December 20, 2010
Broken plays happen all the time in the NFL; to make the most of them, you've got to be either lucky or good, and it doesn't hurt to be both. For Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow(notes) (you may have heard of him), his first NFL start against the Oakland Raiders featured such a play, and Tebow was able to take advantage in ways that many quarterbacks might not.
The play happened with 9:40 left in the first quarter, and the Broncos had third-and-24 at the Oakland 40-yard line. A lot of teams would run a simple (and grievously ineffective) draw play in such circumstances -- the idea then is to minimize risk from players pushing too hard to make plays. Maybe a good run call picks up 5 yards and a field-goal attempt is possible. More unusual is a quarterback keeper for a 40-yard touchdown, but that's what happened after Tebow blasted through the Raiders defense.
Against the Raiders' dime set, Tebow took a quick play-fake jab step, bulling his way through the left A-gap and up the field, with solid blocking from running back Correll Buckhalter(notes) and tight end Daniel Graham(notes) (who actually got away with a hold on safety Mike Mitchell(notes)). The dime defense (six defensive backs) was a good idea in theory, but once Tebow got to the second level ... I mean, the media love for the guy does get a bit saccharine at times, but he weighs 240 pounds and he had as many collegiate rushing touchdowns as Marshall Faulk. It was smooth sailing from there.
Atypical? Certainly. Intentional? Not so fast.
According to Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post, the touchdown keeper was not the play called -- Tebow's scoring run was a fluke. "To be honest, that was a mistake on my part. I was supposed to hand it to Buck, and I ran it. It ended up working," Tebow said. "It was a draw, and I was supposed to hand it to [Correll Buckhalter]. I thought it was the Q Draw and I just ran it. Buck went up and led for me and made a good block and I cut off his block and we scored."
Busting his own chops is a great way for Tebow to establish himself as a likeable leader; some players would insist that they made the play happen with their own athleticism and demand attention. It's encouraging that Tebow seems to understand his place in the offense, and is happy to look for different ways to help that offense succeed.
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