Wild Card disaster, part 1

I would like to take a couple of moments to break down Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. I predicted that Denver would lose and lose badly to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wow, was I wrong! I thought that Pittsburgh would have no trouble moving the ball with their high-powered offense. Wrong. Pittsburgh could not protect Big Ben, who was moving in the pocket as effectively as my 80-year-old mother.

Over the last 30 or 40 years, there’ve been only a few football players who have really transformed the game. Lawrence Taylor is an excellent example of someone who changed the game forever. Before him, the right tackle and the left tackle had equal importance. After him, no offensive lineman was more important than the one blocking Taylor. He could change a game with a sack, sack fumble or sack fumble and recovery for touchdown. Although a lot of people like to talk about Jon Elway, I think that Dan Marino was a more transformative figure. Before Dan Marino, the NFL was mostly about running. Since Dan Marino, the NFL has been mostly about throwing the football.

There have been immensely popular people in the NFL. These people are popular because of charisma, marketing and panache as well as their prowess on the football field. Joe Namath is an excellent example. His football numbers are simply okay. Yet, he made it into the football Hall of Fame because of all of those other intangibles, not simply because of his performance on the field. If we sit back and think about the NFL we can probably come up with 10-15 players whose personae were larger off the field than on the field. Bosworth, the Boz, is one of the best examples of hype over substance. There was Doug Flutie. He had a relatively large following in spite of having mediocre NFL numbers. He was known for pulling out the game in the last second. He had only two years where he started basically every game (1999 with the Buffalo Bills and 2001 with the San Diego Chargers). Here are his numbers.

  Completions Attempts completion percentage Passer rating Interceptions TD
1999 264 478 55.2 75.1 16 19
2001 294 521 56.4 72 18 15
Career 1177 2121 54.7 76.3 68 86

Now, let’s remember that it was just two years ago that the Miami Dolphins were in the playoffs. Their young and innovative head coach had come up with a new way to attack the NFL, the wildcat. The success of the wildcat really depended upon an offensive lineman mismatch on one side of the ball or the other. Basically, you had more blockers than you had defenders. Everyone tried to imitate the wildcat. No one had the success that the Miami Dolphins had. Yet, the NFL defensive coordinators figured it out and shut it down. Almost nobody ran the wildcat this year. If I’m not mistaken, the Miami Dolphins never won a playoff game. They missed the playoffs last year and this year. Their innovative coach is now out of a job.

This brings me to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. I said it before and I’ll say it again – in order to win in the NFL you need to be able to score points. The rules have been adjusted so that the “close to the vest, grind it out” type of football is difficult to do. It is not impossible. It is extremely difficult. You need to have a great defense in order to perform this type of football. You need to have an offense that does not turn the ball over and that scores a high percentage of the time when they make it down inside the red zone. You need an offense that controls the clock. During the winning streak of the Denver Broncos, this is exactly what we’ve seen. They’ve run the ball extremely well and they’ve controlled the clock. Their defense has forced turnovers without giving up a lot of touchdowns. Wait a second, what other recent team has won a Super Bowl with excellent defense and an offense that plays extremely conservatively and doesn’t turn the ball over? Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens.

Tim Tebow’s numbers

  Completions Attempts completion percentage Passer rating Interceptions TD
2011 126 271 46.5 72.9 6 12
Last Week 10 21 47.6 125.6 0 2

The one thing that most people haven’t talked about is the fact that Tim Tebow handles the ball so much. Because of that, you have to look at not only his interceptions but also at his fumbles. In 11 games he has fumbled the ball 13 times. He is also had six rushing touchdowns (not including last week).

So, can you win in the NFL with Tim Tebow? Sure. You need to have a suffocating defense, which the Denver Broncos have as long as Von Miller is healthy. In my opinion, he is the key to their defense. Tim Tebow has to limit his turnovers and they have to run the ball effectively. They cannot get into a shootout. They lost to the New England Patriots because their defense was overwhelmed and their offense could keep up. They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs because they could not run the ball effectively. Kansas City completely shut down Tim Tebow and his triple option.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Denver Broncos because their defense played horribly. I cannot think of a time when the Pittsburgh defense over the last 15 years has played so poorly. They simply could not stop the run. Once they couldn’t stop the run, they were left extremely vulnerable to the deep pass. James Harrison may have played the worst single game of an all-star linebacker that I’ve seen in more than 20 years. He lost outside containment multiple different times. Finally, the Pittsburgh defense produced no pass rush. I don’t understand it. It was a complete failure. Pittsburgh’s offensive woes are understandable, since the Denver defense is more than capable. It was the Pittsburgh defense that did not show up. Again, I must credit the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow for taking advantage of a confused and bewildered Pittsburgh defense.



0 Responses

  1. I was also surprised by the Steelers not showing up. But I believe they had some key players out hurt.  And one player that should not have played – Big Ben.  Looked to me that he was too hurt to play.  While I understand that you want your star player for a playoff game, he hurt them more than he helped.  Have they no backup?

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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