I know we've all heard Tebow 316 a bunch of times by now - but I thought of it less than 30 seconds after I found out how many yards he threw for yesterday, so I'm officially taking credit for it.
I was going to take notes on yesterday's Steelers vs. Broncos game. I really was. After watching the Houston Texans blow out the Cincinatti Bengals on Saturday, I knew that yesterday's AFC Wildcard game was the one that had implications from a Patriots perspective. So, I got out my laptop, sat in my chair, and got ready to see what I could see from both teams in regards to what they could bring to the AFC Divisional matchup at Foxboro.
I didn't write a damn thing.
Yesterday's game was one of the best Wild Card games I've ever seen. It definitely wasn't one of the prettiest, but in terms or pure excitement, pacing, storylines, and that good ol' fashioned playoff magic, I can't remember a game that compares. As a result, I spent most of the game staring at the TV, completely spellbound by what I was seeing, and my poor little computer was completely neglected.So I'm sorry to say that I don't have the writeup that I'm sure each and every one of you revolve your entire Mondays around. The only thing I can really offer this morning are some overall thoughts on yesterday's game and what we can expect next week.
Blame it on Divine Intervention.
Let the Tebow love fest begin - again. Tebow does deserve a tremendous amount of credit for yesterday's win. He does. But you know who else deserves a ton of credit? Demaryius Thomas. Denver's defense. The crowd at Mile High. John Fox. Denver's O Line. Are we going to hear about any of these people this week? Maybe, for a very brief period; for the most part, though, it's going to be all Tebow, all the time yet again. Deion Sanders, on NFL Gameday Final after the game, was trying very hard to illustrate just how effective Denver's defense was in limiting Big Ben's ability to make plays. He was also trying to give Demaryius Thomas credit for what he was able to accomplish after the catch. Eisen, Marriucci, and Irvin were having absolutely none of it. Ugh. On the plus side, though, that gives the Patriots another opportunity to pop the Tebow balloon this season - this time for good - which will make me happy.
Pittsburgh simultaneously gave Tebow too much and not enough respect. The Steelers' defensive game plan was clearly built around stopping the run; I'm looking forward to going back and rewatching the game so I can better understand what the Steelers were trying to do. While that plan was mostly effective, as Tebow was only able to scramble for significant yards a couple of times, it also left Pittsburgh's secondary in single-man coverage with little inside/safety help as the safeties and linebackers crept up to the line of scrimmage to prevent the option run. As a result, Denver was able to pick up huge chunks of yards through the air. The Steelers simply didn't give Tebow's arm the respect it clearly deserved. Yes, his throwing motion still looks like Elaine from Seinfeld dancing, his spirals remind me of General Zod's hula hoop prison at the beginning of Superman II (too obscure?), and his accuracy is still an issue, but the bottom line is Tim Tebow does have pocket presence and he is definitely able to make some throws. New England needs to learn from the Steelers' game plan and respect the big-play ability. Getting Brandon Spikes and Pat Chung back should definitely help.
The Steelers looked very beatable yesterday. Ben Roethlisberger, as tough as he is, just isn't the same quarterback when he can't scramble. The lack of Ryan Clark in the middle of the secondary clearly hurt the secondary as Pitt gave up an average of 31.6 yards per completion. Losing Brett Keisel led to difficulty generating a legitimate pass rush. Isaac Redman actually ran very well, but he definitely doesn't have the speed that Rashard Mendenhall brings to that offense. A rookie Steeler center cost the team points at the end of the first half. At no point did that team look dominant. I clearly forgot what jersey Jesus wears, because I was fairly certain, towards the end of regulation, that Big Ben was going to engineer a late field goal drive to give Pitt the win and send them our way. And honestly, while I was still WAAAAY happier with the way the game ended, I wasn't nearly as worried about the Steelers as I was at 4 PM yesterday. And Denver barely beat them by playing out of their minds and executing what has to be one of the top overtime plays of all time. I don't want to discredit the Broncos in any way, but ultimately they were able to pull out a walk-off OT win against an extremely wounded Steelers team. New England is is much better shape than Pittsburgh is.
Thank goodness this game is in Foxboro. Every time I watch games played at Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh, I cry a little bit at what could have been. I don't care how much you prepare or how you try to compensate - crowd noise will play a factor in home games. All the respect in the world to the Broncos fans who undoubtedly won't be able to speak for several days after the amount of noise they brought to Mile High. Yesterday's crowd forced a couple of false start penalties, a delay of game, and some miscommunications that ultimately had a fairly significant impact on the game. At this point I'd be happy with half of that level of ruckus from the Foxboro faithful. If this game was in Denver, I think the Pats would have some serious problems trying to get on the same page offensively. Pats fans have a legitimate opportunity to help this team win their first playoff game since 2007 by being as loud as possible and making it difficult for Tim Tebow to call the snaps. To everyone going to the game on Saturday - take a lesson from the Broncos fans and BRING THE NOISE.
The Patriots better be ready for these Broncos. It's very hard to gameplan for emotion and sheer willpower, and the Broncos seem to have both in droves. I think that one of the reasons the Jets were able to come into Foxboro last year and upset the Patriots is because of how much they were able to get up for that game. I remember watching the first quarter of that game and thinking to myself how flat the Pats looked versus how fired up the Jets looked. New England is going to need to find that fire and run with it, because we all know that Denver has a whole lot of momentum coming into this one. People are going to talk all week about the last time these two teams met and what the game plan should be and how Josh McDaniels is going to affect how the Patriots play the Broncos - but at the end of the day, if New England gets complacent and expects an easy W, they could be in for another rude awakening. And I just may have to move out of the country.
My inner pessimist is satisfied. Deep down inside me, there is a very, very bad fan. I call him Hank, and he is constantly nervous, paranoid, and insecure. He thinks every big play New England gives up or every touchdown opposing teams score signifies the beginning of a Patriots loss. He just knows that every time Tommy B goes down, he ain't never getting up again. And as much as I try to silence him, and as much as I try to have faith in my Patriots and believe in their abilities as a team, he's always making himself known every damn week. Well I'm happy to say that Hank now has one less thing to fret about. As of 8:30 EST yesterday, I now have a vested interest in only one team in the NFL playoffs. I'm only rooting for the Pats to win. I don't necessarily want any other team to lose for any other reason than it will make New England's road to the Super Bowl that much easier. The Colts are out of it, the Jets are out of it, and now the Steelers are out of it. If the unthinkable happens and New England loses in the playoffs, I won't care all that much about who wins from then on out. I'll just go back to doing what I do best: eating and drinking.
I think I'm going to take some time right now and mentally prepare myself for the Tebow onslaught I'm about to receive. I haven't checked any of the major sports websites yet today and I have a funny feeling that I'm going to have trouble finding anything other than news about You Know Who. Hopefully, the Patriots are doing the same. The AFC Playoffs are unfolding quite nicely for this team, and they better be as prepared as possible to not let this opportunity go to waste.