Zone Defense Is Answer To Stopping Tim Tebow

The Chicago Bears had Tim Tebow defeated Sunday, but they derailed from their gameplan with four minutes left in the game. Many teams have gone down to defeat at the hands of Tim Tebow, and none have come away with an idea of how he beat them. The Chicago Bears had the right idea, but outsmarted themselves in the fourth quarter, which is also known as Tebow-Time.

Sure, Tebow has made fourth quarter comebacks on the Broncos final drive in nearly every game he has started this season. Every team has had a breakdown that allows Tebow and his teammates to overcome adversity and win. Nevertheless, there was a method to all the Tebow-madness in his first six wins…it’s called man-to-man defense.

For three and half quarters the Bears owned Tim Tebow with their Cover-2 defense. In fact, they forced the only other interception thrown by Tebow outside his Detroit Lions massacre loss. Chicago’s zone defense had Tebow baffled because it played to his weaknesses.

All six of the teams that Tebow has defeated this year play a man defense. He can beat a man defense because he is looking for mismatches. Tebow will thread the needle and find Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas in the back of the endzone at least once a week, for a score that is pivotal to the games’ outcome. Those receivers are not finding holes in the coverage, they are just beating their man off the ball after the snap or get loose when Tebow scrambles.

When a team like Chicago plays a zone defense, they force Tebow to make throws into the coverage or dump it off to a running back for minimal gain. Tebow doesn’t have a strong enough arm to place balls to receivers inside the zone without a defender coming over and knocking it away. The zone sits back and waits for Tim to throw the ball into their area, which is not his strength.

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees can pick apart zone defenses because they have quick releases, are accurate and have above-average arms. Tim Tebow does not posses any of those three skills I just described of top quarterbacks in the league. Therefore, how did he beat the Bears? It is easy, the Bears as they always have done, switched to a soft zone or prevent defense at the end of the game. This enabled Tebow to dink and dunk against the Bears stout defense, all the way down the field without hesitation.

When teams play man defense against Tebow, he will eventually beat them in the game. He just needs one big play to hit. However, when Tebow plays against a zone defense, he is at the mercy of that defense. Sunday, the Bears had the quarterback right where they wanted him and they let him off the hook like Dennis Green once said. Maybe the next team Tebow plays won’t be so stupid. Tebow can be beaten, but teams are now starting to fear that comeback gene he has begun to exhibit on a weekly basis. It will always loom in the back of defensive players minds now that he has done it with some regularity.

Follow Tony Piraro on Twitter @TonyPiraro


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  • Imran

    Seriously? It’s actually the opposite. Your title says you’re and NBA writer; I’d stick to the taht if I were you. It was when the Bears went to a soft ZONE prevent that Tebow beat them. The Broncos were 3 and out practically the whole game under a man to man defense with the Bears. And for that matter, all six of the “comebacks” were against teams that switched from their staunch aggressive defenses to the Zone Prevent Defense. And we all know that the only thing a prevent defense prevents is it prevents a team from winning. Do your homework. Heck I’m wondering if you even watched the game. BTW the zone scheme the Bears played was with their front 7 to contain Tebow and McGahee.

    • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

      Wow, shocking that another reader does not read, nor comprehend the entire article. I said clear as day in my post that Tebow can beat the man defense and “soft zone” or prevent!!! of course, anybody can beat a soft zone. what i am talking about is a cover-2 zone defense. it is where the cornerbacks are on an island around the line of scrimmage. they fade back and play the quarterback allowing anything underneath. a prevent is when the corners are 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage to start the play. you could complete a pass against a prevent soft zone. do you understand the difference now? Tebow was shut down by the Cover 2 zone defense and it was the only one he faced this year. the rest of the teams he has played and beaten ran a man defense. thanks for not reading

      • JTHC

        Did you even watch the game? The Bears were in a Cover 1 most of the game, filling the box with only one safety back. They went into a soft Cover 2 on those last two 4th quarter drives.

        And really, it was the only real choice. The Bears were up by only 10, and earlier in the 3rd Qtr Tebow almost completed that deep bomb to Thomas–they had Tillman beat with no safety over the top. With only 4:30 left, staying in Cover 1 was playing with fire–it might only take one or two passes to score a TD if the Broncos got lucky. Smith made the right call to burn up clock–not his fault Barber stepped out of bounds.

        • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

          yes, they were playing a cover 1 when thomas beat the defense and should have caught the pass in the endzone. and your point is? they beat the bears when they were running the cover 1. only when they ran the cover 2 was Tebow confused and looking more lost than usual.

          • JTHC

            They played Cover 1 most of the game. And Tebow was getting crushed because of that incredible pass rush with eight in the box.

            But football is situational. It wasn’t going to continue to work in the 4th because the Bears’ D-line was gassed. Did you see how frantically they were subbing out in those last drives? They could barely get any pressure on Tebow.

            And again, they played Cover 2 those final two drives when the Broncos scored. Granted it was soft, but the tradeoff was yards vs clock.

            I agree with your premise that teams need to play zone against the Broncos, but it’s not because it’s inherently more effective than man2man against the pass (that depends on personnel)– it’s because in man2man the secondary turns their backs to Tebow and gives him a chance to run.

          • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

            They did not play a cover 2 (Tampa 2) at the end of the game!!!! It was a prevent defense which is completely different from a cover 2. i cant teach the ignorant.

          • JTHC

            Wow, so I guess the Bears lost because Urlacher was hearing the wrong plays.
            “We got in our cover-2 (zone defense) at the end, and they kind of went down the field and scored on us.” http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_19527534

            Again, you could always watch the game and see for yourself.

          • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

            Yea, that is probably why they lost then. Their captain and linebacker was hearing the wrong plays. Tebow is the greatest athlete of all-time and can not be stopped. Happy?

          • jthc

            Wow, I didn’t say anything about Tebow being great. But good to know you get snippy and small when called out for writing an article that is factually incorrect.

      • JTHC

        Oh, and where do you get the notion that it’s the only Cover 2 coverage Tebow has seen all season? The Vikings use a Tampa 2, which is almost the same apart from what the MLB does.

        • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

          Minnesota is in shambles and hardly has the right unit out there to run a proper cover 2. are u comparing the Bears defense to the Vikings? I understand the Vikes run a similar 4-3 defense, but they too run out of the cover 1 mainly

          • JTHC

            Um, no, Tampa 2 is their base coverage. Who mainly runs a Cover 1?

  • david

    They didn’t run a cover two… they ran a cover one spy right up until the fourth quarter, which is a man defense. Brian Urlacher said that.

    • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

      Brian Urlacher also said that Tim Tebow is a running back. NFL players don’t tell you the plays they run on every possession.

      • JTHC

        You could always, you know, watch the game and see for yourself.

        • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

          That’s funny. I was going to say the same thing to you.

          • JTHC

            Really? You’re the one who claimed the Bears ran Cover 2 all game.

          • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/tonypiraro/ Tony Piraro

            for 75 percent of the game they did.

  • JTHC

    Final word on this:

    “Against standard personnel, the Bears played eight in the box consistently.
    Even against nickel personnel, the Bears often dropped strong safety Craig Steltz down. So the Bears played a single safety high for the large majority of the game, including every snap in overtime.

    The only time they went away from it was during the Broncos’ last two possessions of regulation when Denver scored a touchdown and a field goal.

    It made sense to play Cover-2 at that point.” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-12-12/sports/ct-spt-1213-bears-pompei-film-session–20111213_1_tim-tebow-bears-zack-bowman

    But hey, what does that Dan Pompei guy know, right Tony?