The Playbook Abides: Tebow(etheus) Unbound - Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1 of Tebow(etheus) Unbound, we took a look at Tim Tebow's first four throws against the Pirates of Penzance Raiders last Sunday.

We saw how, during the early part of the game, the Broncos were intent on keeping Tebow in some run-heavy sets, while simplifying his throws.   

Today, we'll be looking at throws 5-8, which included the long touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd.  

Here, we're going to see what happened when the Broncos gave Tebow a little more leeway.

We present to you Tebow(etheus) Unbound, Part Deux.

Pass 5

When: 7:46 of the 1st Quarter

Where: Oakland's 34-yard line

Down & Distance: 2nd and 11

The Dope:  With the score tied at 7-7, the Broncos faced an obvious passing down in this situation.  OC Mike McCoy, however, moved away from the standard 3-wide receiver set.  Instead, he brought out a 122 personnel package (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) and showed a single-back (Ace) formation.  He placed Richard Quinn (81) in the right slot and Daniel Graham (89) in a three-point stance off left tackle.  The formation is flexible, meaning that it can be an effective running or passing formation.  Moreover, it takes advantage of multi-talented tight ends.

The idea on this play was to play fake to Lance Ball (35) up the middle and then hit the primary receiver Brandon Lloyd (84), on a deep post near the corner of the end zone.    

 Tebow Pass 5

What Tebow Saw: This was one of Tebow's (15) easier reads of the day.  The Broncos showed motion on the play (Jabar Gaffney (10) coming across the formation until he stopped where you see him now), and although CB Nnamdi Asomugha did trail him on the play, the Raiders were not playing man coverage.  Both cornerbacks were playing seven yards off the line of scrimmage and their bodies were at 45-degree angles, which is a classic sign of zone coverage.  Sure enough, near the snap of the ball, the cornerbacks, safeties, and linebackers all broke for their zone-coverage responsibilities.   

The Happening:  Tebow gave an average play fake to Ball and took what amounted to a 7-step drop.  He then locked onto Lloyd rather quickly before delivering a touchdown pass that fell into Lloyd's arms (and through the cornerback's) in the back of the end zone.   The pass was what I would describe as "angled."  It was neither a bullet nor a duck of a throw.  It was of average speed, and yet, it seemed pinpointed.  Because Tebow is lefthanded, my best reference point is a guy like Steve Young.  Young often delivered these types of passes that somehow seemed like they were deep touch passes.  As an aside, this makes me wonder if, with more work, Tebow just couldn't play in a West Coast system after all.

Let me be clear - for the record, I'm not saying Tebow is Steve Young.  But his throwing motion and ball flight seem to have a similar feel and texture.  I still feel this way even after watching old tape on other lefties like Boomer Esiason and Kenny Stabler.

The Bottom Line:   It's hard to fault Tebow given the result of the play.  However, it should be noted that his ball fake was again average, and he did Lloyd no favors by locking onto him throughout the entire route.  

Grade: B

Pass 6

When: 1:33 of the 1st Quarter

Where: Oakland's 48-yard line

Down & Distance: 2nd and 11

The Dope:  With the score tied at 14-14, the Broncos were inside Oakland territory and driving for another score.  They came out in a true passing personnel package 113 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and put Tebow in the gun.  Daniel Graham lined up in a three-point stance off right tackle.  The Broncos showed trips left.  At this point in the game, the Raiders had been putting decent pressure on the Broncos, so the Broncos decided to use that aggression against the Raiders and run a little screen pass for Correll Buckhalter (28). 

The idea on a play like this is for the three wide receivers to clear their defenders with "go" or "up" routes, while the three interior linemen feign their blocks and work to the right side of the formation to create a wall for Buckhalter.

Tebow Pass 6

What Tebow Saw: The Raiders came out with a "big dime" package, in which they deployed four safeties, two corners and one linebacker as their back seven. The Raiders were clearly in man coverage with a safety over the top for help.   All Tebow needed to do was see how his receivers were covered on the right side of the line to determine this.  From the tape it looks like he did.  He also saw one of the safeties creep up to the line of scrimmage.  But it didn't matter.  Tebow knew they were running a screen.  He just had to ensure that the blitzer, if he came, didn't get there before he could get the ball to Buckhalter.  

The Happening:  The Broncos ran the play well.  The safety did not blitz.  Center JD Walton was able to get outside just enough to stop the linebacker from making the play, and Tebow really sold the idea that he was looking deep to one of his three wide receivers before he suddenly dropped the ball off to Buckhalter.  The result was a 17-yard gain. 

The Bottom Line:  Tebow was excellent on this play and gave the impression he was looking deep.  In addition, he put a nice touch on the ball to Buckhalter.  Some rookie quarterbacks have trouble with these short touch passes, as simple as they may seem.  But Tebow made the catch very easy for the running back.

Grade: A

Pass 7

When: 8:25 of the 2nd Quarter

Where: Oakland's 46-yard line

Down & Distance: 3rd and 6

The Dope:  Denver actually led 17-14 to the surprise of many, including a lot of Broncos fans.  Putting points on the board here would have completely changed the dynamic of the game.  McCoy had Tebow in the gun.  He featured a 113 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) personnel package.  Instead of a true 113, however, he went max protect by putting Graham in the backfield to the left of Tebow.  

The primary receiver appeared to be Lloyd from watching Tebow's head on this play.  I'm not sure why - given that he was covered most of the game by Nmandi Asomugha (side note:  Asomugha is the best cover corner in the entire league).  The Broncos only needed six yards for a first down.  

Gaffney ran a post, while Eddie Royal (19) either ran a deep out or corner (it was hard to tell from the tape exactly which).  Graham, for his part, chipped and then released over the middle.

Tebow Pass 7

What Tebow Saw:  Against wideouts, the Raiders rarely try to disguise the fact they are in man coverage.  It was no different on this play.  Additionally, they stacked the box with eight players.  They clearly wanted Tebow to think they were bringing the house.  I'm speculating here, but it's possible that is why Tebow first looked to Lloyd on the play--he simply thought he was getting eight men coming after him.  

The Happening:  As is usually the case when a defense shows an all-out blitz, Oakland instead dropped the linebacker,  the strong safety and an extra defensive back into middle-zone coverage.  This immediately had the effect of taking away anything Gaffney and Graham were trying to do over the middle.  Tebow (this is how it appeared to me), looked off the safety quickly.  Then he looked to Lloyd.  Upon realizing that Lloyd was blanketed, he began working through his progressions:  Gaffney (covered), Graham (short of the sticks), and finally, Royal (single coverage).  Tebow chose a jump ball to Royal, but he didn't plant his back foot properly and threw the ball with more arm than anything else.  The result was an incompletion on a deep ball to Royal.  

The Bottom Line:  I think Tebow performed rather well on this play, outside of his footwork at the end of the play.  This was the first pass in the game in which one saw Tebow work through his progressions.  And it appeared he actually looked off the safety.  He could have chosen a jump ball with Lloyd as well, and I'm surprised he didn't.  He also could have tried to force something to Gaffney, but he recognized that the Raiders had dropped their extra defensive back and linebacker into the middle zones.  It was good recognition by the young QB.  In the end, however, his footwork could have been stronger; he could have put more into the throw.

Grade: C

Pass 8

When: 5:27 of the 2nd Quarter

Where: Denver's 20-yard line

Down & Distance: 1st and 10

The Dope:  One has to like the design and call of this play and formation.  This was perhaps the best call of the entire game due to the elegance and symmetry of the routes alone.  Denver was leading 17-14, but backed up against their own red zone.  McCoy featured a 122 personnel packages (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR).  Our own Doc Bear would be proud to see the formation: the double wing. One might also call this a flexbone, but the name of the formation is just nomenclature for offensive coordinators to argue about.  The purpose of the call was to force the defense into a tight bunch in order to create space for Lloyd and Gaffney for a big play.

The play featured both tight ends (Graham and Quinn) running out patterns, while Lloyd and Gaffney ran "up" or "go" patterns.   It appears as if Lloyd was the primary receiver on this play, or that Tebow had the option to go to either Lloyd or Gaffney.

Tebow Pass 8

What Tebow Saw:  The Raiders held true to form, playing man-to-man coverage at the line of scrimmage (they're good at it, after all).  Once Tebow saw the strong safety creep up to the line of scrimmage and the free safety basically stay in centerfield, he knew he had Lloyd and Gaffney singled up.   It should be noted, however, that from the numbers, the more logical place to put the ball would have been to Gaffney.  

The Happening:  Tebow took a five-step drop and lofted the ball up for Lloyd.  As usual, Lloyd cut in front of the defender and made the catch for a 22-yard gain.  It really was that simple.  Lance Ball also did a great job of chipping the defensive end coming on the outside rush.

The Bottom Line:  It was a perfect call against a defense that likes to play so much man-to-man coverage.  Tebow's release always looks strange, but he put a nice touch on the ball.  This allowed Lloyd to make an easy play coming back for it.

Grade: A

Tomorrow, unless there's a totally bitchin' Roadhouse marathon on television, we'll be looking at throws 9-12 from our young Mr. Tebow.  Until that time, leave any of your thoughts in the comments below.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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