How to Lose to a
�Mile-High Meltdown� Post-Mortem by PalmerSucks
January 11, 2012
A while back I wrote �How to Lose to a Mediocre Quarterback,� dedicated to the Stillers� defeat at the hands of �Average Joe� Flacco. Now we have a situation 100 times worse.
At least Flacco is a serviceable NFL QB, unlike Tim Tebow, who�s best known for his football illiteracy and his inability to hit the sides of barns and the ocean. Flacco�s been known to toss a nice pass now and then � Tebow is known for making former pros like Hoge and Carter toss their cookies. Tebow plays great SEC football � too bad this is the NFL.
Up until now, Tim Tebow, the running QB, had become Tim Tebow, the running joke. Did you hear Tebow tried to commit suicide after losing to Kansas City? Lucky for him, the bullet went 10 yards over his head. Tebow turfs so many passes, his agent reportedly is negotiating a deal with Lawn Boy. Tebow, Stilllers fans gleefully claimed, didn�t have a �prayer� against the Stillers defense.
Sunday Night, nobody was laughing � most of all not in Stiller Nation.
Sunday the Stillers� defense made Tebow look like the second coming of Dan Marino � at least for 10 out of 21 passes. One of these included a blind-luck TD pass with Willie Gay screening the receiver�s entire body � leaving a window of mere inches -- believe me, Tebow�s not that accurate a thrower. Mostly, though, he did what Tebow does � run around, throw bombs, and hope for the best. Unfortunately for the Stillers, he got the best Sunday afternoon.
The Stillers had the right idea, playing man defense (as other teams had shown) but give some credit here: Tebow finally �pulled the trigger� and hit his man. Of course, this was GREATLY due to how the Stillers played him � as Mill pointed out, they committed the cardinal sin of letting him roll to his left untouched. And as I�ll show later, they made THE big mistake on the game�s final play.
But � and here�s one key reason the Stillers lost to such an awful excuse for a QB: even when they played man, they still played zone. What do I mean by this? Phil Simms cracked that the Stillers defense played for the interception, Tebow just crossed them up by actually throwing the ball accurately. By �playing for the interception� the defense looked to where they thought the BALL would go � instead of minding the receiver.
A lot of people will blame the defense for this one. They shouldn�t. For all Tebow�s �awesome� play, the Broncos scored all of 23 points in regulation.
The Stiller offense left at least that many points on the field.
Lost in all the uproar is the fact the Stillers defense gave up just 3 points in the second half. Again, it�s up to the offense to take over from there.
I�ve said all year the Stillers would go as far as their offense would allow them. Sunday they allowed them little. The best game recap I can offer is this line from Mill�s commentary:
�The Stillers cruised out early, totally dominating the 1st quarter and seeming to be in total command with a 6-0 lead.�
�Dominating� is an understatement: the Stillers outgained Denver 119 to 8 yards that quarter. Statistical superiority like that should equate to a 10, 14 or even 17 point lead. Instead, a mere six points down, the Broncos were relieved and recharged, and ready to get back into the game.
How did the Stillers offense light it up everywhere but the scoreboard? Let us count the ways:
--Wallace had a full step on his man going deep sideline when Roethlisberger shot a line drive over his head. A throw in bounds with air under it, and it�s likely a TD.
--Cotchery was alone at the Denver 46 with nobody in front of him when he dropped the ball. If he doesn�t score 6 outright, he�s at least headed to field-goal territory.
--Wallace blew huge gainers three times: one on an out that gained 17, but would�ve gone for a lot more had he not stumbled like an oaf out of bounds. The 52-yard overturned catch needn�t have been that difficult if he had tried to catch with his HANDS. He turned a short cross on third down (with acres of green space around him) into a slip-and-slide 4th down. (Santonio Holmes where are you when we need you?) Who knows how many points these gaffes were worth?
--Sanders turned a promising second down at the Denver 23 into a false-start failure, which blew the shot at a TD here.
--Legursky fired a missile ten miles over Ben�s head and blew prime field position at the Denver 32. Instead of taking at least 3 here, the Stillers get nothing.
I want to point out that none of these mistakes were forced by the Broncos � they were 100 percent unearned errors served on a silver platter by the Stillers. Yes, there it was, your Stiller offense, moving the ball all over the field with nothing to show for it. This time it finally caught up with them.
Yes, the Stillers defense gave it up to Tebow, but the Stillers offense could�ve buried him early. Down a couple of TDs, the deep stuff gets less surprising as the Broncos are forced to shift away from the run.
By not scoring points, the Stillers offense ensured Denver could stick to its game plan. The Stillers offense is at LEAST as responsible for this disastrous, embarrassing loss to Tebow as its defense. Tebow was looking good against New England until the Patriots opened up a big lead and exposed him for what he is. The Stillers offense failed in that regard.
This of course is nothing new � the Stillers offense had been playing defense for the other team all year. Watching them struggle � especially when they�d reach the other guys� 30 or 20 � was downright painful.
This was Kansas City and Cleveland all over again � except this time, the defense didn�t shut out the other guys all game, and give the offense the luxury of not having to score until the end to win. Finally the offense�s luck ran out.
Shocking Loss � or Is it?
Tebow failed to hit even 50 percent of his passes � the 300+ yards came courtesy of a lot of YAC. This was a fluky performance not soon to be repeated, if ever.
But should we be as shocked as people think? I�ve pointed out that beating the Stillers pass defense, especially late in the game, is nothing special � scrubs like Bruce Gradkowsi have done it. The Stillers excel at making mediocre QBs look good � now they�ve proven they can do it for really bad ones, too.
So, if Tebow is such an awful QB, how could he beat the �#1 defense�? The answer is simple: he was never asked to perform like an actual NFL QB. Not once did Tebow lead an 11-play drive � he scored the bulk of his points in one or two clusters, off a few passes that went for huge yards. That�s cheap and deep, pure and simple. Tebow played like a sandlot QB, and the Stillers defense obliged him. 10 for 21 is a pretty lousy day, passing wise. But when your receivers turn 15-yard catches into 80-yard TDs, you can get away with it.
�Beware the Switch� � Advice the Stillers Didn�t Heed
In my pre-game I wrote the following:
�The Broncos haven�t helped Tebow�s passing game � they�ve handcuffed him by calling run plays almost exclusively on first downs. It�s understandable given Tebow�s subpar passing skills, but it�s also made him predictable. Despite the conservative approach, however, the Broncos have lost their last few games.
So then -- what if Denver decides to say �screw it� and send Tebow out throwing on early downs? It�s something the Stillers need to prepare for � in the words of one ESPN commentator, the �unleash� of Tim Tebow.�
Here was the big one, the mistake the Stillers made that cost them the game in overtime. Rather than have their DBs concentrate on coverage, they played up on the line on Denver�s first snap � counting on a run play. Replay, and you�ll see almost the entire defense in the box.
Who could blame the Stillers, though, for thinking run? During regulation time, Denver had continued its tendency by running 14 times on first down (passing only once on first down the entire game!). Finally they did say �screw it� and called for play action � a smart, gutsy move that caught the Stillers flatfooted.
The Broncos made the Stillers pay the price for cheating up. There was no safety back for insurance. Tebow had no pressure, and the pass was easy to complete even for him. Once Ike whiffed on the tackle, it was off to the races. And on to the golf course.
All year long the Stiller D had kept down scoring by keeping plays in FRONT of them � now, at the worst time possible, they allowed the action to get behind them. This was precisely the same blunder that had cost them the Ravens game in Pittsburgh � and the all-important bye week.
So to recap, here�s the losing formula:
- No pressure, no forced turnovers (from the QB).
- Allowing the lefty QB to roll to his left with impunity.
- Looking for the ball even when playing man coverage.
Throw in an offense that doesn�t score enough to bury Tebow when they had the chance and there you have it: the way to lose to the worst QB in football.
Anyway, stay tuned next week when Denver goes to New England � my guess is that Belichick won�t allow Tebow free moves to his left. And the Tebow jokes will begin again.
In the meantime, the joke�s on the Stillers.