Tebow Wins Praise but His Arm Is an Asterisk

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s perfect 15-yard touchdown strike to Steve Smith on Sunday? Newton is proof that quarterbacks who played the spread option in college can smoothly transition to the N.F.L., as long as they possess powerhouse arms and decent accuracy. Vince Young starting for the Philadelphia Eagles? Evidence that a dual-threat quarterback with a better arm can still miss throws just as wildly as Tebow.

It has come to this for the N.F.L.: Tebow’s play continues to confound almost everyone who watches him. But after the ’ stunning victory over on Thursday night, the conventional wisdom seems to be shifting to grudging acceptance of him and praise for Coach John Fox to turn his offense upside down to suit what he does well.

The Broncos are in the playoff race because they have thrown up their hands and embraced the unsightly but exciting brand of football Tebow plays. On Sunday, the former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network that Tebow could take the Broncos to the . Irvin, of course, can afford to be charitable. He has not been an intended receiver watching one of Tebow’s passes sail 5 yards away from him. But with six games to go and the Broncos one game behind the Raiders in the American Football Conference West, the question is how much longer Tebow’s style, which is unpredictable, unstable and unfailingly riveting, can sustain itself.

The Broncos, according to people who tracked the game closely, played the option 40 percent of the time against the Jets, about double the number of snaps they played in the option against Miami and Detroit earlier in the season, but about the same amount they played in a victory over the Raiders two weeks ago, when the Broncos turned fully to the option. Until the final drive, when the Jets were worn down and seemed unable or unwilling to tackle, they defended the Broncos well. The Broncos had just 229 yards of offense, but 95 yards came on the final drive.

When Tebow was made the starter, the former quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer predicted that there would be a four- to seven-game window when Broncos opponents would struggle to adapt to a very unorthodox offense, much as teams struggled against the Wildcat when the Miami Dolphins unleashed it. Tebow has now made five starts, winning four.

“Against a good defense it doesn’t work,” said the former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly, who compared the use of the option now to when Marv Levy used the Delaware Wing T while with Kansas City in the 1970s. “Once you eliminate the element of surprise — the Raiders fell victim to that — and you’re able to get more game tape and study what they can’t do, the clock is winding down on the option offense.”

Why can’t Tebow continue this much longer, the way Michael Vick did in Atlanta, or Vince Young or Randall Cunningham did in earlier incarnations? Because they had more dynamic and accurate arms, forcing defenses to account for the passing game. That is what Tebow does not have. Since he has been starting, his accuracy has improved slightly, and Dilfer believes Tebow has been more decisive in recent weeks as he has grown more comfortable. But the Jets gave Tebow plenty of opportunities to throw and he missed his intended targets. Casserly said there has been no pattern to Tebow’s misses — sometimes he has poor footwork and sometimes he just misses — but he calls the inaccuracy mindboggling. And while Tebow has thrown some eye-opening passes — one against Kansas City was notable and so was the 28-yarder on the first snap of the game against the Jets — his lack of consistency allows opponents to relax against the pass and load up to stop the run, a critical difference from other dual-threat quarterbacks.

“They could launch it 45 yards or fit it into a window down the sideline,” Dilfer said. “They would make enough explosive plays with their arm that you could not only defend the run. You’d always be wondering at what point is he going to knife us.”

Dilfer points to evidence that the Jets never feared that with Tebow: they had linebacker Bart Scott, who has been coming off the field rather than lining up against athletic tight ends, covering Daniel Fells, a very athletic tight end. Denver could not capitalize on the apparent mismatch: Fells was targeted just once and did not have a catch last Thursday.

Hester Has 2 Long TDs as Bears Beat Vikings 39-10

So it was hardly shocking that a blowout developed.

That the Bears delivered the beating was a bit of a surprise.

The Bears got two big touchdowns from Devin Hester, stopped Adrian Peterson and held their ground against Jared Allen in a 39-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.

Hester set the tone with a 48-yard touchdown catch and scored on a career-best 98-yard kickoff return before leaving with a chest injury — and he had a lot of help in the win.

“Hopefully, that’s who were are, the team that you saw tonight,” coach Lovie Smith said.

Jay Cutler threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Julius Peppers had two sacks and the Bears (3-3) held Peterson to 39 yards rushing.

Smith didn’t think the injuries to Hester and tight end Kellen Davis (elbow) were serious, but he’s made similar statements in the past about players who wound up missing big chunks of time. Hester did not make himself available for comment.

His 48-yard TD pass from Cutler on Chicago’s first possession got the Bears started quickly as they grabbed a 26-3 halftime lead. Hester’s kickoff return early in the third quarter erased any chance the Vikings (1-5) had at a comeback.

“You feel like you’re getting ready to come and that kickoff return was a big momentum turn,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

It’s no secret that teams are inviting danger by kicking to Hester, and Minnesota paid a big price right after Peterson scored on a 4-yard run.

Hester took the kickoff, turned to his right and was touched maybe once on his way to the end zone, making it 33-10. It was his first kickoff return for a touchdown since Nov. 25, 2007, against Denver.

“We’re all kind of witnessing history every time he touches it,” Smith said.

Hester set a record with his 11th punt return for a touchdown against Carolina on Oct. 2. On Sunday, the good feelings gave way to concern when the announcement came early in the fourth quarter that he was finished for the game.

Along with the big return, Hester had five catches for 91 yards.

Cutler, meanwhile, had all the time he needed and — for one game, anyway — avoided a big beating. Never mind that league sacks leader Jared Allen was lining up for the Vikings, the Bears’ maligned blockers held their ground.

That allowed Cutler to complete 21 of 31 passes while being sacked just once.

The defense did its job, too.

A surprise starter after sitting out practice this week with a sprained left knee, Peppers got his two sacks and stayed in until the closing minutes even though the knee was bothering him.

“Did I want to stay in? I mean, I don’t know,” Peppers said. “I wanted to play, if that’s what you’re asking. I wanted to play, but the smart thing to do is get everybody out of the game and not risk an injury in a blowout.”

Donovan McNabb threw for 177 yards and completed 19 of 24 passes. He was sacked five times before being lifted for a debuting Christian Ponder, but it was a brutal night for Peterson aside from that scoring run.

He simply couldn’t get anything going against a defense that had been giving up plays at an alarming rate, and it didn’t help that the Vikings lost center John Sullivan (concussion) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (bruised knee) to injuries in the third quarter.

Even so, the Bears dominated from the start. Now, after dropping three of four, they can breathe a little easier.

They still trail unbeaten Green Bay by three games and Detroit by two with losses to both teams, but they have to feel a little better about themselves as they get ready to play Tampa Bay in London.

“That was awesome,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “We ran the ball, protected our quarterback, we made plays in the kicking game as usual, good team win.”

Notes: Ponder was 9 of 17 for 99 yards. … Frazier said he didn’t think Loadholt was seriously injured, but had no more information on Sullivan and S Jamarca Sanford (concussion). … Peppers has 20 multi-sack games.

Cutler, Bears Lead Vikings 26-3 After 2nd Quarter

Jay Cutler threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Julius Peppers had two sacks, and the Bears held Vikings star Adrian Peterson to 39 yards rushing.

But Hester’s injury dampened the mood on a night when they got a much-needed win.

That 48-yard TD pass from Cutler on Chicago’s first possession got the Bears started quickly as they grabbed a 26-3 halftime lead. Hester’s big kickoff return early in the third quarter erased any chance the Vikings had at a comeback.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

CHICAGO (AP) — Devin Hester set the tone with a 48-yard touchdown catch and scored on a career-best 98-yard kickoff return before leaving with a chest injury, and the Chicago Bears routed the Minnesota Vikings 39-10 on Sunday.

Jay Cutler threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Julius Peppers had two sacks, and the Bears held Vikings star Adrian Peterson to 39 yards rushing.

But Hester’s injury dampened the mood on a night when they got a much-needed win.

That 48-yard TD pass from Cutler on Chicago’s first possession got the Bears started quickly as they grabbed a 26-3 halftime lead. Hester’s big kickoff return early in the third quarter erased any chance the Vikings had at a comeback.