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18 Nov 2011

Under Pressure: Tebow's Throws

by J.J. Cooper

It’s not fair to say that Tim Tebow is a quarterback unlike any other. There were plenty of quarterbacks like Tebow, they just haven’t played in pro football since the 1940s.

Back in 1947, quarterback Spec Sanders, a New York Yankee in the All-American Football Conference, rushed for 1,432 yards while leading the league in rushing attempts and rushing yards. He also threw for 1,442 yards. Unfortunately for him, the Cleveland Browns held him in check in the championship game for their second of four consecutive AAFC titles.

The single wing offense that Sanders ran didn’t last for much longer, as the T formation quickly ensured that it turned into a high school offense. Marv Levy and the Chiefs brought back the Wing-T in 1978, out of desperation more than anything else, but generally NFL teams have left the run-heavy approaches in the days of black-and-white film.

Now, in 2011, the Tebow-led Broncos have brought back high school offenses to the NFL, running the veer and other option-read plays that wouldn’t seem all that unusual to Sanders.

Yes, much of what makes Tebow stand out are the things you wouldn’t really want in a quarterback -- he’s more comfortable running the ball than throwing it, for instance. But as he piles up win after win, he’s also becoming even more of a flash point between the casual fan’s "all he does is win games" theory and the analytical fan’s realization that long-term, a running quarterback doesn’t really have a chance to take a team very far.

But since this is Under Pressure, we’re going to take a look at what happens when Tebow drops back and actually throws a pass.

To get a better idea of some of the steps in a maturation of a quarterback, we’ve logged every pass Tebow threw in his first six games of 2011 (last night’s Jets game is not included). Hey, if you’re going to pick a quarterback to time for his each and every pass, it never hurts to pick the one who throws fewer than 10 passes in some games.

What jumps out is just how different the Broncos’ approach is now that they have truly tailored the offense to Tebow’s comfort zone. That means fewer passes, more option runs, and much less decision making for Tebow to make from the pocket.

When Tebow first took over as quarterback, the Broncos appeared to simplify the offense, but it still was close to a standard pro-style offense. Tebow wasn’t always accurate throwing the ball -- but even worse, he didn’t look comfortable going through his progressions. In his relief appearance in Week 5, Tebow’s average time from snap to release was 4.4 seconds and his median time of pass was 3.3 seconds. Admittedly, that’s a small sample size, but that’s off the charts in terms of holding the ball. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is generally considered to be a quarterback who holds the ball a long time. For 2010, Roethlisberger’s average time of pass was 2.9 seconds and his median time was 2.7.

Median and Average Time from Snap to Release (in Seconds) for Tim Tebow, through Week 10
Opponent Median Average
Week 5: SD 3.3 4.4
Week 7: MIA 2.7 3.0
Week 8: DET 2.3 2.8
Week 9: OAK 2.5 2.5
Week 10: KC 2.8 2.5

In his first start against the Dolphins two weeks later, Tebow was still prone to hold the ball. Even in an offense where many of his passes were short dumpoffs, Tebow averaged 3.0 seconds per pass. The next week against the Lions, Denver gave Tebow more short passes, and at least from watching the game, appeared to give him less reads to make, which did help him get rid of the ball quicker.

It was helping, but Tebow was still prone to plenty of sacks, in part because of leaky pass protection from right tackle Orlando Franklin (who gave up four sacks in the Dolphins and Lions games). Even with his scrambling ability, Tebow was being sacked on 14 percent of all of his dropbacks, which would be the worst adjusted sack rate in the league by over five percent if we compared it to other teams' full-season sack rates.

But after that loss, Denver completely revamped the playbook, junking much of its passing game to turn Tebow into an option quarterback.

Much like Oklahoma in the 1980s or Georgia Tech now, the pass became a surprise play that’s best used by Denver to try to catch the safeties abandoning their coverage responsibilities to come up and defend the run.

Against the Chiefs, Denver famously threw only eight passes. But what may have been less noticed is how the Broncos reduced the passing plays in the playbook to a couple of very simple options. Tebow threw one shovel pass (which was dropped) and threw another pass to a running back on a called shovel pass that turned into a dumpoff when the defense read the shovel play. He also threw a swing pass which was actually a glorified handoff for one of his two completions. Another one of his passes was an awful-looking incompletion on a short out route on a third down.

But Tebow’s other four passes were all designed for Tebow to take a shot deep. On the first three, play action helped ensure that the Broncos got single coverage with no safety help over the top -- Tebow just couldn’t connect with his target. On the fourth, the Broncos junked the play action, and the Chiefs did have a safety in the vicinity of wide receiver Eric Decker, but Decker got behind both safety Reshard Langford and cornerback Brandon Flowers for the deciding 56-yard touchdown.

The change has also taken away the threat of drive-killing sacks (with Tebow’s passing ability, any second- or third-and-long becomes a nearly impossible hurdle). Since the switch to a new offense for the Raiders, Tebow has been sacked on 3.9 percent of dropbacks (including the Jets game).

Overall, Tebow’s success has largely come when he gets the ball out quickly. For all his mobility, when he’s held the ball for more than three seconds, very few good things have happened.

Tim Tebow's Passing Results, by How Long the Ball was Held
Seconds Attempts Comp. % Yards Y/A TD/INT First Down % Sack % QB Rating
1.5 or less 5 60.0% 26 5.2 1/1 40.0% 0.0% 73.7
1.6-2.0 26 46.1% 89 3.4 1/0 11.1% 3.7% 67.6
2.1-2.5 21 61.9% 158 7.5 2/0 29.6% 22.2% 116.7
2.6-3.0 21 42.9% 161 7.7 2/0 26.9% 25.0% 101.4
3.1-3.5 11 45.4% 97 8.8 0/0 27.2% 0.0% 76.7
3.6-12.0 20 25.0% 74 3.7 1/0 13.0% 13.0% 59.1

It’s laughable to say that an offense that treats the forward pass as a novelty can succeed in the NFL for long, but give Broncos’ coach John Fox credit. By reducing the Broncos passing attack to the bare minimum, he has given Tebow a chance to become much more comfortable.

On to this week’s notable sacks.

QUICKEST SACK OF THE WEEK

DeMarcus Ware is one of the best pass rushers in football. He can beat even the best left tackle one-on-one -- but Ware is even more effective when the opponent forgets to block him. On the first play the Bills ran from scrimmage, the Bills line blocked to its right, leaving Ware completely unblocked coming off the corner. Ware accepted his gift, hitting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick 1.5 seconds after the snap.

It’s an advantage of the 3-4 defense: a 4-3 defensive end is accounted for in pretty much any protection scheme, but with effectively a five-man front for a 3-4 defense, if the offensive line guesses wrong on which way to slant its protection and the defense sends the outside linebacker from the other side, then you get situations where a team’s best pass rusher is either being blocked by a running back or by no one. The same situation happened in the Dolphins-Redskins game, as Ryan Kerrigan was left unblocked to crunch Matt Moore. It took him 1.9 seconds to rack up the sack.

INTERESTING WRINKLE

Julius Peppers has been one of the game’s best pass rushing defensive ends for years, but the Bears are getting creative in finding ways to get him advantageous matchups. Chicago slid Peppers inside to defensive tackle on a third-and-6 against the Lions. Guard Stephen Peterman couldn’t keep up with Peppers’ quickness, as Peppers flew by him with a quick first step to hand Matthew Stafford an 11-yard loss.

It was Peppers' sixth sack of the season, but it’s hard to say he’s really dominated many offensive tackles. Of his six sacks, four have come because the quarterback held the ball for 3.5 seconds or longer. One of those came when Matt Ryan fell down untouched, and another two came when a quarterback bootlegged to the sideline and Peppers eventually ran him down.

LONGEST SACK OF THE WEEK

The Eagles-Cardinals game was John Skelton’s greatest moment and one of Michael Vick’s worst, but they each shared some common ground in taking a sack of six yards or longer. Skelton had some excuse, as his came on a third-and-11. After dodging an initial rush, he rolled out, couldn’t find anyone open, and eventually was sacked by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- who came up from coverage -- 6.5 seconds after the snap. Vick’s sack came on first-and-15, as he held the ball for 6.7 seconds before the pass rush finally broke through.

Posted by: J.J. Cooper on 18 Nov 2011

73 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2011, 5:57pm by Intropy

Comments

1
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 2:33pm

They showed a stat last night that (within its parameters) showed Mark Sanchez to be a league-leader in fourth-quarter comebacks over the past two years. Like Tebow, he's not a very good quarterback. It should be telling that these two un-stellar QBs are having such success at coming back--telling in that it indicates that having a good defense is going to put a poor QB in a position to come back at the ends of games. Such comebacks are made a lot easier than the rest of the game because defenses play to prevent the big score in the last five minutes of halves. It's not like baseball, in which hitters face conditions in the 8th and 9th innings that are not substantially different from those in the first (certain closers excepted). In football, if you can succeed at the end of games, it's usually because the defense is more giving. I'm less annoyed with today's valorization of Tebow than the failure to properly value the rest of the game.
It's just as annoying when, after a bad offense puts together a good drive in the last minute of a half, the announcers act as though they've finally figured things out and will do just as well in the second half (or, worse, when the next half starts and the announcers can't understand why performance has reverted).

Or maybe I'm wrong about all this. Is it not actually easier to move the ball at the ends of halves?

2
by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:02pm

I have as many questions about Tebow's success long-term as anybody, but he's exciting to watch and he's forcing people to reassess what a successful QB is. Without question, the NFL mindset concerning QBs has become more rigid over the past couple decades. Guys used to call their own plays, but that is almost unheard of now unless your first name is Peyton. The coach's system usually takes precedence over who the QB is to the point that some coaches seem to be more interested in finding mindless blank slates than guys who might actually be able to make plays (Washington, that's directed at you).

Doing what the defense doesn't expect and/or can't stop is what offense is all about, and, certainly in clutch time, Tebow seems to bring that element to the Broncos. The fact that it may not work at future points in time isn't the point--the important thing is it is working for them now. No way does Kyle Orton take them 95 yards for a TD to win that Jets game. At best he might have gotten them into field goal range to get into OT, but they simply don't get the win in regulation with him in there. Denver has found their best guy, at least for now. And given that not very long ago conventional wisdom was that Orton was clearly their best QB, people's preconceived notions are being challenged.

3
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:19pm

It's not really working very well right now. The Bronco defense is playing outstanding ball and giving Tebow a chance to perform his late game shenanigans.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

9
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:40pm

I'd like to see the drive stats for the Denver defense given Orton vs Tebow.

Sanchez, conventionally, had the better game. But Tebow didn't throw a TAINT. There are worse things than throwing incomplete and punting, and forcing a defense to drive long to score. (against non-Rodgers-Manning teams, anyway)

Tebow's biggest asset versus Orton seems to be a reduction in turnovers. If you treat a turnover as 50 yards or so, one or two fewer turnovers per game is good for the difference in their average passing yards.

11
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:53pm

Indeed, checked PFR.

Tebow has the lowest INT % in the NFL, just ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Kyle Orton has the 2nd highest, just behind Rex Grossman. That may be one function of why Denver's defense seems to have suddenly improved. (Their defensive numbers are actually pretty consistent with its Orton-era performance, TO and yards-allowed wise.)

Turnovers in Orton starts (5 games): 12
Turnovers in Tebow starts (5 games): 5

INTs in Orton starts (5 games): 7
INTs in Tebow starts (5 games): 1

So fumbles are fairly constant, despite a massive increase in rushing attempts (but a massive decrease in receptions). Essentially they've become the Ditka Bears -- conservative and often ineffective offense that tries to score just enough to let their defense win. And without constantly turning the ball over, their defense seems to be good enough to do it with some frequency.

That said, there's some odd company on the low INT% rating:

1,Tim Tebow
2,Aaron Rodgers
3,Donovan McNabb
4,Alex Smith
5,Sam Bradford
6,Colt McCoy
7,Joe Flacco

One of those isn't like the others.

13
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:03pm

"One of those isn't like the others."

Whoah, who let Rush in here?

15
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:10pm

Yeah, that occurred to me after I wrote it.

19
by tuluse :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:26pm

There not really anything like the Ditka Bears.

23
by Marko :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:05pm

More like the Dick Jauron Bears.

33
by Jonadan :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:13pm

By which you mean, "none of those is like the others"?

Tebow - pure unadulterated Tebow
Rodgers - probable best starting QB in the NFL right now
McNabb - savvy(?) if lackluster veteran, multiple pro-bowler
Smith - draft "bust" coming in to his own with good coaching
Bradford - big fat question mark on a terrible team
McCoy - Tebow if Tebow could throw and was on a worse team and stuff
Flacco - established mid- to upper-tier QB

Actually having compiled the list it's obvious who stands out: Rodgers. Why isn't he surrounded by "good" QBs? Most of those are around 2-3%, with the rookies behind the rest.

Is it just current flukey stats, or is it as simple as "bad" QBs being coached (or being willing) to throw the ball *away* rather than tempt fate?

(A quick check of PFR suggests fluke: most who lead in low INT% are good QBs most years, and in the last 2+ seasons we're averaging 6 "qualifying" QBs under 2% INT.)

---
"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

28
by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:03pm

"It's not really working very well right now. The Bronco defense is playing outstanding ball and giving Tebow a chance to perform his late game shenanigans."
_____________________

Sounds like it's working very well. The defense is playing great and the offense isn't hurting the cause by turning it over. Getting the W is the ultimate pass-fail. Hard to fault them as long as they're coming out on top.

56
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:14pm

So if you had to choose between two offenses, one that averages 30 points a game but finds itself losing most games 35-30, and one that averages 10 points a game but finds itself winning most games 10-9, you would describe the one that scores 10 points a game as the better offense?

Cause otherwise, you have to admit that what is working very well is the defense, not the offense.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

64
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 7:57am

Well, no, but you do have to not hold offenses and defenses in vacuums. They're interdependent. For some coaches, Fox in particular, if the defense is going to not give up many points, they might slow the game down and thereby limit the offensive points. Particularly when you have a pressure defense - you want to up the urgency on the opposing offense. Denver's defense doesn't look as good against a ball control offense.

4
by ebongreen :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:21pm

Having watched only the last five minutes or so of the game, perhaps I'm not qualified to comment, but I'll do so anyway. :-)

The obvious counter-argument for Orton would be that, perhaps with Orton, the Broncos wouldn't have needed to go 95 yards in the last few minutes to win. Orton plays a completely different (albeit more conventional) game, perhaps playing more to the Jets' defensive strengths, but unlike TT he can actually throw the ball with some reliability. I remember that the Wildcat was all the rage recently - who sees much of that anymore? I don't see what the Broncos are doing has any sense of sustainability to it anymore than the Wildcat did. It's novel and defenses remain (somehow) underprepared - that'll change.

FWIW, I did see that last drive. It strikes me that the Jets did as much to lose on that drive as TT and the Broncos did to win. They blitzed late and last - and lost. I don't recall the amount of pressure they used while the Broncos were backed up deep, but you might think that blitzing early on that drive would be the better option.

7
by DGL :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:31pm

The other counter-argument is that against a Jets defense playing the last five minutes of a game in a short week at 5280 feet above sea level, maybe Orton really does go 95 yards in the last five minutes.

I also agree that the Jets' defensive choices, especially on the TD run, were poor. I think blitzing - especially if your edge rusher loses contain - is the absolute wrong thing to do against Tebow. I was saying they should have one down lineman, two LBs spying, and drop 8 into zone coverage. ISTM that you want to force the opponent to do what he's worst at - throw into dense coverage - not what he's best at - escape from rushers and run into space.

18
by tunesmith :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:21pm

I still occasionally see the argument of "ah, Orton would have won those games too" but it is sounding more strained every week. To believe Orton is still the better quarterback, you'd have to believe that Tebow would have also been 1-4 or worse those first five games, even when it's pretty accepted that Orton is worse at turning the ball over than Tebow, and that Orton would be 4-1 or better in the last five games. I mean, Orton lost to Oakland at home, and Tebow beat Oakland at Oakland. I suppose asterisks can be applied to every single outcome, but after a while, too many asterisks just get heavy and break the sentence they're attached to.

21
by Arkaein :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:41pm

So let's see, Orton vs Oakland QB'd by Campbell and Tebow vs. Carson "10 days on the team" Palmer. Yep, obviously Tebow is the difference maker in that matchup.

26
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:22pm

Denver had 102 more yards and 3 fewer turnovers with Tebow than with Orton.

29
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:05pm

But isn't there such a thing as a slump? Orton has a history of quality play. Tebow has no such history. If we accept that Orton is now and forever a turnover-monger, then I agree it is better to have a QB incapable of putting the ball in the vicinity of human hands. I'm not convinced yet that Orton is completely finished though based on five games. The better argument, however, is for Quinn, who played well enough to move to number two on the depth chart in the preseason. If I were a Bronco fan, I'd be interested in seeing what he can do, though he certainly doesn't have a good track record either.

46
by tunesmith :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:40pm

I suppose there's such thing as a slump, but you don't have as much luxury of letting a player play their way out of a slump in the NFL since the games are so few. And if you looked at Orton's final seven-or-so games, you'd see one heck of a slump. And besides, I'm not sure that Orton-at-his-best is really all that amazing anyway. His best all-time game was probably against New England two years ago, but it's not like he has a lot of games that are up to that level.

I'm curious about Quinn too. He looked great in preseason and had some good press about a new attitude and confidence (which I think was probably close to his core constraint in previous years). And then he had an absolutely awful half in his final preseason game, and looked out of touch about it. You hate to throw away a preseason's worth of goodwill based off of that, though, and I think that Fox is still showing some belief in him - for these last couple of games, Quinn has been the clear #2 behind Tebow, ahead of Orton.

31
by Arkaein :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:10pm

Yeah, and Oakland had 2 more turnovers and no McFadden (150 yards in the first game) vs Tebow. If Tebow faces a healthy Raiders teamthere's not reason to think he does any better than Orton, who had no run support to help him out in that game. Tebow is at best the third most significant factor in Denver's recent wins, following improvements on defense and a largely weak slate of opponents.

The bottom line is Denver was a fairly bad team with Orton, and they're only a bit better with Tebow. They only lost one game by more than 5 points with Orton as a starter, and that was to the undefeated champs. Meanwhile, the Broncos under Tebow have not been near as good as their record, being outscored by 7 points over Tebow's starts thanks to the complete destruction at the hands to the Lions.

36
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:34pm

I understand all that. But expectations aside, the Broncos are a better team with Tebow than with Orton. The case for Orton gets more and more strained as the pile of epicyclic excuses grows.

The schedule has gotten easier (although not dramatically so -- that Cincy game was in the Red Rifle's second start and GB + SD is something of a wash versus Detroit + NYJ), but the defense isn't markedly better than with Orton. TOs forced and yards allowed are comparable.

The defense isn't putting up better numbers. The offense isn't generating worse numbers. Turnovers are down. Wins are up.

42
by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:04pm

The point I was orignally trying to make is basically this, only extended beyond just Orton vs. Tebow out to the league as a whole. Most would say Sanchez played pretty well last night minus the interception. He completed 60% of his throws and generally looked much more like we expect an NFL QB to look than Tebow. Yet, the Jets offense didn't do all that much better than Denver's. And based on the last couple years worth of results, the Jets should have been a significantly better team than the Broncos. Do we really know what makes a good quarterback? Because there are times when the stats certainly help shield guys who struggle to get the job done in the winning department. Orton couldn't win games to save his life, but his stats looked pretty good for a long time so he got a pass. Though he's had way more success than Orton, I think the same thing happens with Sanchez.

38
by Karl with a K (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:44pm

Since this wasn't Orton's first year starting, I see no need to limit the analysis to just this season. And they lost plenty of games the previous couple seasons by more than 5 points. He was 12-21 since coming from Chicago and over last year and this he was 4-14. That's beyond "fairly bad."

43
by akn :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:16pm

Then compare Tebow's start to Orton's start.

First 6 games of the Orton era (2009) in Denver: 6-0. This included wins over the Patriots and the Chargers. It also included the famous Immaculate Deflection

Plus, Orton had the neck beard, which made him look more like Jesus than Tebow.

44
by Jonadan :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:25pm

The key here is "since coming from Chicago". In Chicago, he was 21-12 as a starter, admittedly in a division that mostly sucked and with a defense/ST that's been fairly solid for years and years now.

His first year in Denver, he was 8-7, and then the second year 3-10 and 1-4: the first two years his stats (TD/INT%s, YPA) improved; this year he fell way the hell off a cliff. Which may indicate anything from "he lost the team" to "he's really not that good" to "normal regression plus bad luck in five games" to (imo most likely) "this team sucks".

It's obvious that Tebow (in contrast) has all the "intangibles", but what we're still looking for is whether he's got any actual 'tangibles', as it were.

My current opinion: Tebow is effective enough that he can let the defense win against a bad offense (Miami, new-QB Raiders, KC, Jets). Against a good offense, the defense isn't good enough (Lions). I'm also inclined to think Orton is also good enough to do that in the right system (by which I mean, if Leinart sucks I would entirely expect the Texans to talk to Denver, if not already be doing so, if it weren't for the trade deadline), but I can't prove it because Tebow's been starting... and the huge drop in turnover has to have helped as well.

---
"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

45
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:27pm

It's funny, but actually the reason Tebow doesn't throw picks is pretty easy to identify. A lot of his incompletions - by which I mean on the order of a third to a half of his passes - bounce before they get within ten yards of the receiver.

Thursday's game was a hilarious festival of bad quarterbacking. Sanchez can't throw a ten yard out route to save his life (and after the third quarter, apparently not a flat route either), and Tebow one hopped a hitch route at one point. Tebow's passes are like a blooper reel of Donovan McNabb.

Orton will draw a lot of interest in the offseason if Denver keeps Tebow. He's probably good enough to take a team like the Jets to a Super Bowl.

47
by tunesmith :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:44pm

FWIW, one of those bounced passes that everyone was so sure was inaccurate, was actually a deliberate decision by Tebow that Fox praised... that was in the KC game, I believe. I think a lot of Tebow's "missed" passes are more a product of his conservatism (which also explains the low interception rate) than his inaccuracy. That is at least a more reasonable, less comical explanation than "his accuracy is SO BAD that even the defenders can't catch it!"

49
by Illmatic74 :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:58pm

But, look at someone like McNabb he has one of the lowest interception rates in NFL history even though he struggled with accuracy. That is because McNabb usually missed low I think with Tebow we have an even more drastic case of this.

51
by markus (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 2:40am

Interesting theory. Made me look the list up. What is striking is how the modern passing game has affected that list. And by modern, I mean the last decade. Of the top 10, 8 guys are active and there's nobody in the top 30 who retired before 1990.

57
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:27pm

It is comical indeed and I think it's more accurate than "he plays it safe" -even though he probably does that too. Some of the WRs he misses are wide open. There's no reason to try to throw the ball anywhere than to their chest.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

60
by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:45pm

I still occasionally see the argument of "ah, Orton would have won those games too" but it is sounding more strained every week. To believe Orton is still the better quarterback, you'd have to believe that Tebow would have also been 1-4 or worse those first five games, even when it's pretty accepted that Orton is worse at turning the ball over than Tebow, and that Orton would be 4-1 or better in the last five games. I mean, Orton lost to Oakland at home, and Tebow beat Oakland at Oakland. I suppose asterisks can be applied to every single outcome, but after a while, too many asterisks just get heavy and break the sentence they're attached to.
---------------
This is fair, but look at it objectively.

Orton played poorly in that first Oakland game except in the 4th quarter. Unlike the defense Tebow has been playing with, that defense couldn't get a stop to get the offense the ball back one more time. THere were over 3 minutes left when Oakland got the ball. Also, Jason Campbell who had been in the system and McFadden were both healthy for those games.

The Titans game Orton and company lost was John Fox's fault for not taking the field goal to go up by seven and then the defense crapping the bed and allowing a TD drive.

Doesnt matter who was the QB when they played GB, the Broncos weren't winning that game.

San Diego you can make the case for that Tebow could have won it had he started.

Orton and the Broncos did beat Cincy which is a better win than any of Tebow's.

There was virtually no run game for Orton, for whatever reason. 38 yards rushing against Oakland in the first game, in the second? 298 yards rushing. Granted Tebow accounted for a little over 100 yards but the holes McGahee was seeing in that second Oakland game were no where to be found in those first 5 games.

65
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 8:03am

I'm mostly there with you, except that I think the Jets victory is at least comparable to the Cincinnati victory, and probably better. Dalton wasn't as experienced, and I don't think Orton would have been able to do much against the Jets' pass defense.

Also, you have to remember that the holes McGahee was seeing in that second Oakland game were because of Tebow.

67
by Mr Shush :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 9:21am

Quite. Whether Tebow's making the defense look better by avoiding turnovers or not, he is unquestionably going to be making McGahee look better because that's what running quarterbacks do. Vick and Young have precisely the same effect.

68
by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 12:36pm

But were we seeing a typical Jets team that night? As mentioned upthread, the Jets of Thursday night were coming off a gut-wrenching loss just 4 days prior, playing at oxygen starved Mile High.

I think Orton would have won too. Actually, because he can actually throw a major league football, he might have blown the Jets out.

69
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 3:51pm

Well, opinions are opinions so I can appreciate that. I just think it's seriously tinted - you should at least review Orton's stats of his last 7-8 games, look at how well Denver's rushing game did (didn't do) against the Jets, and factor in the fact that Brandon Lloyd isn't with the team anymore. I have a really hard time seeing an Orton victory against that Jets team that showed up.

70
by Oldcat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 7:35pm

In the Cincy win, the Denver running game was really gashing us, unlike most of the other games where teams struggled to run consistently.

The one pass play I remember was a deep pass so horribly underthrown in the second half that the safety and CB defending it lost track, and collided, letting the receiver walk into the endzone. I believe this ended up being the difference.

Orton wasn't lighting it up in that game either.

30
by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:09pm

"I also agree that the Jets' defensive choices, especially on the TD run, were poor."
___________________________________

A year or less from now everybody may have him totally figured out and the Broncos might be getting blown away every week, but it is beyond ridiculous to see the double-edged sword arguments claiming that Tebow is on the one hand just too simplistic too succeed in the NFL, while arguing on the other hand that he's only winning because NFL defenses just aren't smart enough to stop him.

50
by tunesmith :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:23pm

Good point, you really put your finger on it there.

Yesterday I watched the game in a dive bar in Oahu. There was a Jets fan with a Sanchez jersey on. At the end, he just slumped his shoulders and said, "This is so humiliating." I guess the point is, maybe it's not.

I still think it'll take a while for people to get there though. In the meantime, every team that loses to Denver will be taking turns being the worst team in the league.

When's the last time that a team has won three upsets in a row?

52
by Jerry :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 6:33am

It depends, in part, on how you're defining "upset". (If it's a betting underdog, the data is on the web somewhere.)

How many 6-seeds who've reached the Super Bowl won three upsets to get there?

Meantime, enjoy Hawaii.

10
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:46pm

My impression of the wildcat was that the Dolphins only ran it because they had exceptional depth at running back and very little offensive talent otherwise. It made sense for them to use a formation that put all their best players on the field. Other teams copied it for a while, but it quickly became apparent that unless you have the kind of talent imbalance the Dolphins had, whatever advantages the wildcat gives you aren't usually worth eliminating the threat of the pass. Depending on how Leinart does, I could see the Texans running some wildcat in the coming weeks.

58
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:30pm

..and because they had great run-blocking.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

17
by Jovins :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:18pm

Orton might not have driven 95 yards to win the game (might not have, but it is possible), but he also would have probably thrown the ball better then Tebow through the game.

32
by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:11pm

Sanchez threw the ball better than Tebow throughout the game. But other than looking better on the stat sheet, the Jets didn't benefit much from it. He also managed to throw a pick 6. And Orton was committing way too many turnovers when he was starter.

5
by tgt2 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:22pm

"taking a sack of six yards or longer". That should be "seconds," not "yards," right?

6
by QQ (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:24pm

"The fact that it may not work at future points in time isn't the point--the important thing is it is working for them now."

I disagree that it is working now. There is no reason to give credit to an Offense for scoring 1 Touchdown in an entire game. Even if you give the Offense the Credit for a shanked punt that lead to a fg, that is still only 10 Points for the Offense.
10 Points for an Offense is a poor performance and would not cause anyone to reassess their beliefs.

The Real story of the game is the Defense. Any Defense that allows only 6 Net Points in a Game (13 Points-7 Scored on a Pick 6) deserves almost all the credit for the win, especially when their own offense only scored 10

8
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:36pm

The other story is Sanchez's incompetence. Sometimes you can't really blame the QB, but in that game Sanchez kept missing throws that a good quarterback would make with ease.

34
by Karl with a K (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:21pm

Sanchez completed 60% for the game, which isn't "incompetent." The Pick 6 was a huge error. But they also missed two field goals. The missed field goals and letting Denver drive 95 yards for the winning TD is what did them in, not Sanchez.

37
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:37pm

Folk missed a 52 yarder and a 61(!) yarder. A 52-yarder, even for an elite kicker, is a 50-50 kick. A 60-yarder, even for an elite kicker, is historic.

The Jets could have expected, at best, one of those. They lost by 4.

39
by Karl with a K (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:52pm

"A 52-yarder, even for an elite kicker, is a 50-50 kick."
_______________________________

Where are you getting that? This season 50+ yard field goals have been made at about a 75% clip. And the game was at altitude.

71
by Intropy :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 8:08pm

There's selection bias in there since a coach is more likely to choose a field goal attempt if he is more confident it will be made.

72
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/28/2011 - 5:27pm

That implies that elite kickers will hit them at a higher than 50% chance, no?

73
by Intropy :: Mon, 11/28/2011 - 5:57pm

It certainly helps, but I was also considering things like wind, atmosphere, rain, etc.

35
by Karl with a K (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:30pm

"I disagree that it is working now. "

Well, the scoreboard disagrees with you. It's a team game and the defense is playing considerably better with Tebow in than when it was Orton. Without question, part of that has to do with the fact that Tebow isn't turning the ball over like Orton was.

48
by tunesmith :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:50pm

Honestly, I think Fox/McCoy's "keep it close" mentality extends to when the Broncos have the lead. If they're up by a touchdown, they clamp down on the game plan in favor of burning time and relying on the defense. You'll notice that when Tebow has more success, it's when the open up the playbook a bit. I don't think it's any coincidence that on all these drives that Tebow looks horrible, it's also when Denver isn't in immediate danger of losing.

12
by brandond03 :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:58pm

I found it interesting that Mike McCoy and John Fox let Tebow just play in the last five minutes. During that drive Denver went with the spread look that he ran with great success at UF, several empty backfield plays and designed QB runs.
If you think Orton could have done as much or put Denver ahead so Tebow doesn't have to come from behind, you must have missed the first 4 and half games of the season.
Denver's D put Tebow in position to win the game, now is the D playing harder for Tebow than Orton, I think so based on V. Miller's post game comments, but they also must be adapting to their new coaches and their scheme.
Right now Denver is playing as a team so well that Tebow doesn't have to play like Aaron Rogers to win games.

Go Gators and Go Navy

14
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:08pm

"I think so based on V. Miller's post game comments"

Can you ever trust post-game comments? When things go well, teams are happy and they give emotion-based reasons for their success. When things don't go well, commentators aren't happy, and they give emotion-based reasons for that failure.

16
by brandond03 :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:14pm

Probably not, but that is why I added the second part about them adapting to the new coaches and their scheme.

Go Gators and Go Navy

20
by Yuri (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:35pm

Back to topic of 'under pressure.' Only watched the 2nd half of the game which was pretty enjoyable* I think Tebow handled pressure well--both nimble and hard to bring down. And he did attempt throws on the run--not just running from pressure all the time. However, lack of accuracy on the few throws attempted was staggering.

I think real kudos go to Fox and his coaching staff. Even if the Broncos do not make the playoffs (and even if they find themselves starting another quarterback next year), they have managed to maximize their players' talents, on offense and defense. Little was expected of Denver before the year, as the talents may not add up to much anyway, but they are playing hard.

* the enjoyable bits were how "different" the game looked and how close it was, defensive showcase, and all-22 camera replays. The non-so-enjoable were the terrible announcers ("single high safety" sounds smart once not repeated ad nauseum, "you can't do that" style analysis) and camera direction (missed fumble TD, not showing last extra point)

25
by DGL :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:16pm

Not being a regular viewer of NFL Network (my cable operator doesn't carry it, so I only got the game because I'm in the NY metro area), I, too, was dumbfounded by how terrible both the announcing and the production were.

22
by TEBOTE IS WIN (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:55pm

tl;dr. Tebowns, that's all you need to know.

24
by Marko :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:07pm

"It was Peppers' sixth sack of the season, but it’s hard to say he’s really dominated many offensive tackles. Of his six sacks, four have come because the quarterback held the ball for 3.5 seconds or longer. One of those came when Matt Ryan fell down untouched"

I pointed this out a few weeks ago, and I'll do it again: While Peppers originally was credited with a sack on the play in which Matt Ryan fell down untouched, that play subsequently was changed to a team sack. That play resulted in a fumble returned for a TD by Brian Urlacher. Here is the play description from NFL.com: "3-3-ATL 27 (6:09) (Shotgun) 2-M.Ryan sacked at ATL 16 for -11 yards. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by CHI-54-B.Urlacher at ATL 12. 54-B.Urlacher for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN." Peppers only had one sack in that game against Atlanta, and here is the description of that play: "1-10-CHI 45 (1:15) (No Huddle) 2-M.Ryan sacked at CHI 46 for -1 yards (90-J.Peppers)."

So Peppers' 6 sacks do not include the play in which Ryan fell down untouched.

27
by Illmatic74 :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:27pm

Tebow is the rawest starting QB I have ever seen. But, his rawness actually sort of helps him. He has poor accuracy and doesn't have any sense of rhythm and timing. Because of those two things he never puts the ball in places that the defense could make a play. So while a Tebow lead offense won't put up much points but Tebow won't make the big turnover that changes the game like Sanchez did last night.

40
by Jens Kristian Villadsen (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 7:26pm

Tebow Sucks! We have decided this a long time ago, and so that is how it is!

We all have our various reasons for believing this - but they are not important in this context.

What is important is that we find as many data points as possible that can confirm our belief - and as many explanations why datapoints that point to the opposite are irrelevant. Reality be damned!

41
by rengewnad (not verified) :: Fri, 11/18/2011 - 7:27pm

more love to the bronco's defense stepping up recently. i wanted to point out specific sequence I thought was really fun to watch (as a bronco's fan).

After the 2nd hard hit that Von Miller put on Sanchez, the next Jets series he came out and maybe a play or two into the series there was a replay of Sanchez throwing with Von Miller coming straight at his face full steam. Sanchez's whole body contracts in a flinch a second sooner than he really needed to in order to absorb a hit, and it looked like he rushed the pass even earlier than he should have in normal about-to-get-hit-and-throw-quickly situations. on the replay in slow motion it seemed like an eternity of him silently thinking "%@#% here he comes again!!!"

A blocker was able to move aside and take out the rusher before he crushed sanchez, making the flich and the quick release all the more funny to watch as the hit never happened. I'm not supporting injuring other people, but the effects of the hard hits was never more apparent than in that slow motion replay of the hit that DIDN'T happen.

And i watched all this after reading John Lynch's column from Wed/Thurs about game planning for Tebow where he said he would have the guys hit him hard and often to rattle Tebow's nerves... looks like Denver's D pulled it offer better than the Jets D.

53
by JCutler6 :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 8:44am

What has been the reason behind Denver's sudden defensive resurgence?

Is it a good pass-rush with Miller/Dumervil? Or more a product of playing some fairly ordinary offenses the last few weeks?

54
by Jimmy :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:29am

Miller and Dulmervil are a big part of it but don't forget Bailey who remains awesome. They stay in man free all day making it tough to run and you dont have your best wr to throw to.

55
by Jonadan :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:54am

All wins: vs offenses currently ranked 17th, 19th, 12th, 28th, and 13th in DVOA.
All losses: vs offenses currently ranked 12th, 11th, 1st, 16th, and 22nd in DVOA.

12th is the Raiders: the win was Carson Palmer's first full game, about which yeah.
13th is the Jets. We have no idea.

All the other wins are vs. bottom-half offenses. Average DVOA (assuming I can simply sum and divide) is +4.5% right now, which really doesn't change anything except making the Chargers' offense below-average (barely) by DVOA atm.

22nd is the Lions: the loss was Tebow's second game as a starter.

Anyway, my feeling: Denver's defense is average to good (DVOA has them 19th at 10.1 which is actually not good), and the turnover thing is probably huge.

---
"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

66
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/20/2011 - 8:09am

I think Raiders victory gets over-discounted. Palmer actually looked pretty good in that game, this wasn't the same as two weeks previous when he was thrown in against KC. It was only one week later that he dominated San Diego. He had three ints, but two were by Champ. The real story of the game was that Oakland's undisciplined defense had no answer for the zone read, even though they had prepared for it in practice.

59
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:37pm

I guess 90% of the arguments pro Tebow -even here in this FO thread- come down to "the team is winning".

So maybe we should revisit this conversation when Denver starts losing again. I suspect we won't have to wait long.

------
We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

62
by BJR :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 5:32pm

One thing that is becoming clear is that Tebow's abilities as a runner have transferred well to the NFL. The instincts, elusiveness and toughness he displayed as a runner in that final drive were very impressive. Very few players could have done that. Of course the claims will be that NFL defences will learn, adapt and nullify that, but many of the original claims were that he wouldn't be able to achieve any success whatsoever, so we'll see.

But this is the NFL, and it surely requires a competent passing game in order to sustain any success. Right now Tebow is a terrible passer, and there is probably not much scope for improvement now in that regard. However, it's just possible that he might be an elite talent as a running QB/scrambler. Whether that makes him a starting QB is highly questionable, but he has proven he isn't a useless pile of garbage either. There is a role for him to play somewhere. Who knows? - Denver could be sitting on a potential goldmine having a guy like Tebow interchanging with a decent passer like Orton depending on the state of the game or the opposition. I could never see it happening - just too ground-breaking - but as an idea it certainly has some appeal.

61
by rots (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 5:30pm

As a charter member of the Tebow Sucks club and a lifelong Bronco fan let me say that at least these games have been vaguely close and entertaining which is a happy change vs the last 3-5 years of pathetic bronco teams.

Clearly a healthy Elvis + Von Miller + healthy Champ + close games (other than the Lions debacle) = a much more competitive Denver team. Throw in some luck, some clueless defenses and Tebow can get away with being hte worst starting QB in my memory for 50+ minutes and then have a chance to pull out a win.

If we still had Cutler and everything else was the same the Bronco's would have won in a blowout on Thursday.. Tebow cant hit an open man to save his life from the pocket but isnt an abomination while throwing on the run to his left. Id love to see Fox and Co. break out the bootleg that Shanahole ran in here for years..always produced a fair amt of long TDs.

Two most important parts to a team, imo, are QB play and the ability to beat the hell out of the opponents QB. We got 1 out of 2 on that front and throw in an above avg kicking game and not totally sucky return game and those are the ingredients for at least a competent team which is a vast improvement over the last few Shanahole teams and the McDaniels era.

63
by Anonymous(not that one) (not verified) :: Sat, 11/19/2011 - 6:48pm

All anyone can really say is that the Broncos are winning with Tebow, and no one is un-rapeable.