NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- They weren’t his first or last touches of the game, but they will get the most attention. For the first time all season, Tim Tebow was given an entire drive to run the offense on his own on Monday, with mixed results.
Down 7-3 in the second quarter, Rex Ryan handed the controls of the offense to his backup quarterback for a five-play, 17-yard drive that featured equal doses of Tebow’s familiar zone-read running attack and a few potential shots downfield through the air that were undone by the Tennessee pass rush.
While no specific plays were pre-scripted for him, the Jets’ third offensive series had been preordained as Tebow Time.
“I had mentioned it to Tony [Sparano] that was when I wanted to put him in, to put him in the third series, and that’s exactly what we did,” Ryan said.
“You still try to get into the rhythm and the flow, so it’s not always easy just in a series, but I kind of felt like I was into it,” Tebow said. “I felt like we made some good plays, but unfortunately we just got backed up, and they made some good plays as well.”
The first two plays of the drive yielded first downs: A sweep to Joe McKnight gained 11 yards, and then Tebow kept it himself around the right side for another 12. But the Titans turned up the pressure, as linebacker Zach Brown came off the edge to sniff out another keeper at the line and then sacked Tebow on the next play.
A delay-of-game penalty quickly turned third-and-11 into third-and-16. Facing an obvious passing situation, Tebow dropped back and was flushed from the pocket, rolling left and then right to break free of pressure from Kamerion Wimbley and Sen'Derrick Marks before throwing the ball away and setting up a punt.
Mark Sanchez returned to the game on the Jets’ next possession and promptly threw his first of four interceptions on the night, as cornerback Jason McCourty beat Jeremy Kerley to the sideline on a comeback route. In his postgame remarks, Ryan left up to interpretation whether or not Tebow’s entrance messed with the starter’s rhythm.
“That’s for you guys to formulate your own opinions,” Ryan said. “Mine? I don’t think it matters. You know, I think when you go in, whenever your number’s called, you go in and do your job.”
Tebow picked up a first down to help extend the Jets’ first drive of the game, barreling into the line for a 2-yard gain on third-and-short, but his role diminished from then on. He was used just once in the second half, replacing Sanchez immediately after he had hit Kerley and Jeff Cumberland on consecutive completions only to fumble the exchange with running back Shonn Greene.
“We were going to use him more as the game went on,” Ryan said. “I don’t think he had too many plays in the second half, but it was our plan.”