If that was Tim Tebow’s last play for the New England Patriots, it was one of his best.
Trying to the very end to secure his roster spot, Tebow threw his second touchdown pass with six seconds left and the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants 28-20 on Thursday night in the final preseason game for both teams.
Now it’s up to coach Bill Belichick to decide if Tebow’s work from the day he joined the Patriots on June 11 to the moment he walked off the field after his perfectly-placed, 9-yard fade toss to Quentin Sims was enough to keep him.
Tebow’s “not sure” if his performance helped his chances but he didn’t plan to worry before teams cut their rosters to the regular-season limit of 53 by 6 p.m. EDT Saturday.
“Go to sleep when I get home, wake up, come work out, watch the film,” he said. “See what I did good, see what I did bad, try to learn from it and get better.”
Belichick wouldn’t tip his hand despite being peppered with questions at his post-game news conference.
Asked why he might keep Tebow as a third quarterback when he’s had just two in three of the past four seasons, Belichick said, “Whatever we do will be whatever we think is in the best interest of this football team, the 2013 team, whatever that is at any position.”
Tebow was 6 for 11 for 91 yards and one interception and gained 30 yards on six carries for the Patriots (3-1). He also was sacked four times.
Leading 21-20, the Patriots took over on downs at the Giants 9. Tebow then lofted a pass into the deep right corner and free agent rookie Sims came down with it for his second touchdown of the game.
“All training camp, me and Tim have connected on that a few times,” Sims said. “Coach put a big emphasis on wanting to do that, so it was good we connected.”
Tebow had played poorly in the first two preseason games and didn’t play in the third.
The Patriots went without nearly all of their starters, including Tom Brady, Danny Amendola, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.
The Giants (1-3) used their regulars, including Eli Manning, for the first three series.
“We did what we had to do defensively,” end Justin Tuck said. “We played the run better.”
Manning left with a 7-0 lead after throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
It was only New York’s third offensive touchdown in four games. Manning went 6 for 9 for 74 yards and a touchdown. After Manning left, Ryan Nassib, David Carr and Curtis Painter played quarterback.
“It was good to have some success offensively,” Manning said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a lot of success (inside the 20-yard line), so it was great to get down there and throw the touchdown.”
Giants backup running back Andre Brown broke his left leg on the first play after the two-minute warning in the first half but said he doesn’t need surgery.
“I didn’t feel a pop, which is a good thing,” Brown said. “I would love to stay on the active list, that’s how small the fracture is.”
Ryan Mallett played the first half for the Patriots and Tebow had a solid start in the second with completions of 5 yards to Aaron Dobson and 11 yards to Daniel Fells on two of his first three plays.
Then he was sacked on four of the next six plays – having trouble finding a receiver on some and getting little protection from backup linemen on others.
Tebow had his best series of the preseason on his fourth possession. He showed a strong arm on three passes beyond the reach of receivers and completed two to Sims, an 11-yarder for a first down then, after being booed on a long incompletion, the 52-yarder for the touchdown.
“He had the boo birds out the play before and then he comes back to throw the touchdown,” Mallett said. “It just shows what kind of player he is, his character.”
Tebow hit Sims over the middle and he ran the remaining 39 yards, scoring with 12:26 left in the game as the Patriots took a 21-20 lead.
Tebow trotted slowly to the end zone where he and Sims congratulated each other, then went to the sideline where he and Mallett jumped into each other in celebration.
“I think I’ve improved in a lot of ways,” Tebow said. “One, learning this offense. Two, understanding more decision making. Getting the rhythm, understanding all the guys that I’m playing with.”
Mallett went 10 for 16 for 117 yards with a 40-yard scoring pass to rookie Josh Boyce for a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter. Free agent rookie George Winn scored New England’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run just 2Â½ minutes earlier.
Josh Brown kicked field goals of 35 and 48 yards for New York and Painter threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Da’Rel Scott.