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Tim Tebow a nonfactor in debut with Jets

Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Jets

Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Jets runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 9, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The first two touchdown passes by the Jets' Mark Sanchez in a 48-28 victory over Buffalo Sunday came immediately after plays on which backup quarterback Tim Tebow carried the ball as part of the Wildcat offense. Coincidence or not?

That's the sort of question Jets fans, Tebow fanatics, Sanchez defenders and maybe even some players are asking themselves today. Nothing Tebow did in his limited role in the season opener did much to answer questions raised in the six months since the Jets traded for him or to end speculation about his ultimate impact.

The Jets totaled 22 yards on eight plays with Tebow taking a direct snap out of the Wildcat formation, including 11 yards on his five carries, and the most he gained on any of those plays was 4 yards. It was a very scrutinized sidelight to a game in which Sanchez threw three TD passes and the Jets had 384 yards.

Even Tebow was uncertain when asked what impact he and the Wildcat had on the Bills' defense. "I'm not sure," he said. "I know it's something they probably had to game-plan for and spend time on. But who knows?"

For the first game, the Wildcat and Tebow were little more than a glorious distraction. And to a certain extent, maybe that's the point. There's no reason to believe short runs by Tebow set up Sanchez's 12-yard TD pass to Jeremy Kerley and his 33-yarder to rookie Stephen Hill for a 14-0 lead.

But as Sanchez said: "I think that's just the way it worked out today. But those Wildcat plays are explosive plays, and we've still got a lot of them."

The funny part is the Jets' Wildcat attack remains largely a mystery. Tebow took only three snaps after halftime as the lead reached 41-7.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Sanchez said. "We've barely seen anything yet. So we have plenty more in our grab bag of Wildcat."

Tebow agreed. "We didn't show too much, but we were able to have some efficient plays," he said. "We would have liked to break one of them . . . I felt like we were close on several. I felt we had good communication and were good in and out of the huddle."

It surprised Tebow that the opening play from new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano had him lining up as a slot receiver to the right, running a decoy pattern. With a big laugh, he said, "I felt like I was open, too."

Tebow's worst play came on second-and-6 at the Bills' 12 with the Jets up 21-7. He faked a handoff to Shonn Greene and was stopped for no gain. There were some boos, but Tebow said he didn't hear them.

In the second half, Tebow made his special-teams debut as the personal protector on two punts by Robert Malone. But his most important play might have come on an onside kick after the Bills got within 41-28. Tebow recovered at the Buffalo 49 to end any thoughts of a miracle comeback.

Asked when he last recovered an onside kick, Tebow smiled and said, "My freshman year against Vanderbilt when I was at Florida."

Game-saving play, right?


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