Even in the game's bleakest moments, the Denver Broncos find a way to beat great teams, the clock, and the odds, all at once. In Sunday's win over the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos have improved to 8-5 and 7-1 with Tim Tebow at the helm. Six of Tebow's wins have come in the fourth quarter or overtime, which makes the Broncos you can never count out.
The Chicago Bears forgot that rule. With after a clock-draining drive by Tebow and the Broncos to bring Denver to within three of Chicago, the Bears just needed to run out the ball to seal a big road win. But then, an unforced, mental error by running back Marion Barber forced the clock to stop, subsequently giving Tebow and the Broncos ample time -- 72 seconds, which is forever in Tebow Time -- to get within field goal range to tie the game.
And that's just what they did. Tebow drove the Broncos 39 yards in 50 seconds to set up Matt Prater for a career-long-matching 59-yard field goal. With the help of Mile High Stadium, Prater's ball easily floated through the uprights, and the stadium erupted as if that won the game.
The Chicago Bears looked to hush up the crowd as overtime began, quickly driving up to the Broncos' 40-yard line, readying their own kicker Robbie Gould for a potential game winner. Running back Marion Barber found a hole and rushed towards the first down, but Wesley Woodyard knocked the ball out of Barber's hand and Elvis Dumervil came up with the turnover. It was the Bears' first turnover in the game, and it came it couldn't come at a worse time. Just as the game looked wrapped up for the Bears, suddenly the Broncos were in business, and everyone knew what was coming next.
Tim Tebow, the former Florida Gator quarterback and Heisman winner, made two 10+ yard plays to get Prater within field goal range again, and his 51-yard chip shot sealed the win for the Broncos, who have been bucking opponents late in games to claim the lead the AFC West.
It's no secret that Tim Tebow is the key to Denver's turnaround. After quarterback Kyle Orton led his team to a dismal 1-4 start, Denver's 2011 season looked to be over before it began. With their backs against the wall, the Broncos waived Orton and greeted Tebow, who leapt at his opportunity to lead the team.
Despite endless criticisms about his arm mechanics, Tebow has been the (un)steady motor to the Broncos, inspiring both the offensive and defensive players to perform at high levels. Well, at least when they're about to lose the game. In the last eight games under Tebow, the defense has limited its opponents to an average of 15.9 points per game, ranking among the best in the league in both rushing and passing. With Tebow as the team's No. 2 running option on offense, the Broncos are first in the NFL in rushing yards with an average of 159 yards per game.
Tebow's won many of his games with the help of a strong running game, but on Sunday against the Bears, the former Gator showed off his arm, racking up a season high 236 yards in the air and a late touchdown. Tebow's repeatedly said that he'll do whatever [his coaching staff] ask of him. Whatever gives the Broncos the best chance to win, Tebow has agreed to do.
Eyes are glued to the field whenever Tebow straps his helmet on. He's unpredictable, he's gutsy, but most importantly, he's at his best when all hope seems lost. There hasn't been this much excitement surrounding the Denver franchise since John Elway was quarterback. In fact, Denver's current six-game win streak hasn't been accomplished since Elway ran the Broncos show in the late 80s and 90s.
It may surprise you to learn Tebow ranks among the NFL's elite quarterbacks in efficiency. Tebow gains an average of 2.6 yards each time he touches the ball, and only four quarterbacks average more yards than he, including (in order) Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Saints QB Drew Brees, Patriots QB Tom Brady, and Texans injured QB Matt Schaub. From Hail Mary's to two-point conversions to incredible defensive plays, Tebow has led his team by example, always giving 110 percent effort through all 60 minutes of the game. And in three of Tebow's games, he's given them 75.
Players recognize Tebow's effort and have continually made plays for their quarterback. This is especially true on the defensive end, where Elvis Dumervil and rookie Von Miller have continually stood up opponents to give their offense opportunities. The two linemen have racked up 73 tackles and 17 sacks this season, but the team has also managed nine interceptions and 11 forced fumble recoveries.
Unexpected players continue to step up at unexpected moments; Wesley Woodyard tore the game out of the Bears' clutches by forcing a Barber fumble, and wideout Demaryius Thomas caught a crucial catch for Tebow in overtime after four big dropped passes earlier in the game, a few of which could've easily resulted in touchdowns.
With Oakland getting embarrassed by Green Bay 46-16, Denver is now all alone atop the AFC West with a one-game lead over the Raiders. Mile High is feeling exactly that, with the team finding ways to beat their opponents week after week.
Next week, the Tebow show will host Tom Brady and the 10-3 AFC East-leading New England Patriots, which will be an interesting battle to say the least. If the Broncos can find a way to stop Brady in Mile High, Tebow's MVP campaign will be officially legitimate. Brady, who is this year's MVP frontrunner, better not get distracted by Dan Marino's record if he hopes to beat Tebow and his inspired team.
After the Patriots game, the Broncos will face the Buffalo Bills and close their season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The 7-6 Oakland Raiders must face the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers at home, and will also pay a visit Kansas City, but must win at least two of those games to catch up to Denver. However, the momentum is definitely in favor of the Broncos, who have run past the slipping Raiders with six straight wins.
The Denver Broncos have been clutch this season. With only three games left on the slate, they need all the Tebow Time they can get to claim the AFC West and punch a ticket to the playoffs.