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.”