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Tag:John Fox
Posted on: January 8, 2012 12:45 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 12:47 pm
 

Report: Broncos have 3rd-down package for Quinn

Denver reportedly has a third-down package for backup Quinn. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

All week long, there have been a litany of rumors that Denver would consider benching quarterback Tim Tebow if he struggles against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and inserting backup Brady Quinn into the game.

Quinn denied the rumors about receiving extra first-team repetitions in Broncos practice, but what else was he going to do? And Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported on Sunday that the Broncos have a specific third-down package designed for Quinn against the Steelers.

This package is, presumably, for cases when the Broncos end up in obviously third-and-long passing situations; though Tebow's had some success in 2011 passing the ball, he's not exactly going to keep a team like the Steelers honest in those scenarios.

Additionally, Glazer reports that the Broncos have a package prepared for both Quinn and Tebow, although there's no certainty that Denver will use it, particularly if Tebow is effective.

Finally, the Broncos are pretty clearly prepared to make a change if Tebow struggles. They've shown no real concern about yanking the former first-round pick around in the past, and the John Fox/John Elway combo hasn't shown too much concern about committing to the quarterback who got them to the playoffs before, aside from indicating he'll be on the roster in 2012.

Why would they start now?


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Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:21 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:09 pm
 

Is Tim Tebow in danger of being benched Sunday?

Does Fox really have Tebow's back? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Tim Tebow set the world on fire during the Broncos six-game winning streak that put them in first place in the AFC West. But during Denver's final three games -- all losses -- Tebow looked totally different, and there's starting to be some serious chatter about the possibility that he could be benched Sunday against Pittsburgh if he struggles.

Our Broncos Rapid Reporter Lee Rasizer notes on Friday that Denver coach John Fox didn't "eliminate the possibility" during his press conference, although he did support Tebow's efforts as the Broncos starter.

"Well, he's on the football team," Fox said of backup Brady Quinn. "So everybody on the team's ready. Like every game, we expect our starters to play well and if for some reason an injury occurs or something happens, it's next man up."

Adding fuel to the fire is a report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, citing a source that says backup Brady Quinn has been getting "roughly half the first-team reps in practice all week."

However, Quinn, in a text message to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com, denied Florio's report, saying he hasn't "gotten any extra reps." Quinn said he usually gets two reps, “if any” on Friday with the first team, but that he got two this week.

Over the final three games of the season (again, all losses) Tebow went 30 of 73 ("good" for a 41.1 completion percentage) for 439 passing yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

In that time, however, he was effective on the ground, picking up 5.11 yards per carry while rushing 28 times for 143 yards. The first-team reps can even be explained as "due diligence," considering the Broncos would need a non-Tebow offense installed in the event that they decide to yank on his apparently short leash.


The big difference between "Winning Tebow" and "Losing Tebow" is turnovers. (Which, actually, is kind of the difference between almost every good/bad version of a quarterback; don't let anyone fool you into thinking this is a Tebow-centric problem.) Tebow's fumbled four times in the past three games (two were lost), versus twice in the previous six games before that.

Add in the interceptions and defenses figuring out how to minimize the damage Tebow can do (press man coverage versus zone defenses)

And there's a pretty good chance that Tebow will struggle on Sunday against the Steelers. They are, if you don't know, pretty good at defense.

But it's still disappointing to see Fox waffling on his support of the Broncos starter, particularly since they'd currently be sitting at home without Tebow's emergence as a viable albeit different starter in the NFL.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Expect a lot of Steelers fans in Denver Sunday

Pittsburgh's Terrible-towel-waving faithful will be well represented this weekend in Denver. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

When it comes to fans infiltrating an opposing team's stadium, no one packs them in like Steelers' faithful. Depending on your allegiances, the Terrible-Towel waving black and gold spectacle is either a testament to just how important football is to the region or reminiscent of the pervasive nature of the cockroach.

(It's not completely accurate to say Steelers fans travel well. That's partly true, but they're also everywhere. Many of them have roots in western Pennsylvania but their families left the area in the '70s and '80s after the steel mills closed and unemployment rose. Either way, if there's a football game, they're showing up.)

So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos' first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it's fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.


Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will go up against Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Sunday in this AFC wild-card matchup. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz as they preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:30 PM ET.

"I'm amazed at how many season ticket holders got tickets and don't want to go," ticket broker Candy Lewis told Tammy Vigil of Colorado's KWGN 2.

In fact, according to Lewis, a lot of season ticket-holders are selling their seats. Which means they could end up in the hands of eager Steelers fans. That's exactly what happened during that AFC Championship game following the 2005 season.

"It was terrible in a way because we lost. But mainly because more than half the stadium were Steelers fans," Lewis said.

In a speech Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis annually delievered to Bengals fans, Denver head coach John Fox is imploring season ticket holders to show up Sunday.

"I would encourage all fans to keep their seats, so to speak, and not sell to Pittsburgh fan, so our stadium remains as active and loud as its been and more blue and orange, rather than yellow and gold," Fox said Monday.

For hobbled Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the sight never gets old.

“I think it kind of blows most people away,” he said. “When you’re on the road and you have guys on other teams that aren’t used to seeing that, and all of a sudden they see the Steeler fans come in and their like, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on?’ It’s a pretty neat feeling.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin added: “I’m continually surprised and awed by that, particularly when we’re out west. We’ve got world championship-caliber fans, and that’s why we work so hard to produce results on the field for them.”

Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn't quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.

“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”

And that, folks, is how you end up with a stadium filled with Steelers fans. (In related news: we're guessing this won't help.)

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:00 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 17: Stuck in reverse

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

Here's all you need to know about Tim Tebow's last three regular-season games: he has one touchdown, seven turnovers and the Broncos are 0-3. It's not entirely his fault -- just like the six-game winning streak wasn't wholly Tebow's doing -- but he's Denver's starting quarterback. Expectations are both high and unfair.

Tebowmania reached a crescendo last month, after the Broncos went from 1-4 to 8-5, but now that the new-car smell has worn off and Tebow apparently doesn't possess otherworldly powers, reality has set in. He's a second-year quarterback who struggles with many of the issues second-year quarterbacks face: reading defenses, throwing accurately, getting the ball out on time and leading an offense.

This isn't news, but it's still a problem for the Broncos, who backed into the playoffs because nobody else wanted to win the AFC West. And now Denver hosts one of the league's best defenses when Pittsburgh comes to town Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Tebow has regressed in recent weeks and Sunday's effort against the Chiefs was his worst performance since he looked absolutely flummoxed against the Lions back in October.

We've talked about it previously, but the concern with Denver's read-option offensive philosophy was that eventually, defenses would catch up to it, as was the case with the wildcat several seasons ago. Unlike the wildcat, however, teams appear to have figured out the option in weeks instead of months.

The result: the Broncos conventional rushing attack, headed by Willis McGahee, is as good as ever. But with each game, Tebow become less a factor in the running game. When you couple that with his erratic passing skills, that makes him something less than one dimensional. (We talked about just that in the Pick-6 Podcast Week 17 recap below.)


Vegas currently has the Steelers favored by nine points which, frankly, is insane given that a) Pittsburgh is the visiting team and b) this is a playoff game. But the Broncos have a few things going for them. For starters, their defense can get after the quarterback, particularly one that likes to throw the ball only after standing in the pocket for three or four beats too long.

Second, if the Steelers' defense has a weakness, it's stopping the run. McGahee has proven adept at beating eight-man fronts, something he will continue to face as long as Denver keeps playing. Expect defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to look to stop McGahee first and worry later about Tebow beating the Steelers with his arm. It's not an original game plan but it's worked well the last three weeks. No need to change it until Tebow proves otherwise.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"For us to go out there and play the way we did and expect to do anything in the playoffs, it's not going to cut it. We got to get better -- find a way to get better." -- Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey told reporters after the game.

Bailey was asked what exactly needs to get better. "Everything. When we look at our team, we can't say 'this is our strength.' Because everything is mediocre. We gotta get better. … We backed into that thing (the playoffs). It's not the way you want to go in but, hey, we got another shot."

"Well, we're AFC West champs. It doesn't matter how you do it once you get in the dance they can't kick you out. What we do with it will be determined next weekend." -- John Fox


                                                   Audio-Visual




Tim Tebow has always done things the unorthodox way. Making the playoffs was no different. He fell short in his latest comeback bid, yet his Denver Broncos are still going to the playoffs after a 7-3 loss to the Chiefs.

NBC analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison discussed Sunday what teams are doing against Tebow and what he can expect to see from the Steelers next in the playoffs.


Tebow is sacked for a nine-yard loss that knocked the Broncos out of field-goal range.

Here's a screen shot what what the Chiefs did to slow up Tebow all afternoon (click to enlarge).


Dungy: Things don't stay secrets for long in the NFL. Rodney Harrison has been saying for eight weeks, 'This is how you play Tim Tebow.' Romeo Crennel listened to Rodney (in Week 17) … and (Steelers defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau is going to see the exact same thing. … Tight man-to-man coverage, bump and run on the outside, load the box, and keep your linebackers up the field. This will be James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley next week -- keep Tim Tebow in that box. This is what Kansas City did all day Sunday.

Harrison: You have to understand who you're playing against. These (Denver) receivers are pretty good players but they're not all-star receivers. So you play them tight man-to-man coverage and you force Tim Tebow to make good decisions. The last few weeks, he has not made good decisions.

                                                   Eye on Tebow



Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Wallace Gilberry (92) in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:32 pm
 

Report: Tebow Broncos starter in 2012 regardless

Tebow and Orton meet again on Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Denver and Kansas City square off on Sunday with plenty at stake: the Broncos want to win the AFC West, and the Chiefs want to give Kyle Orton redemption for being benched and released by Denver earlier this year. Reportedly not at stake, though? Tim Tebow's job as a starter.

That's according to NFL.com's Jeff Darlington, who reports that Tebow is locked as the starter for Denver in 2012, regardless of whether or not the Broncos make the playoffs.

"Sources have indicated, regardless of the outcome Sunday, the Broncos plan to move forward with the mindset that Tebow will remain the team's starter in 2012," Darlington wrote Friday.

Darlington's also got a juicy nugget about the relationship between Orton and Tebow. The Broncos quarterbacks have a fine system that keeps each other accountable (this is common among NFL position players) and the group began fining Tebow when fans bought billboards demanding that Orton be benched and Tebow get starts.

Though this ultimately happened, it pretty clearly created a rift and explains why the Broncos let Orton go. (Darlington also reports that allowing Tebow to have "better control of the locker room" was a deciding factor in Orton's release.) But if letting Orton go ultimately costs the Broncos a shot at the playoffs, it's simply an indefensible decision.


A totally defensible one is keeping Tebow ingrained as the starter. There are many reasons for this. He's under contract in 2012. He won games. He could progress as a passer. There won't be a franchise quarterback available when the Broncos draft next April. Using picks to trade up grab a quarterback ignores other needs. The Broncos are still technically "rebuilding," and drafting defensive players would serve them better. Tim Tebow is an absolute cash cow for the team. Giving him a vote of confidence now only decreases the scrutiny on the situation leading into the final parts of this season.

The list could go on for a while. Which is why it makes a lot of sense for the Broncos to have already arrived at the decision that Tim Tebow's their starter in 2012. Even if their 2011 starter manages to knock them out of the playoff hunt.

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Posted on: December 28, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Chiefs preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


Reputations will be on the line in Denver this Sunday. A Broncos win keeps the Tim Tebow mania alive, as it means the Mile High City will host a playoff games for the first time in six years. John Elway would almost certainly be compelled to keep his promise of bringing Tebow back in 2012, and the Broncos might start building around their unconventional quarterback.

A Broncos loss, however, jeopardizes the Tebow mania, as the unskilled passer who does nothing but win would have finished the season on a three-game losing streak. The fallout would be even worse for Elway given that the loss will have come at the hands of Kyle Orton, the veteran quarterback whom Denver allowed Kansas City to claim scot-free. Here’s the breakdown of Sunday’s matchup:

Last time
1. The Week 10 matchup
When these teams met back in Week 10, the Broncos completed just two passes (total!). One of those passes happened to be a 56-yard touchdown to Eric Decker, which, mixed with 244 yards on 55 rushing attempts, was enough for a Broncos victory.

Schematically, the Chiefs were prepared to stop the Broncos’ freshly unwrapped read-option run game; they had athletic inside linebacker Derrick Johnson spy Tebow, brought safeties into the box and had outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston stay home on the edge.

Physically, however, the Chiefs defensive line got manhandled. Their lack of penetration allowed the Broncos to continuously pick up three and four yards on banal inside carries. Tebow registered two big runs off the read-option, isolating end Glenn Dorsey on one run and Lawrence Jackson on the other. Because those two former first-round picks were neutralized by one-on-one blocking, Denver’s interior linemen consistently got bodies on Kansas City’s linebackers.

On the other side, Denver’s pass-rush got to Matt Cassel and their back seven defenders simply “out-athleted” Kansas City’s skill players.

This time
2. Chiefs D vs. Broncos run game
Some of the sizzle has naturally left the read-option, but that isn’t to say it’s not still an effective approach. The read-option forces a defense to play ultra-sharp, assignment-based football. As we saw early in the Week 15 Patriots game at Denver, when defenders fail to take on blocks at proper angles or keep the action from going outside, they get gouged.

Expect the Chiefs to be better against the read-option this time around. Hali and Houston have been excellent edge run-defenders in recent weeks.  Dorsey and Jackson are still hit or miss, but they’re more likely to “hit” when they can play finesse and attack gaps or work down the line of scrimmage. Their misses pile up when they’re forced to play with power in a phone booth.

The Chiefs know this and now know how to gameplan accordingly. They just watched the Bills defensive linemen last week attack gaps to eliminate some of the running lanes for Bronco ballcarriers. Those defensive linemen did not make the tackle or even always occupy multiple blockers, but by taking some of the “options” out of the read-option, they made the ballcarrier hesitant and, thus, predictable. That translated to minimal gains against an eight-man box.

3. Kansas City manning-up in pass defense
The Bills were able to be aggressive with their eighth box defender because they knew they could stop the Bronco passing game with man coverage. That’s a great defensive tactic against Denver’s offense, as possession type receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are best handled that way.

Man defense also takes away the surprise factor in the screen game and keeps a spy on Tebow, which limits his scrambling. The irony is that Tebow has shown he’s more inclined to scramble against man coverage. The reason for this is, not being strong-armed or a precision passer, Tebow is uncomfortable fitting the ball into tight areas. To a young quarterback, NFL man coverage makes all areas appear tight. If Tebow’s first read isn’t there, his first instinct is to tuck and run.

The defensive risks in a man coverage approach are linebackers missing their assignments when they bite on a good read-option fake (which Buffalo’s did on Dante Rosario’s 32-yard catch-and-run), or players allowing themselves to be taken out of run defense position by an easy release (which is when a tight end runs a pass route away from the point of attack on a run play, carrying his man-defender with him right out of the picture).

The Chiefs – with two superb press corners in Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers outside, a shifty slot corner in Javier Arenas and athletic linebackers – should eagerly bog down and play man this Sunday. They beat the Packers with this formula two weeks ago and would have beaten the Raiders last week if they had stayed with it the entire game (they went to Tampa 2 a small handful of times and saw their safeties get burned by speedy receivers on two long passes that decided the outcome).

Broncos vs. Chiefs: Orton's revenge? (Getty Images)

4. Kyle Orton
In some ways, the seven-year pro is the consummate system quarterback. Whatever the system calls for, Orton delivers. He can post big numbers in a wide open aerial attack like he did two years ago under Josh McDaniels, or he can move the chains in a ball control scheme like he did two weeks ago under Romeo Crennel. His issues are consistency and playmaking.

Orton managed the game brilliantly against Green Bay two weeks ago and then threw two costly interceptions by failing to read basic safety help last week against Oakland. In Denver, Orton’s limitations showed up when John Fox and Mike McCoy installed a more traditional system to run with only mediocre receivers. Orton was unable to extend plays and improvise, which is why the Broncos offense was lethargic until Tebow replaced him.

Overall, the Chiefs can feel good about who they have under center in this game. Orton is certainly familiar with the opponent. He has terrific ball-handling skills, which allow him to manipulate safeties and execute play-action effectively. And since taking over, he’s made good use of his tight ends and running backs in the passing game.

5. Chiefs base offense
Tight ends and running backs could be prominent in the Chiefs’ passing attack this week given that linebackers Joe Mays and Von Miller aren’t great in coverage out of base defense. The Broncos will spend more time in base defense than they have in recent weeks, as the Crennel-led Chiefs predominantly utilize run-first personnel.

The run formations will keep Miller at strongside linebacker, nullifying his punishing first-step off the edge. Miller doesn’t have to line up at defensive end in order to rush the passer; he’s a great blitzer from the second level. However, teams lately have used a lot of three-and five-step drops against Denver, which completely nullifies a second-level blitzer and significantly softens the impact of pass-rushing ends. That’s the best way to contain Miller and Elvis Dumervil (who has come alive after a slow start).

Against the quick drops, the Broncos should tighten their coverage and force the Chiefs receivers to beat them early in the down. Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin are strong but not savvy enough to outmaneuver veterans like Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman. Steve Breaston is quick and can get early spacing by lining up off the line, but most of his (limited) damage this season has come on deeper crossing patterns, not quick strikes.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 17 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 10:47 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 16: Defenses are catching on

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

First, the good news: the Broncos control their destiny. At this point in the season, that's all you can ask. Despite dropping their second game in a row in convincing fashion, Denver remains atop the AFC West, and if they beat the Chiefs Sunday, they're division champs, which will earn them the right to face either the Steelers or Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.

For now, though, the Broncos have to fix an offense that has developed a reputation this season with Tim Tebow as its starter of long stretches of ineptitude highlighted by improbable late-game comebacks (one that included a six-game winning streak). Two weeks ago, Denver was 8-5 and coming off an overtime win against the Bears. Now, after getting thoroughly outplayed by the Patriots and the Bills, the questions have returned. Namely: can Tebow be an NFL quarterback and the related: have teams figured out how to stop him and the college offense the Broncos now feature?

Too early to say on the former, but almost certainly yes on the latter.

A week after New England worked to contain Tebow in the pocket and forced him to win the game with his arm, Buffalo perfected the game plan. The Bills usually rushed four, dropped seven into coverage, made sure Tebow didn't break the pocket for long runs, and made him squeeze throws into tight windows, often with disastrous results.

Coming into the game, Tebow had three interceptions. By the time it was over, Tebow had thrown four more, two of the pick-six variety, and he looked flustered all afternoon.

"I think [defensive coordinator Georgge] Edwards did a great job as far as giving us different keys based on what personnel they had in the game and what type of plays they were gonna run," said Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, via the Buffalo News. "When they got in a regular set [two receivers, two backs], it was more traditional runs. When they got in two tight ends, it was more of the option game. So I think our defensive ends did a great job of being aware of that and knowing how they were going to attack us. …

"They just tell Tebow to go out there and run around and make something happen," Florence said. "Early in the game they were running the ball because they didn't have to throw it. He's just using his athletic ability, sort of like Michael Vick was doing early in his career. Just give him one side of the field to read. If it's not there, make something happen and scramble."

Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard added: "We were able to say ... when we're man to man, one of the backers lock the running back and the other one spies the quarterback. mean, it worked to perfection today. They were flushing him, and myself or Nick would go and wrap and contain. It was just a good day all-around."

So now the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments begin in earnest. Which Tebow will show up in Week 17, and God willing, the playoffs? No idea.

But don't mistake the Bills' game plan for Tebow reverting to the form that had him embarrassed by the Lions back in October. He continues to improve, even if incrementally. The problem: as defenses become more comfortable recognizing and attacking the Broncos' option scheme, Denver will need to find ways to adapt. And that will mean using Tebow in more conventional ways. Can they (he) do it? Well, we'll find out, won't we.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"First and foremost, I want to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Isn't it great that no matter what, win or lose, we have a chance to celebrate my lord and savior's birth tomorrow. That's pretty cool. It's something I'm very excited about, celebrating Christmas. It's going to be a lot of fun." - Tebow's opening remarks during his post-game press conference.

"We knew if we could make (Tebow) one dimensional by stopping the run, there was no way we were going to allow him to come out and throw the ball and beat us with his arm." - Bills safety George Wilson

"“We knew [facing Kyle Orton] was a possibility. So, here it is. We have to go out there and play well. It was best for the team, bottom line. We made that decision knowing this was a possibility. Now we have to do it.” - Broncos executive VP John Elway last Saturday


                                                   Audio-Visual



Moving pictures evidence that the Bills confused Tebow all day.


Broncos QB Tim Tebow throws four interceptions in a 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Frame-by-frame breakdown of Tebow's first interception. (In case it's not clear, you'll have to click on the individual images to get the larger view.)

Tebow's first interception of the game came late in the third quarter with the Broncos trailing 23-14. The Bills showed a single high safety (frame 1) pre-snap. After the snap, they dropped seven in coverage and rushed four. It was a five-receiver route. At the top of Tebow's drop, the three deep receivers were all covered (frame 2). Tebow rolled right to avoid the rush and with no running lanes due to good containment (frame 3), he forced a pass 25 yards downfield into triple-coverage (frame 4).


                                                   Eye on Tebow



Buffalo Bills' Chris Kelsay (90) and Arthur Moats (52) sack Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow (15) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com