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Monday, January 9, 2012
Motivation? Pats playing for the patch

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

I don't think there were many of us who thought the Denver Broncos would be coming in here. So let's talk playoffs and let's talk Tim Tebow.

Join my weekly chat every Monday at 11 a.m. ET to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A. Here we go ...

Tim Tebow
The Steelers focused too much on stopping the Broncos' run game and as a result Tim Tebow took advantage in the passing game.

Q. Do we throw the kitchen sink at Tebow next Saturday? I think Pittsburgh contained but didn't collapse and gave the Tebow- Demaryius Thomas connection time to develop. I'd like a lot of blitzing and pressure to rattle Tebow and make Tebow feel like he has to pull the trigger quick early on. I think his accuracy will suffer. -- Husyourdaddy (Sarasota, Fla.)

A. Tebow rarely pulls the trigger quickly. Right now, the success comes off play-action, which simplifies his reads. The New England Patriots must be ready for the play-action skinny post, the midrange in-cut (a throw Tebow rarely completes), throws to the flat and shots downfield. Couple that with stopping the run, and those are your threats to the Patriots' defense. And your point on penetration -- it's less about penetration and more about containment. The one thing you don't want is Tim Tebow running wild on the edges of your defense.

Q. Let's call it like it is. The Patriots and the majority of the rest of the NFL community would surely have been expecting the Steelers to come through yesterday and would have started preparing accordingly. With that in mind how easy would it be for complacency to set in if the players think they have an "easier" game against the Broncos? -- Damian (Birr, Ireland)

A. Great question. And it's a real possibility. Watching the Steelers players, you could tell they didn't respect the Broncos. We mentioned this earlier this year: when you play Tim Tebow and the Broncos, check your arrogance at the door. The minute you start to feel this kid doesn't belong on the football field with you, that's when he's got you. The Steelers committed nine in the box, with no safety deep. All Tebow had to do was throw it up. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau underestimated Tebow, something the Patriots can't do.

Q. Tedy, how would you scheme the Pats' D to contain Tim Tebow and the option on the outside while still guarding against those big plays of 20 yards or more? -- Bill Marcellino (Pittsburgh)

A. The first thing you do is come with double-edge pressure. The Patriots showed a lot of that in the first matchup. You can't over-commit to the run, like the Steelers did. It will be interesting to see how the loss of Patriots defensive end Andre Carter will affect them in this matchup. Carter could play down in the 4-3 look and play up in the 3-4 look. He rushed most of the time, but still provided an element of multiple fronts. But you definitely come with double-edge pressure with zone concepts behind it.

Q. Hey Tedy, I wish you were still playing. Do you think Tim Tebow will play 10 years in the NFL as a starting quarterback? -- Tony (San Diego)

A. A decade is a long time, but for the near future Tim Tebow is the answer for the Denver Broncos. I felt that the playoff game would give the Broncos' brass an opportunity to make a solid evaluation of their quarterback. To me, the answer was clear: Tim Tebow deserves an offseason in which he is considered the No. 1 quarterback and the Broncos should build accordingly. Let's remember this: Tim Tebow has started 14 regular-season games and one playoff game. He's still a rookie. And people are quick to forget that there is more than one way to play quarterback.

Q. The Pats haven't won a playoff game at home since 2007. Are their chances for a deep run, and possibly a Super Bowl, better this year than in years past, even with their awful D? Why? -- Tim (Chicago)

A. The table is set for the Patriots to be in the Super Bowl. A Broncos team comes to town that you already handled Dec. 18, on their home turf. So the chances of getting by Denver are good. I ask you this: Which quarterback scares you -- Joe Flacco or T.J. Yates? I say neither. Not only is it there for the Patriots to win this week, but if they don't make the Super Bowl, I'd be very disappointed.

Q. Isn't this script too similar to last year's, when the Pats smoked the Jets in the regular season but lost to them in the playoffs? -- Steve (Dallas)

A. I hear what you're saying, I see the similarities, so I'll pose a question to you: Do you think the Patriots players learned anything from last year?

Q. Tedy, what kind of information, beyond X's and O's, can Josh McDaniels offer Bill Belichick that would be useful next Saturday? -- Paul (Kenosha, Wisc.)

A. Josh McDaniels and Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy put together the game plan against New England in 2009. McDaniels knows what McCoy was thinking. I'm sure they bounced ideas off each other. What they eventually went with was McDaniels' call, but to know what another coach was thinking and the ideas he had, can help.

Q. In your opinion is hiring McDaniels right away a big factor for the playoffs or it is only going to help so much because it's late in the year? -- David (North Attleboro, Mass.)

A. Billy O'Brien is a great coach. Tom Brady threw for more than 5,000 yards without Josh McDaniels. Although he provides some "inside information" -- as Brady put it -- they'd still be fine without him.

Q. With the extra week of prep, do you think the Pats spent much time on Denver? I imagine much of it was dedicated to Pittsburgh. Further, can we expect those defensive adjustments made in Denver to carry over to the first quarter this week, or do you anticipate another slow start from the Patriots? -- Pat (Merrimack, NH)

A. Pat, it's hard to guess which opponent they were preparing for. I'll tell you this: The Patriots played the Steelers on Oct. 30 and the Broncos on Dec. 18, and those games are still fresh in their minds. There was one unfamiliar opponent that could have been a possibility, the Bengals. There might have been preparation on that team. On the adjustments/slow start, a carryover of adjustments is very possible, but I've been in rematch games in which entire game plans are scratched and you do something new.

Q. Who do you think would win the MVP award, if none of the quarterbacks were in the running? -- Owen (Mass.)

A. I'd go with Megatron, Calvin Johnson. Plus, I'm a big "Transformers" fan.

Q. Who's your Super Bowl pick? -- Alejandro

A. At the start of the year, I chose the Saints and Ravens. A lot has changed. If the Patriots and Ravens meet in the AFC Championship Game ...

Q. If you were devising a game plan to beat the Saints, what would it revolve around? -- Frank (New Orleans)

A. A few thoughts: 1.) Pressure Drew Brees up the middle of the pocket (easier said than done); 2.) Don't be too complex in your defensive game plan because the Saints, more than anyone in the league, use multiple personnel groups and multiple formations; 3.) Sacrifice a player out of your rush to jam tight end Jimmy Graham.

And if you can get that done, you're better than most defenses in the league.

Q. Can we finally admit that Matt Ryan is not good at football? -- Pete (Michigan)

A. This will be a tough offseason for Matt Ryan. Everyone will question his ability as a quarterback and if he's the answer for that organization. I still think he's the one you're looking for. The New York Giants' defense is playing great right now. What concerned me the most were some of the calls the Falcons' coaching staff made. I'm still wondering why Michael Turner wasn't getting the ball on fourth-and-1.

MHK Patch
The Patriots are "playing for the patch" this season to honor Myra Kraft, writes Tedy Bruschi.

Q. Are Josh McDaniels and Ryan Mallett the heirs apparent to Belichick and Brady? -- Erik (South Glens Falls, N.Y.)

A. It's rare that a coach who departs from a Bill Belichick staff comes back. There is always reasoning for the moves Bill Belichick makes; that's all I'll say.

Q. Hey Tedy! We miss you! Do you think our boys are more motivated this year because of Myra Kraft? Think we can win it all in her memory? -- Dee (New Jersey)

A. When you get to the playoffs, you push a reset button on your season and remember what you're motivated for. I think they play for the patch this week (the MHK patch on their jersey).

The bar is closed for this "Bruschi on Tap" and we'll see you next week.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team.