CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

After Further Review: Second look at Tebow-Brady, Giants-Packers

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Tom Brady has two MVP awards. He also has three Super Bowl rings.

Yet he will be the second-most popular player on the field when the Denver Broncos visit the New England Patriots for an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night.

But Brady has something that Tim Tebow wishes he had, certainly more so than the mania that surrounds the Broncos quarterback.

Brady has touch, accuracy, a strong arm, pocket presence, the ability to see the field and the willingness to put the football into tight windows.

OK, so Brady can't run over tacklers like Tebow.

I know it's not fair to compare Tebow to Brady. One is in his second season. The other is arguably one of the greats of all time. So don't get all bent out of shape because I am.

The reason you compare the two is to determine this: Can Tebow do any of the things that Brady can do -- even remotely close to the way Brady does them to give Broncos fans hope that there is something special under center?

The answer is that he has miles to go.

Not many can do what Brady does, but to be honest, they're as different as a 275-pound back is to a speed player like Darren Sproles.

To help get a read on both, especially considering they are playing each other for the second time this season, I pulled out the tape from their first meeting.

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The Patriots won that game, pulling away in the second half. In watching that tape, there were several things I noticed about Tebow and Brady. Here's a short breakdown:

Tim Tebow

One: He almost always took the safe throw.

Example: On a second-and-7 from the Denver 45 on the Broncos' first drive, Tebow had one receiver to the left, one to the right and two tight ends with one back. He took a shotgun snap and had tight end Daniel Fells wide open in the New England zone for what should have been at least a 15-yard gain. He instead took a safe checkdown to running back Lance Ball for a 9-yard gain. It wasn't a bad play, it was a safe play.

Two: He rarely threw on time.

Example: Plays are designed to get the ball out quickly. But Tebow has a tendency to hold it. Many of his completions come when he scrambles outside the pocket. One of his big plays against the Patriots came after scrambling outside to the left and flipping a short pass to Ball, who turned it into a 34-yard gain. Looks good, but the design was to throw it on time to one of three receivers down field.

Three: He had trouble throwing to his right.

Examples: He did complete one long ball to his right against the Patriots, on a busted coverage, but he really seemed much more comfortable throwing to his left -- his open side. He has a tendency to short-arm passes to his right.

Summation: Tebow is good at throwing slants -- especially to his left -- off the read-option fake. That's his best play, his most decisive play. Other than that, if a receiver isn't wide open, he hesitated to make the throws. And he doesn't have the ability to drive the football into tight windows or to throw the deep out.

Tom Brady

One: He can throw it with accuracy and zip to both sides, even to his left, away from his open side.

Example: On a first-and-10 from the Denver 43, Brady was alone in the shotgun and took the snap, looked right, looked to the middle and then came back and fired a bullet to his left to Wes Welker for a 13-yard gain. It showed off his big arm and it showed he knew where all his receivers were on the play.

Two: He anticipates throws to tight windows.

Example: In the second quarter, he lined up in the shotgun again and the Broncos were in man coverage. Rookie defensive back Chris Harris was on Welker in the left slot. Welker beat him at the line with a hard move outside, and then back inside on a deep route. Brady anticipated Welker being open and threw to a spot. Welker grabbed the ball for a 19-yard gain to the 1.

Three: He has great patience in the pocket.

Example: Brady might not be the fastest quarterback, but his subtle ability to slide and move a little in the pocket helps create extra time for him to make throws. In the fourth quarter, he had pressure on one play but took a little step back for more room and then threw off his back foot some to Aaron Hernandez, who came open on a shallow crossing route and turned it into a 22-yard gain.

Summation: Brady is calm, cool, has the arm to throw to either side and has great pocket feel. It's no wonder he's one of the greats.

Film Study

1. It's always good to go back and re-watch earlier games between teams meeting again in the playoffs. I did that with the Packers-Giants. When they met earlier, I focused the top of this column on the game-winning drive by Aaron Rodgers. But this time, I wanted to see why Eli Manning had so much success against the Green Bay defense. In evaluating it, I saw the Packers use a combination of coverage, some minor blitzing, a lot of four-man rush and some busts in the secondary. One of the surprises was that the Packers played more zone than I expected in that game and the Giants took advantage. Having said that, some of the big plays came against man coverage. Hakeem Nicks beat Tramon Williams with a post route for a big play. On that play, the Packers had a single-high safety, but he rotated to the right side, leaving a void in the middle. Nicks beat Williams inside and Manning dropped a perfect pass to him for a big play. The Packers blitzed their two inside linebackers on that play. That was something they did a handful of times in the game. Both of those players at the time were backups, so it will be interesting to see how they do this time around. Manning was sharp in that game, except for a pick-six by Clay Matthews. On that play, the Giants tried to hit a deep ball, but both receivers were covered. The Packers dropped into zone coverage underneath and Manning tried to throw late to Ahmad Bradshaw. He never saw Matthews, who stepped in front of it for an interception for a touchdown. But after that, Manning got the better of the Green Bay defense. It will be interesting to see what changes Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers comes up with to slow down Manning this time.

In the first meeting vs. the Packers, the Giants lined up safety Deon Grant as a linebacker. (Getty Images)  
In the first meeting vs. the Packers, the Giants lined up safety Deon Grant as a linebacker. (Getty Images)  
2. In watching how the Giants played Rodgers, they used a lot of defenses where safety Deon Grant was lined up as a linebacker. That's something they've done in the past to teams like the Colts with Peyton Manning. The Colts ran down the Giants' throats when they used that against Manning a couple of years ago. The Packers didn't. The Giants also used a lot of man-under, two-deep coverage. The Giants' corners had some troubles that day, so it will be interesting to see how they respond this week. Their pass rush is better now, so I would imagine they would try to get pressure with the front four -- something they did on Rodgers' game-winning drive without success -- and then play coverage behind it.

3. When the Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago, they ran the ball. Yes, they were a pass-first team. But they ran it. They were sixth in the NFL in rushing. Guess where they ranked this season? Sixth. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2009 and 4.9 per carry this year. "We haven't had to get too cute or too fancy with our running game this season," fullback Jed Collins said. "We're running downhill, we're coming at you and we're gaining yards. As long as we keep doing that, we'll be all right." The key to the running game is the guards. Left guard Carl Nicks is the best at his position in the NFL. Right guard Jahri Evans isn't far behind. They both are maulers in the run game. When they get their hands on a lineman or a linebacker, the defender has a tough time getting off. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers play against the middle of the Saints line. Center Brian De La Puente is a first-year starter who has been solid. But he is the weak link of the inside three. I would imagine the 49ers would put Ray McDonald or Justin Smith standing up on his nose in some situations.

4. One of the interesting things to watch this week will be the number of different formations the 49ers use on offense. Jim Harbaugh and coordinator Greg Roman are great at getting defenses confused by the different formations they use. The 49ers are great at running receivers out of bunch formations to get open. That creates problems for a team like the Saints that likes to play man coverage in the secondary. The other thing the 49ers do a lot is run receivers and tight ends across the formation to get open. That creates problems for aggressive defenses and we know how the Saints love to be aggressive under Gregg Williams. Keep an eye out for that early in the Saturday's game.

5. When the Ravens beat the Texans earlier this season, Houston was without Andre Johnson. That meant the threat of the big play, even with Matt Schaub on the field, was limited. Johnson is back but Schaub is gone. Even so, I would expect the Texans to take a few shots down the field against the Ravens' corners. The Baltimore corners have made big improvement in the past month. Rookie Jimmy Smith has improved in coverage and Lardarius Webb had his best season, becoming a Pro Bowl candidate. I would imagine the Ravens will double Johnson a lot, but when he's matched up in man coverage, the Texans have to take their shots -- even with a rookie quarterback. On tape, Webb and Smith showed the past month that they are more than capable of matching up with receivers. But Johnson is another story. He's special.

Rating the QBs

By now, you know how much I believe this is a quarterback league. So I thought I would rank the eight remaining quarterbacks in the playoffs, based on their 2011 season.

Here goes:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
4. Eli Manning, Giants
5. Joe Flacco, Ravens
6. Alex Smith, 49ers
7. Tim Tebow, Broncos
8. T.J. Yates, Texans

Three and outs

Top three playoff myths

1. Defense wins championships. Not anymore.

2. Passing teams can't win outside in the elements. Hear that, Green Bay, New Orleans and New England?

3. The ring is more important than a new contract. Never. Like a player once said: The ring won't keep on the lights 30 years from now.

Three eye-opening offensive stats from the playoff teams

1. Denver was 30th in the NFL in third-down efficiency.

2. The Packers were 22nd in sacks per pass play.

3. The Giants were 32nd in rushing yards per game.

Three eye-opening defensive stats from the playoff teams

1. The Patriots were 32nd in first downs allowed per game.

2. The Packers were 32nd in sacks per pass play.

3. The 49ers led the NFL with 38 takeaways.

Tweets at me

1. @PeterBurnsRadio: @PriscoCBS I like the style. Indifference is death in our industry, You piss people off with your thoughts, causes reaction. You get it 100%

2. @BianchiWrites: Wonder what @PriscoCBS -- the No. 1 Tebow hater -- has to say now about Tim 3:16

3. @wreckon95: @priscocbs - takes a big man to admit he is wrong thus you will never admit you are wrong - just keep hatin pete! go #tebow!


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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