A week after rushing the ball 22 times, something no quarterback has done since 1950, Tim Tebow was, dare I say, more traditional in playing quarterback in Sunday's 35-32 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings, to their credit, took away what the Broncos wanted to do in the option game with superior team speed, especially in the Front-7. That meant the Broncos had to go more traditional, even in the running game, in the 2nd half, and Willis McGahee and the offensive line got it done.
Part of traditional is reflected on the play of the quarterback as well. Tebow wasn't a threat in the running game, but that doesn't mean he wasn't dangerous with his legs. Far from it. But it is what Tebow did with his arm - and the progress he showed not only throwing the ball but reacting to what the defense gave him and making quality decisions. That is what impressed me the most and should have you all excited.
I picked my Top-3 throws that Tebow made yesterday to provide examples.
PLAY #1 - The first one comes on 3rd and 9 from the Vikings' 21. Notice the Vikings, despite the Broncos having 4 receivers going out into the passing tree, plus a back, plus being in the shotgun, have NINE defenders up close to the line of scrimmage. The MO right now for defenses against Tebow is to keep everyone close and force him to make a good decision under duress. The result speaks for itself:
The first thing I notice is the eyes of every defender. They are all on Tebow - they simply aren't worried about covering the receivers. That means a couple things. One - since it is ALL of the defenders in coverage they were instructed to do it. Why, you ask? Simple. The threat Tebow poses with his feet if he breaks contain has defenses worried. BIG TIME.
So what does this say about Tebow? Tim has always been considered a run-first quarterback. The Vikings, in a lot of ways, would prefer he run, then go up and tackle him. Again, ALL THE DEFENDERS in coverage are looking at the QB, not the receivers. To his credit, despite the 10-yard cushion he has, Tebow lets the play develop and delivers a strike to Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown. Look for yourself. Stop the video at the :02 to :03 second mark and look at the defense.
This isn't a case of blown coverage. This is a case of the Vikings defenders following their game plan, being more concerned about what Tebow could do with his feet, not with his eyes and his arm.
PLAY #2 - How about this one. On First and 10 from the Vikings 41, the Broncos line up in a non-traditional alignment - Tebow in the gun with two backs. The Broncos are sending just two receivers into the pass-pattern. This is what has teams like the Vikings, Jets, Chargers and Dolphins nervous - and what the Bears will surely be trying to avoid on Sunday.
This play is a designed pass. Tebow fakes the handoff and immediately looks down field. The Vikings, again, stack the box with eight defenders. To their credit, the Vikings linebackers do a solid job of not falling for the fake and staying home. That means the backs coming out of the backfield are covered, as is the middle of the field if Tebow should try and run. In a lot of ways it is a perfectly defended play.
Then the magic happens. Again, let's start with great pass-protection by the Broncos O-line. That said, the Vikings are clearly tentative in their rush, again fearing Tebow's ability to make plays with his legs. Rule number one with Tebow? Don't let him go to his left. The Vikings allow that to happen and the snowball begins to roll down the hill.
Jared Allen, who is lined up on Tebow's left, has the duty to contain Tebow and he does, forcing Tebow to stop. Credit Ryan Clady for staying with Allen and allowing Tebow to get inside of him. Then comes the stiff-arm. The impressive thing for me? All the while, Tebow's eyes remained downfield. His goal was not to run, but to make a play in the passing game, even though the Broncos were in a running formation with running personnel.
Once the play breaks down, and the Vikings come up to stop Tebow, figuring he is not going to pass, Demaryius Thomas comes back to his quarterback and Tebow delivers a strike. The rest, of course is Thomas.
Again, to me this is progress for Tebow physically as a passer, but more importantly mentally. He is THINKING like a quarterback.
PLAY #3 - Finally, my favorite pass of the day from Tebow, at least in terms of growth. Ironically, the ball is going to fall incomplete, but I think is was the best example yet of Tebow's growth as a quarterback in a very short time and a play that should have all of us excited.
The situation? 3rd and 10 from the Vikings 28. The score is 32-29 Vikings and the Broncos are on the fringe of FG territory. The Broncos could have easily called a run here, choosing to be safe. They didn't. They let Tebow go a bit and the result may not have been a successful play, but I think it will pay dividends in the weeks ahead.
The Vikings try and confuse Tebow with pre-snap movement. Five defenders were moving pre-snap trying to disguise their look and get into Tebow's head. Tebow showed maturity when he, despite the play clock, took the time to verify the protection call with center J.D. Walton.
The Vikings once again have NINE defenders up close to the line of scrimmage despite the Broncos showing 4-WRs and a RB in the backfield with Tebow. When Tebow lifts his foot the first time, it is obvious the Vikings are going to bring the house at Tebow - exactly the opposite of what they did in Play #1 above. Tebow checks with Walton, then takes the snap.
This time, the Vikings do a MUCH better job of covering receivers instead of watching Tebow. They feel the rush will force Tebow to throw it away, or at best, Tebow will get sacked. Showing confidence and decisiveness, Tebow delivers the ball to Demaryius Thomas in the perfect spot, in tight coverage, with Thomas nearly coming down with what could have been the game-winner.
Look again, however, and you'll see Thomas hesitate for a fraction of a second. That hesitation is what likely cost him a touchdown. The read, decision and throw by Tebow were perfect. Did it flutter a little? Yes, but few quarterbacks throw a perfect spiral, every time, especially in the heat of an all-out blitz.
Tim Tebow still has work to do. I hope the three plays above, however, shed some light on his progression as a quarterback and proves that Tebow IS making progress and that we ALL should be excited about the next four weeks, and beyond!