Tim Tebow was the ultimate tease.
On third-and-16 at Jets' 34, he rolled to his left and scrambled his way upfield for a 20-yard gain in the fourth quarter. The Jets' backup quarterback pumped his fist in celebration, while the MetLife Stadium crowd collectively rose to its feet to applaud his hustle. But those same fans were climbing to their feet and headed toward the exits after Tebow threw a pass intended for Dedrick Epps right into the hands of Panthers safety Reggie Smith.
Then, as the final minutes of Sunday's preseason game against the Panthers wound down, there was Tebow again -- poised to strike, and determined to lead the Jets to victory.
Tebow began the final drive of the game by hitting Epps on back-to-back throws (12 and 22 yards). Then, after an incomplete pass to Joseph Collins, the backup quarterback scrambled again for a 7-yard gain. A Bilal Powell run of six yards put the Jets on Carolina's 44, before Tebow, in the shotgun, scramble 11 yards.
Just 22 seconds remained on the clock, but Tebow envisioned a game-winning touchdown the entire time.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," said the backup quarterback, who finished 4-for-14 for 55 yards. "That’s just the way I’m built. I thought we had it the whole time. I still feel like we should have had it. That’s just something I feel like we do. We just came up one or two plays short."
Tebow through four straight incomplete passes to end the game, including a deep pass in the end zone to tight end Hayden Smith that was too high.
"I figured that was going to be one of our best shots," Tebow said of the 6-6 Australian and former rugby player. "A tall receiver, someone who is obviously used to going up and getting the ball. 'Scrums' or whatever they’re called. I figured with a split-safety, he had a chance down the middle and tried to buy a little time, I tried to put it where he could get
it. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t connect."
Rex Ryan described Tebow's play Sunday night against the Panthers as "kind of good news, bad news."
"At times, Tim looked terrific. He absolutely did," said the Jets' head coach. "He did energize the crowd. He made some huge runs and was able to scramble, get out of trouble and still had some nice passes. He just was a little inconsistent. The one interception that he did throw, he was able to scramble, buy some time and just never got the elevation on the ball he wanted.
"Overall, I was happy with the way Tim played. He competes like crazy as we know. He looked like he had a couple of those passes off when he threw both of them into the end zone with what almost looked like a chance. That was impressive. I don’t know how many quarterbacks can stand back there and get away from the rush and buy time like he was able to do. I was impressed with it.
"And there was one ball, he threw it so hard, I was just glad it never hit a cheerleader to be honest with you. Overall, I thought he threw the ball well. At times, I thought he threw the ball really well."