Tebow by Quarter

By request, here is how Denver quarterback Tim Tebow's performance breaks down by quarter. It's nothing short of amazing. He's a very poor performer until halftime, at which point he turns into a mediocre player. But then, in the fourth quarter, he comes alive.

Tebow has broken into positive territory in WPA for the season, including the blowout against DET, but has yet to do so in EPA.

The two tables below list Tebow's Expected Points Added (EPA) and Win Probability Added (EPA) by quarter for 2011 through week 14.

QtrPass EPARun EPATotal

QtrPass WPARun WPATotal

First of all, we can see that, on net, it's his passing and not running or scrambling that's winning games in the 4th quarter. But the most amazing thing is the dramatic difference in performance

Why the incredible splits? Is it intangible 'clutch' leadership? If so, why does it not manifest itself until the end of games? And why does it vanish in OT? Is it simple luck--random variation? 'Splits happen', as Doug Drinen once wrote. Just as some players have crazy good numbers on turf or at night, some might happen to have better numbers in one quarter of the game. Or could it be something more tangible?

Perhaps opposing defenses are playing too soft with their 4th quarter leads. Maybe Tebow himself plays too tight until the necessity and urgency of trailing in the 4th quarter allow him to play with abandon, a theory that is bolstered by the disappearance of the Tebow magic in OT.

Often, when we see large aberrations like these, the cause is a mix of factors. That's my hunch. It's some combination of all the above.

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18 Responses to “Tebow by Quarter”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think that it is a matter of soft defenses. As discussed in detail on this site, it is also a matter of higher variance strategies near the end of games. I'll bet (as a Broncos fan) that if Denver was leading a game in the fourth, things will be far more consistent.

    One thing not mentioned that I find intriguing is that Tebow throws downfield so often. According to this site, Tebows % deep is top of the league....if that's something one wants to be top of, as it will also increase incomplete passes and interceptions (which will also regress as he throws more often).


  2. Michael Beuoy says:

    That Doug Drinen article is great.

  3. Jim Glass says:

    Why the incredible splits?

    My pet theory is that Tebow just dogs it until late in the game. Since he knows he's going to win anyhow, why break a sweat working hard before then? And of course he gets the fun rep of being a "miracle man" that way, as opposed to applying himself for a full game and being in the top 4 in passing. Less work, more fun!

    Perhaps opposing defenses are playing too soft with their 4th quarter leads.

    The Bears sure did. That's one game.

    Is it simple luck--random variation? 'Splits happen', as Doug Drinen once wrote.

    The Drinen piece entirely is on the mark. Note that all those splits are about the same size as Tebow's in number of games. In the NFL's short, 16-game season splits like that are all over the place, but few grab the public eye like Tebow's. The Jets' bizarre offensive drives split in the first half of the season between 3-and-out and through-the-red-zone-score (with a lack of anything in between) had them rated bizarrely the #1 team in the league by DVOA a few weeks ago (because their "red zone success bonus" applied to such a high percentage of their plays). Then that ended.

    Yes, "splits happen". If my pet theory isn't true, my money's on this.

  4. OutInOregon says:

    I think it really just goes to scouting report and changed Defensive & Offensive play calling in the 4th quarter.

    Tebow's strengths, coming from college, are making plays on the move, seeing the field & adapting and working from the Spread looks. (Best Spread Option QB to ever play, don't forget that) In the non-hurry up offense, it's about Pre-snap reads, 3 & 5 step drops, timing routes and vertical routes. (Ignoring the massive snarfing that the WRs were doing against the Bears)

    The issue is that Tebow isn't great at much of any of those, at the moment. He has times when he does fine and other times he doesn't. (It's mostly a footwork issue, at this point, than a throwing mechanics issue) He also takes a bit to get comfortable in a game. (I don't have a link, but someone looked at his college numbers and they improve as he throws more, in a game, as well)

    But, once they get into a hurry up offense, he's well within his comfort zone. The Defense has to mostly exist in its base set, they can't throw too many confusing pre-snap reads and the field is spread really wide, allowing Tebow to use his superior vision on the field, rather than his unrefined timing.

    Last bit is, in the Spread + Hurry up, the Linebackers can't cheat. They either have to be in coverage or spying Tebow. If they blitz (like the Jets game), he'll roll out and he's insanely dangerous in space. If they stay back like the Dolphins or Bears, he'll eat you up on whatever route you give him. (And don't forget, he throws a good deep ball, so you can't cheat on the short routes) So, most of it comes down to a running an offense style that he was the best college player to ever run VS running a conventional Vertical Passing/Run-first Offense. This is one of those things that simply have to be broken down by play more than just quarter. He's had a few nice series at the end of the 2nd quarter as well, when they go hurry up.

    Shorter Version:

    He's the second coming of Jim Kelly in a linebacker's body. John Fox allows it to come out when they're behind late.

    (Tebow will play a conventional offense fine once he gets the practice in and improves his footwork; and when the Wide Receivers feel like showing up.)

  5. JMM says:

    Another possible contributing cause was mentioned by Coach Fox. Denver has no tape on how opponents will play defense so the in game adjustments play a larger than usual role. This would impact 2nd and 3rd more than 4th.

  6. Adam Davis says:

    I put most of this on the opposing defenses. Yes, Tebow has had more than his share of 4th quarter passing heroics, but too many times his receivers have been ridiculously wide open. When a team's passing attack is absolutely pathetic for at least an entire half of football, it is quite natural for the defenders to start letting up. Why follow that WR all the way down the field when you "know" that it's just going to be another run?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Any chance of getting the same splits for the rest of the Broncos? I'm legitimately curious if, for example, Willis McGahee suddenly gets better too, or if the Defense has similar splits

  8. Hadditall says:

    Look no further than Mike McCoy's playcalling.

  9. Chuck says:

    @adam davis
    you are right, teams may be so concerned with the run that they are not sound against the pass when the broncos really need to throw.

    i'd be interested in seeing his attempts by quarter. does he throw a lot more in the 4th? should teams defend him accordingly?

  10. bigmouth says:

    Pretty sure Tim Tebow's the Higgs Boson.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Unless I'm wrong, Tebow played in 4 and 5 WR spread sets in college. In the 4th Quarter, the Broncos are down and move into that style of offense instead of w/e they do during the first quarters.

  12. Tom says:

    bigmouth, unless Tebow permeates all space as a quantized part of a field intended to perform electroweak breaking on measurably massive particles then I'm not sure what you mean?

  13. Ben Stuplisberger says:

    Tebow has clearly brought God into existence through ontological means. His belief in a God that supports his exploits has brought said divinity into existence as a quantum reality, merely by him observing it. This deity pops out of reality in the first half, only to be brought back in the second by his subjective observation becoming an objective reality. He could improve his performance in the first half if he would just believe!

  14. Joseph says:

    My money says that Tebow would be one of the greatest "sandlot" players ever, and would probably be great at flag football too. In other words, his unique skill-set for a NFL QB does not allow him to do Joe Montana/Tom Brady/Peyton Manning-type things, but his skill-set shines when it appears that both the offense and defense are 11 guys who barely know each other and are drawing up plays in the dirt. Thus, when DEN goes to 4 or 5 wide, and the defense can't/doesn't sub, DEN/Tebow have a distinct advantage--same as whichever team on the sandlot is on offense has-->they know what they're doing.
    BTW, Tebow's #'s would look a lot better if his receivers would catch the ball when it hits them in the gut.

  15. Richie says:

    Gregg Easterbrook proposes that Denver's run-heavy attack early in games, combined with Tebow's common option fakes tires out the defenses, so that in the fourth quarter Denver's offense has an advantage.

    That could help explain the wide-open receivers.

    I'm not sure if I subscribe to the theory.

    I think the key is that the Broncos have mostly played against weak offenses. I expect New England to blow them off the field this week.

  16. Matt W. says:

    For those of you interested, here are Tebow's "conventional" stats by quarter from nfl.com:

    1st Quarter: 48.3% completion, 5.9 ypa, 64.0 rating
    2nd Quarter: 33.3, 2.5, 50.3
    3rd Quarter: 37.5, 6.0, 83.5
    4th Quarter: 61.3, 9.2, 111.0

    The 2.5 yards per attempt in the second quarter is remarkable. The record low ypa in a season for a quarterback with at least 50 attempts is 2.7 by Randy Hedberg, the Minot State grad who played one season for Tampa Bay and had a 0.0 QB rating. Kerry Collins has the lowest ypa this year at 4.9. On the other end, if Tebow could throw for 9.2 ypa the whole game, he'd have one of the top 10 seasons in that category since the merger.

  17. Jim Glass says:

    Semi-on topic re the Drinen point.

  18. Steve O says:

    I think you're right:

    1)the Denver offense (not just Tebow) is unleashed when they're behind at the end of the game, and they TRY TO SCORE instead of try to get one or two first downs before punting. The strategy of running up the middle over and over when the other team knows they're doing it is asinine.

    2) the opposing defense doesn't give them credit because they've passed so badly all game (and most of the rest of the season) so they play ultra-conservative and make it superlatively easy for Tebow to make completions (I'm not sure every defense has made it as easy as the Bears did, but they haven't exactly buckled down, either).

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