Let’s not fool ourselves otherwise; this game was about Tim Tebow, and little else. Though the Lions are flying high and trying to keep pace with an undefeated and invincible looking Green Bay Packers, all anybody was interested in was watching the Broncos quarterback who divides opinion more than anybody else.
Such was the mania surrounding Tebow that the week before the game featured an Internet craze of people ‘Tebowing’ – i.e. assuming Tebow’s prayer stance in random locations. By the time the game was finished multiple Lions had added their own take on Tebowing, mocking the Broncos passer after sacks and touchdowns.
In the end this game was a complete walkover for the Lions and Tebow had a game he would rather forget. It wasn’t all him, far from it, but his performance is what will likely be remembered more than any other, and the pressure for the Broncos as to what to do with their 2010 first round pick will only continue to grow. Let’s look past the Tebow-Mania (for a bit) and break down some of the other key performances.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Avril playing to get paid
Tebow was harassed all day long by the Lions’ defense and none was in his face more than Cliff Avril (+3.8). Avril was too much for the Broncos right tackles, be it starter Orlando Franklin or later backup Chris Clark. He displayed some nice speed around the edge and was also able to complete one of those rare perfect plays in football. Early in the third quarter (13:35) Avril flew around the edge to complete the strip-sack of Tebow, getting his hand to the ball just as he was about to throw, then scooping up the fumble and taking it back for a defensive touchdown. He ended up accounting for a pair of sacks, a hit and two more pressures, and of course his forced fumble, fumble recovery and defensive touchdown. That’s the kind of performance somebody playing for a new contract dreams of having.
Three out of five ain’t bad
The Lions haven’t enjoyed the best of performances from their O-line so far this season, but this was a game in which at least 3/5ths of them acquitted themselves well, and nobody stood out poorly. Gosder Cherilus (+3.4) led the way in grade while Stephen Peterman (+3.0) and Rob Sims (+2.5) weren’t far behind. Dominic Raiola and Jeff Backus were the weak links of the five but each scored a marginally better than average (+0.4) grade to make Matthew Stafford’s day (+3.1) much more comfortable. Between the five they accounted for just three pressures, all of them around the edge on the tackles, and more often than not Stafford had all day to throw. They also opened up running lanes for the Lions who were going with backup runners due to injuries.
Where is the negative?
It took some legitimate searching to find a real negative in this performance by Detroit, and in truth it would probably be fairer to mention another positive one, but it’s early, and I’m cranky, so that’s not happening. Despite the rest of the D-line dominating, Ndamukong Suh (-2.1) was strangely anonymous, being blanked in his pass-rush despite 30 attempts at it. Another Lion who failed to bring the heat was linebacker DeAndre Levy (-1.6) who could only notch a single unblocked hit on the quarterback who held the ball too long on a roll out. Levy blitzed 19 times on the day so that’s quite the record of futility. Perhaps the Lions would be better served in future sending other linebackers, not Levy.
Denver: Three Performances of Note
Tim Tebow’s grade (-4.3) represents quite well the effect quicksand can have on you in the NFL. He actually started well. His first drive featured a couple of designed runs intended to settle him down before he starts tossing it around, but then he made a pair of nice passes, and was rather harshly robbed of what looked like a clean touchdown pass on an excellent throw to Eric Decker. That touchdown would have given the Broncos a 7-0 lead to open the game and who knows where we would have gone from that point. Instead the Lions open the scoring and Tebow quickly finds himself under duress and chasing the game, and if anything his throws just become more and more erratic, sinking deeper into the quicksand the more he fought it. He certainly didn’t show much to suggest that he could be a franchise quarterback (outside of that first drive at any rate), but if this was any other young passer we would be throwing out this game due to the pressure he was under all day and the way the score spiraled out of his grasp. Let’s call this a pretty dire warning and move on to next week.
Protect the quarterback
Whoever the passer is, he’s going to need better protection than Tebow got in this game. He was sacked seven times, knocked down another six, and pressured eight more times, and though he was responsible for some of that himself, much was on the blockers. Orlando Franklin (-3.8) had a nightmare in particular trying to deal with Avril on the right side, and Zane Beadles (-1.4) looked overmatched when it came to dealing with the Detroit defensive tackles. Beadles was all too often beaten with swim moves, rip moves or simply clubbed to the side as happened when Corey Williams got instant pressure on the Avril touchdown play in the 3rd quarter.
It’s Miller time, but just a small one
For Denver it was tough to find much of a bright spark worthy of mentioning and in truth half the team could easily feature as another negative performance, but let’s spread some positive news instead. Brodrick Bunkley (+0.3) was very stout in the run game (+1.9) despite being isolated on the nose at times. Von Miller (+0.4) may have notched only a hit and a pressure from his 30 pass-rushes, but he did make some nice plays, including stuffing a tight end screen for negative yards with 6:48 to go in the 1st quarter. He’ll have better days, but it’s encouraging to see that even when the rest of the team is being wiped off the field, he can still show well.
– Tebow didn’t exactly spread the ball around. Eric Decker and Eddie Royal accounted for 22 combined targets and 12 completions between them.
– Chris Houston allowed just a pair of receptions for 12 yards despite being targeted eight times. He also notched a PD and returned a pick 100 yards for a touchdown.
– Matt Prater was 3 for 3 in clearing the end zone with the football on his kickoffs.
PFF Game Ball
Cliff Avril. Avril was a constant thorn in the side of the Broncos and any time a player completes the holy grail of D-line plays with a strip-sack, fumble-touchdown, he deserves the honor.