Does Tim Tebow really worry Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots?

Tim Tebow unexpectedly picked apart the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. But this Saturday's game against a vulnerable New England Patriots defense might actually be more of a measuring stick for how far Tim Tebow has progressed.

By , Staff writer

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    Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots in a regular-season game earlier this season.
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In Sunday's wild card game, the Pittsburgh Steelers basically dared Tim Tebow to beat them with his arm. 

He did. 

Now comes a game Saturday night against the New England Patriots, whose pass defense has been only somewhat more resilient than a soggy roll of Charmin. 

Recommended: How much do you know about Tim Tebow? A quiz

Can Tebow do it again?

The statistics would suggest that the Patriots could be in a heap of trouble. On Sunday, Tebow posted a career-best 316 passing yards against a team that, during the regular season, gave up a league-stingiest average of 172. The Patriots, by contrast, gave up 294 passing yards a game – good for second-worst in the league.

Tebow, we're guessing, is not sweating in his Lycra stretch pants.

What's more, Tebow's Denver Broncos managed to reel off an unseemly 176 yards rushing in the first quarter of a regular-season loss to the Patriots before they were undone by turnovers. 

With an improving Tebow in the pocket and the Broncos' league-best rushing attack preparing to chew the Patriots into tiny Tebow flakes, how can the Patriots defense hope to cope?

Certainly, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had the customary nimbus clouds brewing overhead in a press conference Thursday.

"You have to worry about everything with Denver's offense," Belichick said. "You have to worry about the running game, the passing game, the backs, the receivers, the quarterback, the offensive line, they're a well-balanced unit.... If you just load up on one thing then, you pay the price somewhere else."

Then again, Bill Belichick, it would seem, exists to serve as a cosmic counterbalance for rainbows, unicorns, and fluffy clouds. His scowl is Botox-proof.

So Patriots fans might not want to go Y2K just yet.

In fact, there is some suggestion that the Pats' relatively patsy secondary might be more problematic for Tebow than the Steelers' iron fist. 

The reason: The Steelers, perhaps, indulged in a little hubris in their 29-23 overtime loss Sunday. 

Repeatedly, the Steelers moved as many defensive players as close to the line of scrimmage as possible in order to stop Denver's potent rushing attack. In doing so, they were banking on the fact that Tebow, the most inaccurate passer in the National Football League, would fail to hit open receivers – as he has all year. 

The problem with this scheme is that it also simplified matters for Tebow. The best pro football defenses essentially force quarterbacks to work out the calculus of their complex schemes as they send Visigoths to pound at the gate of the pocket.

For the Steelers Sunday, it was all Visigoths and precious little calculus. 

That meant Tebow could determine relatively easily where he needed to throw the ball. And that made life easier for him. 

The Patriots are unlikely to follow that strategy. By mixing coverages and trying to confuse Tebow, who is still only in his first year as a pro starter, the Patriots defense could actually pose a greater challenge to Tebow than the Steelers' unit did.

Moreover, given that the Patriots' grandest defensive hopes are a collective desire to not be embarrassed, they will guard against giving up the big play. The Steelers virtually invited the big play by taking big defensive risks. 

Certainly, Tebow can take advantage of a Patriots defensive secondary filled with weaknesses. But strangely, a good game Saturday might be a more impressive achievement for Tebow than his game-winning performance against the mighty Steelers last Sunday.

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