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Question of the Day: Brady's Patriots against Tebow's Broncos

The Patriots will take on the surprising Broncos in Foxborough on Saturday.

The New England Patriots are set to take on the Denver Broncos — and media darling Tim Tebow — in Foxborough on Saturday.

The Broncos, of course, are coming off a shocking upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, having won the game on the first play of overtime.

So, how will the Patriots fare in this matchup? It's instructive to look at how Denver beat the Steelers.

As has been noted, the Steelers ran a defense that essentially sold out against the run, putting their safeties in the box to stop the Denver ground attack. This was to Pittsburgh's detriment, however, as Denver's receivers won their one-on-one matchups to catch deep passes down the field. When the Steelers failed to put pressure on Tebow on passing downs, they lost the game.

Does this herald a vast improvement in Tebow's game? I don't believe so. His arm strength was not (or should not have been) in contention — it's his accuracy, and he did not see a substantial jump in that Sunday night (he went 10 of 21).

The Patriots defense, in contrast, is geared almost entirely to stopping the big play. Coach Bill Belichick's strategy is avoid (metaphorical) home runs and force the other offense to beat him with singles and doubles. This is where Tebow struggles.

What we see out the Patriots defense will likely be what we saw the last time these two teams faced off — stop the run with the front seven, drop players in coverage, keep Tebow from rolling to his left.

The Patriots defense might be slightly better than it was in the last matchup. Safety Patrick Chung is back from injury, and Devin McCourty has looked comfortable at safety after struggling all season at corner.

The Pats offense is the Pats offense. It performed well against the Broncos last game, despite some early troubles. They should be able to score enough points to put pressure on Denver's passing game.

Can the Broncos win? Certainly. The Patriots defense, despite recent improvements, is still not very good. Though the strategy is to avoid the big play, there can be a vast gulf between scheme and execution. It remains to be seen if cornerbacks Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore and Antwaun Molden can consistently stop the deep pass, especially to Demaryius Thomas. If Willis McGahee can gain regular yards through the running game, the Pats will be in trouble.

So, Wrentham, who wins: the Patriots or the Broncos?

Grog January 12, 2012 at 12:14 AM
"Does this herald a vast improvement in Tebow's game? I don't believe so. His arm strength was not (or should not have been) in contention — it's his accuracy, and he did not see a substantial jump in that Sunday night (he went 10 of 21)." Is this what stands for analysis? Would it be fair to say that it requires greater accuracy to drop a ball over the top of a defender into the arms of the receiver from over 30 yards away versus 10? The law of physics tells us this is so. Not only did Tebow do this once he did it on four different occasions which set franchise pass records for the playoffs. To add to this point, if you paid attention to the pundits, it was universally acknowledged that this was Tebow's greatest career game as a passer. Second, you base your analysis entirely on the 10 out of 21 stat. Let's break this down, there were three balls dropped that were catchable (the QB can't control the execution of the receiver, he can only deliver the ball to the receiver). In addition, he was able to avoid sacks by scrambling out of the pocket and throwing the ball away. What would you rather have, a sack or have the ball thrown away? That also occurred on 3-4 separate occasions. So in the end, the 10 out of 21 stat does not represent Tebow's throwing accuracy during the game. "Pay attention to the drivers that deliver the results."
Mike Gleason January 12, 2012 at 02:58 AM
To take your last point first, dropped balls and throwaways are not unique to Tebow — they affect all quarterbacks. It's not unfair to compare Tebow's completion rate to those of other quarterbacks, and he does complete a lower percentage of passes than his peers. Re: deep balls, they are typically harder to complete. As noted, though, the Steelers' gameplan (using safeties in run support instead of coverage) made throwing the deep ball substantially easier to complete. To Tebow's credit, he threw and completed those passes. But his accuracy — his ability to deliver the ball where it needs to be consistently — continues to be a sore spot. Thanks for commenting!

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