FOXBORO -- The option offense is run-of-the-mill in high school football. It's a little less prevalent, but still very common, at the college level. But by the time players reach the NFL, the very words "option offense" have been essentially wiped from their lexicon.
That's not the case in Denver. Head coach John Fox and the Broncos coaching staff tailored new offensive game plans to fit the unique skill set of their quarterback Tim Tebow, and the option re-emerged.
That means the Patriots have to go back to school and re-teach themselves on the principles of how to defend it.
"It's basically being disciplined," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "Someone's gotta take the quarterback, someone's gotta take the the pitch, someone's gotta take the dive."
Tebow ran the option while playing at the University of Florida, and was just as much a threat to run as he was to pass -- maybe even more so. It's why some projected him as a running back or fullback coming out of college. But Tebow, Fox and the Broncos have made the option work. And their version is likely more complicated than any that the Patriots defensive players ever saw during their amateur playing days.
"They have different ways that they're going to run it," Belichick said. "There are different option combinations which is tough. They're not always the same. You have to have different rules. It definitely stresses the force element on the perimeter of the defense."
On option plays, the Patriots will have to try to read whether Tebow is handing it off, running with it himself around the end, or pitching to a running back. Making those reads quickly has been one of the challenges the Pats' defense has encountered this week in practice. The middle of the defense has to be especially aware on the initial read: Did Tebow hand the ball off or keep it?
"Some of those dive plays they hit so quickly," Belichick said. "The normal guy lines up seven, seven-and-a-half, eight yards deep in an I-formation. At the line of scrimmage it's a whole different tempo. The dive guy pops right through there, sometimes before the defenders realize it. It's something we've have to adjust to in practice. With our defensive linemen, sometimes the back was already by them before they realized it.
"They're not used to that, playing the game that quickly. Denver will give us some problems with all those combinations that they use."