Tebow's presence complicates Patriots' preparation


Tebow's presence complicates Patriots' preparation

FOXBORO -- In the NFL, you must turn the page quickly. The Patriots have been acknowledging that all week as they try to move on from last Sunday's loss in Seattle and prepare for this Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

The transition from the Seahawks to the Jets isn't a seamless one, though. Mainly because of the wrinkle that is Tim Tebow.

Sure, from the outside, Tebow hasn't been anything close to the game-changing player he was last year, when he took the football world by storm. But in fairness to Tebow, that's because he hasn't been used anywhere close to as much as he was while the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Though Mark Sanchez' numbers aren't great, he's still the Jets' starting quarterback. In fact, Tebow has only thrown the ball three times in six games, completing two of those passes for 32 yards.

"They're running the ball well and Sanchez is playing well these last couple weeks," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo on Thursday. "They're a dangerous football team. They have a great offensive line, a couple good running backs that are a different, change-of-pace type of backs . . . They have a lot of different weapons."

As Rex Ryan's original plan was drawn up, Tebow is one of those weapons, and he's been used in many different ways this season. Which is why the Patriots have the unusual task for preparing for a backup quarterback in a somewhat unfamiliar manner.

"He's obviously a guy that can run the ball," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "He's a strong guy.

"Last year, obviously, we saw him a few times. (The Patriots played Denver twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.) So we've seen him. That helps us out.

"You've got to give him attention," added Ninkovich. "Because, you never know what game they're going to keep him in there longer, or have more of a focus on him during that game. So obviously, our defense has to respect the wildcat-type offense."

Mayo said he's never had to prepare for a backup quarterback like this before. But that's because Tebow isn't your everyday backup QB.

"He doesn't only play quarterback," said Mayo on Thursday. "He plays a lot of different spots. So I don't know how much he'll be playing quarterback against us, but we'll be ready for it.

Tebow has rushed the ball 18 times for 64 yards. He's also lined up at wide receiver, and even has recorded two tackles this season.

"Well, obviously, he has a specific skill set," said Mayo. "He can do a lot of different things. Special teams, playing quarterback, and sometimes he lines up at wide receiver. So he does a lot of different things for them.

"You always have to know where he is. But at the same time, he's a football player, just like everyone else."

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.