though, coming up big for the
first time in what seemed like ages by catching nine passes for 147
yards – his first 100-yard game since 2010.

The biggest catch of all came in overtime when Sanchez connected
with Holmes on a 38-yard pass that put the ball at the Miami 18 and
set up the winning field goal.

”It just happened the way I’m used to, and the way Tone loves
it to happen,” Sanchez said. ”He wants the ball, not just on
every play, but especially in the crunch time, and that’s what you
want out of your playmakers.

”It was just encouraging to see.”

What also can’t be overlooked is that with the game on the line
in the fourth quarter, Sanchez was at his best while leading the
Jets to what was at that point a go-ahead 7-yard touchdown with 3
minutes left with a toss to Kerley.

And then came the big play to Holmes in overtime.

”I think the most important thing was getting the win,”
Sanchez said. ”No matter how bad it looks, thank God there are no
pictures on the scoreboard because it was a nasty one. At the same
time, we were a resilient group. We outlasted them and we just kept
playing, so we had our best football there toward the end of the
game.”

It marked the 11th time in his career that Sanchez has led the
Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback or an overtime victory – with
seven of those on the road.

”There might be times where maybe it’s not going perfect, but
at the end of the game, and that’s what this team has is a huge
belief that we’re going to win anyway because Mark actually gets at
his best at the end of those games,” Ryan said. ”He has done that
throughout his career.

”You always feel like we have a chance.”