Tebow presents challenge for struggling New England defense

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record as a starter and first place in the AFC West. He goes up against New England on Sunday.



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots say they’re preparing for Tim Tebow like they do for any other quarterback – learn what he does well and what he does poorly and take advantage of that knowledge.

There’s a big problem, though. Tebow isn’t like any other quarterback.

“He’s a very unique person,” said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who played with Tebow at Florida. “He’s a leader.”

Tebow has led the Denver Broncos to a 7-1 record in his eight starts since they opened at 1-4. Their 8-5 mark going into Sunday’s home game against the Patriots leads the AFC West.

New England has allowed the most yards in the NFL despite a 10-3 record that’s tied for the best in the AFC. They’ll have to be very disciplined to deal with the scrambling Tebow. He has flaws in his footwork and throwing mechanics but can run around and over defenders with his 235 pounds.

“He’s a big strong guy and he’s fearless,” said Patriots defensive back Nate Jones, a teammate of Tebow’s last season. “You don’t want to blow it out of proportion, but you want to take it in stride and prepare how you do every week and know what his strengths are, know what his weaknesses are. But anytime you have a quarterback that’s mobile, it definitely is a challenge for a defense.”

Pass rushers must try to keep Tebow in the pocket. Outside defenders most hold their positions to stop him from turning the corner. Cornerbacks must stick with their men and not move up when it appears he will run.

Tebow can pass well when he’s on the move. He’s completed just 48.5 percent of his passes this season, but the Patriots say he’s underrated as a thrower.

“He can hit (passes) in the pocket. He can hit them out of the pocket,” coach Bill Belichick said. “There are plenty of examples of both.”

Patriots cornerback Antwaun Molden was with Houston when the Texans faced the Broncos last Dec. 26. Tebow scored on a 6-yard run with 3:02 left to tie the game and the extra point gave the Broncos a 24-23 win.

What did he learn from that?

“Be alert. Every play he can hurt you,” Molden said. “Some say he can’t pass. From what I saw on film ... the guy can pass and he can also run. He’s more accurate than what people think.”



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