EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jets linebacker Nick Bellore had never had a pass intentionally thrown his way -- not at any level, even going back to Pop Warner football.
So when backup quarterback Tim Tebow hit him with a 23-yard pass from the punt formation on a 4th-and-11 just before halftime Sunday against the Colts, Bellore was suddenly tied for the most receiving yards in the game.
“That’s what I planned going into the game -- being one of the leading receivers on the team,” joked Bellore.
The Jets won the game 35-9, due in part to the risky play. It was so unexpected that when coach Rex Ryan told owner Woody Johnson what they planned to do, Johnson asked Ryan if Bellore could catch.
“I said, ‘Oh yeah absolutely,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh please catch it,’” Ryan said. “He did a great job.”
The week before, Tebow ran for a first down out of the punt formation on a 4th-and-1. So this week Tebow and Bellore started working on the play in practice.
“It was a great throw by Tim and we executed it well and luckily it worked," said Bellore. "Those are always high-risk, high-reward plays.”
After three punt fakes in the first six weeks of the season, the Jets will have to get even more creative if they want to fool anyone going forward.
“We just have to keep trying to go out there and giving different looks,” Tebow said. "Sometimes we’ll have to play it safe, punt the ball and don’t let them return it.”
This play led to a five-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Jason Hill, and the Jets were up 21-6 at the half. Hill did a hopscotch touchdown celebration as a message to his four-year-old son, Jason Jr., at home.
For Tebow, the successful pass was a highlight. Tebow’s other pivotal play was on a 3rd-and-1 soon after, when he took a direct snap in the red zone and ran three yards for a first down. He had four carries for seven yards on the day.
Tebow said the win was a good one for the Jets, with two AFC East opponents on deck, the Patriots and the Dolphins.
“It gives you more momentum to know that everything you’re doing in practice is paying off,” Tebow said. “Like we’ve said for the past five weeks, we’ve got to stay focused and keep getting better. There’s still lots of time.”