Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jan 2012

ESPN AGS: Broncos over Steelers

Tim Tebow's success on Sunday ran counter to the numbers put up by the Steelers defense this year -- but not counter to the numbers put up by Tebow himself. Throwing deep is what he does well. And he'll continue to do it against the Patriots this weekend.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 10 Jan 2012

17 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2012, 5:20pm by Joseph


by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 5:43pm

Tebow went 11/22 for 194 yards, was sacked 4 times, fumbled twice, and was completely innefective outside the 1st quarter.

The patriots have two of their best defenders coming back this week (Chung and Spikes).

Tebow's main strength as a passer is throwing the deep ball, yet the Patriots play their safeties roughly 30 yards off the line of scrimmage.

Tebow gashing the patriots via the deep ball just doesn't seem like the most likely outcome here. Running all over them? Maybe. Having lots of short stuff open? Maybe.

by The Voice (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 5:50pm

The difference in the first matchup was the Broncos defense couldn't keep up with Brady. There's zero reason to think the outcome will be any different here, and I don't think Tebow can outgun Brady now or maybe ever.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 6:06pm

The Broncos defense couldn't keep up with Brady, and the Broncos offense was completely impotent as soon as the Patriots switched out of a 4-3, and into their 3-4/5-2 alignment, and switched from lining up over the guards, to over the tackles.

It was two games. Everything worked for the Broncos in the first quarter. After that, they basically got killed for 45 minutes.

by The Voice (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 7:27pm

I assume the OC might be ready for that trick this week, but of course we'll see.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 10:14am

Trick? Realizing you don't have the personnel to play a certain scheme is a trick?

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 4:59pm

Switching to a 3/4 isn't a trick, it is an adjustment. Even if Denver has a better gameplan specifically for that allignment, then you have to say that they won't have such an explosive first quarter.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 6:05pm

All the blurb (I'm not a subscribe) says is that he'll continue to throw deep, not that he'll succeed while doing it.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 6:06pm

"Throwing deep is what he does well. And he'll continue to do it against the Patriots this weekend"

No, it says he'll continue to throw deep well.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 6:44pm

"[Action] is what he does [adverb]. And he'll continue to [action] against the Patriots this weekend."

It's not the most clear way to write the sentence, but it does not say he'll do it well again.

by BearJew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 6:54pm

It does say this in the article. (Hope posting this snippet is okay)

Pittsburgh's defense was great against bombs all season long, but they couldn't stop Tebow's long-distance attack.

How did New England do when opponents aired it out? The Patriots gave up a success rate of 52.5 percent on deep balls. That was the worst rate in the league, and nobody else was higher than 50 percent.

Opponents had 21 completions or interference calls on bombs against New England; nobody else gave up more than 16.
And if you're counting on nose tackle Vince Wilfork & Co. to generate much pass rush against the Broncos, well, their sack rate in 2011 was 6.1 percent, slightly worse than Pittsburgh's.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 7:38pm

What was Pittsburgh's sack rate with all those defensive guys out, though?

by MJK :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 1:27pm

Of course, one obvious reason for this could be, with the Patriots offense, one would expect opponents to TRY to air it out more than against anyone else, barring perhaps New Orleans and Green Bay.

The success rate stat is somewhat damning. The raw number of successful deep plays...not so much. When you're haning 35 points per game on most people, they're going to try more deep balls. And if they try more, they're bound to succeed more than if they didn't.

I think there were two big reasons why Denver's deep ball worked against the Steelers. (1) The Steelers' safety play was terrible, and (2) the Denver receivers played a heck of a game, magically solving all their dropping problems and making great adjustments on inaccurate Tebow rainbows.

I don't expect the Pats safety play to be significnatly better, even with Chung back, since that hasn't exactly been their strength this season.

However, I'm also not sure that the level of play the Denver WR's showed on Sunday is sustainable, given what I saw from them over the course of the season.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 5:08pm

Basing everything on season stats is a terribly flawed way to look at it.

Why were they successful passing on Pitt? Because Pitt played cover zero a great deal of the time, gambling that Denver wouldn't be able to win the M2M battles in the secondary. They exchanged the risk of big plays for the potential for quick possessions, which is pretty much the opposite of NE's defensive mindset.

Your numbers make sense on the surface, but the completely ignore cause and effect. If Denver beats NE passing, it will be with short and intermediate, not 5 40+ yard completions.

by MJK :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 1:21pm

RichC, what are you doing???!!! I thought you were a Patriots fan!

Here, let me try to fix it for you...

the BRONOCS are going to totally PWN the patsies this weekedn. Bellicheat and pretty boy brady wont knaw whgat hit them. there d-fence SUX and Tebow just wins, baby. ELWAY 4 EVA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by Joseph :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 9:06pm

I can't read the article, but I have some comments on the comments here.
I'm assuming that the idea here is play the run & the bomb, while making Tebow read the defense and go through his progressions. To me, this sounds like cover-2. Now, if Belichick doesn't try to throw the kitchen sink at him instead of vanilla cover-2 all day, then I'll be surprised.

by tally :: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 11:00pm

Why? It was the Pats' strategy in the first game to force Tebow to have to sustain long drives (as opposed to Pittsburgh's kitchen sink high risk/high reward strategy), and it eventually worked.

The more plays you force Tebow (or anyone) to make, the more his performance will begin to reflect his actual ability. It's like splitting 10s in blackjack--it might pay off in the short term but in the long run, it's a sucker strategy.

by Joseph :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 5:20pm

tally, JMO, but I think Belichick should and will change up his coverages more. In other words, he might play cover-2 as a base--say, ~50% of the time, and the other ~50% something else. IMO, it would too easy to have enough success with runs, short passes, etc. if they played cover-2 much more than 50%. In other words, if Tebow can diagnose the D before the snap, then audible to a play to beat that particular D, you tip your cap and hope you stop him the next play (oops--unless you give up an 80-yd TD to start OT). If you don't change it up enough, his OC gets comfortable calling plays that will work.