Inside Denver's option offense

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
8:28
AM ET
ESPN Stats & Information
A well-executed option offense can be successful because it provides the team with, well, options. Analyze Denver’s formations and tendencies to see what the Bears are up against on Sunday.
Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos are 6-1 since the second-year quarterback earned the starting job in Week 7. During that time, the Broncos have called a league-high 260 run plays to just 189 pass plays (third-fewest in NFL).

The Chicago Bears know they will have to stop the run on Sunday, but which variation will they face?


The Option
In the last seven games, more than 37 percent of Denver's designed run plays featured some form of the option. Running back Willis McGahee and Tebow have been extremely effective on these plays, gaining 8.2 and 7.4 yards per rush, respectively. Each player also averages fewer than three rush attempts per first down.

The Bears must plug the middle to contain McGahee. Of his 31 option rush attempts since the start of Week 7, 17 have been up the middle; and he has 170 yards, seven first downs and a touchdown on those plays.

When electing to keep the ball on option plays, Tebow has been at his best outside the tackles. Tebow has kept the ball on 25 option plays since taking over as the starter, and 13 of those plays have gone outside the tackles, for 121 yards and six first downs.

It should be noted that neither McGahee nor Tebow has an option rush attempt inside the red zone in the past seven games.

Handoffs and Scrambles
The Broncos' offense is much less threatening on the ground when the option is not in play. On straight handoffs and scrambles combined, Denver is averaging just 4.0 yards per rush over the last seven games. Both McGahee and Tebow averaged fewer than 5 yards per carry during that time, a steep drop-off from their production on option plays.

The Passing Game
Before Sunday’s win in Minnesota, Tebow's arm was not much of a threat to opposing defenses. While Denver’s approach will likely stay run-heavy, Tebow is trending in the right direction with longer throws.

In Weeks 7-12, Tebow completed 14 of 46 pass attempts thrown 15 or more yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. Tebow had plenty of room to throw downfield against the Vikings, completing 4 of 5 such passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Two of those completions, including the touchdown, came in the fourth quarter.

As if stopping Denver's successful option rushing attack was not enough of a challenge, the Bears now need to worry about Tebow’s emerging downfield passing abilities, as well.

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