Patriots-Broncos matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Dec. 13, 2011 @ 7:35 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 15 game between the Patriots and Broncos:

Broncos QB Tim Tebow vs. Patriots defense

Say what you will about his throwing mechanics, but Tebow is 7-1 and a starter and has led the Broncos on multiple fourth-quarter comebacks. His athleticism could cause problems for a porous Patriots defense, but Bill Belichick may have some tricks up his sleeve against Tebow.

In the first three quarters, Tebow has shown his inabilities as a passer, but he has turned it on in the fourth quarter against prevent defenses as seen in Denver's most recent win over the Bears.

The Patriots give up the most passing yards in the league and have made average quarterbacks (see: Dan Orlovsky and Rex Grossman) look pretty good. That could play into the Broncos' hands, allowing Tebow to be more two-dimensional, which keeps the Patriots from stuffing the box.

As bad as his throws have looked, Tebow has only tossed two interceptions this season out of 198 passing attempts. Look for Belichick to do his best to confuse the young quarterback with disguises at the line and take advantage of Tebow's below-average arm. If the Patriots can get a lead, the secondary cannot sit back in zone. Tebow has shown he can succeed against those defenses late in the game. The Patriots will need to pressure him — and Tebow's scrambling has made him prone to sacks, the Bears got him five times.

Tebow is also a threat as a runner, and the Patriots' linebackers will need to maintain their assignments and keep him grounded. The D-ends on the edges will need to do the same, and Rob Ninkovich may get the call up front to help in that department. Jerod Mayo could serve as a spy for Tebow in the middle of the defense.

Patriots cornerbacks and safeties have to remain disciplined if Tebow escapes the pocket to avoid giving up a big play.

New England players will maintain all week that the Broncos are more than just Tebow, and despite what you see on TV, they are. But Tebow's late-game magic cannot be ignored, especially by a team that has had to escape two weeks in a row against last-place opponents.