Broncos, Tim Tebow try option in NFL

Updated: November 11, 2011, 1:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NFL teams aren't used to preparing to stop an option-style offense. But that's just what the Kansas City Chiefs are faced with for Sunday's matchup against Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos.

Running an offense similar to one in which he excelled at Florida, Tebow generally has three options after taking the snap: throw it downfield, pitch it to Willis McGahee or one of the other running backs, or simply keep the ball himself and scamper downfield.

Haley You got a quarterback running the option and that makes it a triple threat.

-- Chiefs coach Todd Haley

It didn't work very well two weeks ago in a 45-10 loss to Detroit, when the Broncos were still trying to figure out what they were doing. But it worked much better last week.

Befuddling a stingy Raiders defense, Tebow managed to pass for 124 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 118 yards. The attention that Oakland paid him created holes for McGahee, who ran for 163 yards and two scores in the 38-24 victory.

When asked if Tebow's read-option offense can be sustainable in the NFL, Broncos coach John Fox said Monday that he regularly faced something similar when he first was the Carolina Panthers' coach.

"I've spent a lot of time in the NFC South, and we competed against the Atlanta Falcons when they had Michael Vick. Call it what you like, it was that quarterback having the ability to run that creates havoc on defenses because they don't count that guy as a runner," Fox said.

Still, Fox admitted that this type of offensive attack hasn't been tried in the NFL "to the exact level where we're kind of at right now."

By putting the ball in McGahee's belly, then deciding whether to hand it off or keep it and run it himself, Tebow looked as if he were running the Gators' offense again.

"It's not an option offense. It's still a pro-style offense," McGahee insisted Wednesday, but then added: "Whatever it takes to win. If that's what we got to do, then we're going to do it."

Chiefs coach Todd Haley said Wednesday that the Broncos' offense is similar to the wildcat formation that is in vogue, with one significant difference: Tebow can throw the ball, too, despite what his critics say.

"You got a quarterback running the option," Haley said, "and that makes it a triple threat."

Fox said Monday that Denver is trying to put Tebow into a position where he can succeed.

"We're asking a lot, not just of Tim, but our entire offense -- the coaching staff, everybody involved," Fox said. "We've kind of grown it as we've grown with Tim. There is no question that we are looking for balance in the run and the pass. We're probably leaning a little bit more on the run right now. We have to improve in the pass game because in this league, you have to be two-dimensional, not one-dimensional, and it's something that I'm sure he'll grow, we'll grow, in time."

Tebow was hit 17 times by the Raiders on Sunday, including a helmet to the chin that split his lower lip.

Tebow brushes off concerns that the read-option is hazardous to his health, however.

"Those plays weren't necessarily ones (where) you take big hits," Tebow said. "I think that's a little bit of a myth, too. You don't necessarily get hit as much on read plays as people would think. I'd say your hits are more just sitting in the pocket."

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy suggested the read-option was the way to go against Oakland and will be sprinkled into future game plans, but week to week he's going to adjust the offense for specific defenses.

The one thing he's trying to do no matter the plays that are called is help Tebow avoid big hits, whether he's surveying the field or running down it.

"Sometimes when you sit back in the pocket, you don't see some of those things. And if it's your blind side, you might (get) a guy Scott-free who you thought was supposed to be blocked," McCoy said. "I think when he's in the open field, he has a good feel for where guys are coming from and you'll see some things.

"But, hey, when you play that style of football, you're going to take your shots and it's part of the game and he's going to learn," McCoy added. "And he's learned already since last year, there's going to be an opportune time for him to take a hit and (he knows) when he needs to slide, get down, get out of bounds and protect yourself because you're going to take so many hits."

Chiefs veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson said Wednesday he hasn't faced an option-style offense since his college days at Texas.

"That's definitely a college game plan when you do so much option," he said. "However you can get a win. It may not be the traditional way, standing in the pocket, delivering, you know, certain routes and all that stuff. As long as you win, it doesn't really matter."

Figuring out how to stop it is another matter entirely.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.