FOXBORO - Day 1 of Tebow Week. (The Patriots also play the Broncos on Sunday at 4:15 p.m.).
Bill Belichick? Not yet prepared to give the specific hosannas he usually trots out for the opposition on Wednesday.
Asked Monday about the prospect of dealing with the running skills of the Broncos quarterback, Belichick said, "Tim is a strong runner, good athlete, he can hurt you out of the pocket. Weve faced other quarterbacks like that. The big thing is just the whole offense: they run the ball, they have different types of running plays, running attack and then they have a lot of good receivers and they throw the ball down the field. There are a lot of challenges there. "
The fourth-quarter production of Tebow and the entire Broncos team has been remarkable. Anything different in that quarter, Belichick was asked.
"I wouldnt say its dramatically different," the head coach explained. "Yeah, its not like they run out a new whole thing. Theyve done it in different ways theyve done it throwing the ball, running the ball, driving it, making big plays. Well have to obviously study it a little bit more carefully but from what Ive seen, theyve made plays when they had to make them, critical plays. Again, whether thats the strip fumble, the field goal, a pass, a run. It hasnt just been one thing; theyve won as a team."
All the way out in the Rockies on Monday, Broncos coach John Fox talked about some of the same elements Belichick was being asked about.
He causes the defense to run around more, because he runs around a lot," Fox said when asked the implications of Tebow's ability to run. "Whether its as a runner or a scrambler on drop-back passes, it can be frustrating for a defense Ive been there many times on the other side of it. I think that causes your condition level to get taxed some as a result of the running around, and he does a good job of it.
The interesting thing about Tebow is that, because of the potency of his legs, teams are demanding they beat them with his arm.
I think, all in all, with the man coverage I spoke of earlier, I think theyre daring us to pass," explained Fox. "I think it started with us back in Detroit, and I think were improving in the pass game. I think our quarterbacks improving. I think our young receivers are improving.
"Tim, obviously, makes some things happen, even when the protection breaks down, because of his mobility. I think, at the end of the day, were getting better throwing the ball, and were going to have to be a lot better this week. We had some blips Sunday against Chicago with some drops, but talking about WR Demaryius Thomas, he came back and made some big catches at the end to overcome some of those drops.
While the Patriots usually spend Monday and Tuesday formulating their game plans for the weekend, Belichick did mention that one of the things making the Broncos offense hard to deal with is that they don't change personnel when they call for Tebow to run his option stuff.
"They have several different, Id say, concepts not really packages, because you dont know when theyre going to be in them and when theyre not because they dont change personnel. Its not like seeing a running back or a receiver come back and stand behind the center a different guy its always the same guy," he explained. "They can either be in it or not be in it at their discretion so you have to be ready for it even though thats not what theyre doing, and then you have to be ready for it and that is what theyre doing.
"It definitely has a Wildcat option element to it, no question about it. But they also run a lot of plays that I think we would say are conventional plays, if you will whatever that is, you know, plays that are more familiar to all of us.
"They do both and thats part of the problem; you dont know when youre going to get one thing or get another. They dont substitute necessarily to get into it, so you just have to figure it out. Sometimes at the line of scrimmage or sometimes after the ball is snapped you have to figure it out. They create some problems on that, no question."
Problems - and questions - that the Patriots will be dealing with all week long.