Denver Broncos star Tim Tebow will face the New England Patriots' future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in an epic bout between two MVP contenders in Mile High Stadium this Sunday. Thanks to an unlikely six-game win streak, Tebow has helped his team improve from worst to first in the AFC West, while Brady's 10-3 Patriots hold a commanding lead in the AFC East.
Brady's greatness is always expected each and every season he plays, but Tebow's uncanny ability to win games when all hope seems lost has critics calling him God's quarterback. Five of his last six wins have come in the fourth quarter or overtime, but his win Sunday over the Chicago Bears was probably the most convincing display of Tebow's comeback candor.
For most of the game, Tebow and the Denver offense looked hopeless against Brian Urlacher and the defensive-minded Bears. With five minutes left in the game, Chicago was ready to blank Denver 10-0. With 2:08 left, Tebow managed to score a touchdown to bring the Broncos to within three points of Chicago, but the Bears had the ball with about two minutes to play, and all they needed to do was run out the ball to win. But then, an unforced, mental error by running back Marion Barber forced the clock to stop, which subsequently gave Tebow and the Broncos ample time -- 72 seconds, which is forever in Tebow Time -- to get within field goal range to tie the game. After Matt Prater nailed a 59-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, the Broncos took advantage of another Barber error - this time, a fumble - to give Prater a 51-yard kick to seal the game. The ball went straight through the uprights, and the Broncos clinched their comeback win over the Bears.
It was an exciting game, Brady said. They obviously have a very good team. They play for 60 minutes. They've obviously closed a lot of games and finished very well. We have a huge test. We'll all be excited, and hopefully have a good week of preparation and be ready to go on Sunday.
Brady even backed up Tebow, when asked how he rates the former Florida quarterback's arm mechanics.
Everyone says he struggles throwing the ball, Brady said. What I saw last night, he had no problems throwing the ball. He threw the ball extremely well when I was watching.
Tebow, who is the Broncos' second-leading rusher, has been criticized for not throwing the ball enough. But on Sunday against the Bears, Tebow completed 21 of 40 passes for a season-high 236 yards, including one touchdown and one pick, and a number of Tebow's passes, particularly to wideout Demaryius Thomas, were dropped during the game. In Denver's previous game against the Vikings, Tebow posted a season-high 202 passing yards with two touchdowns.
Tebow's Broncos may not be a great aerial attack, ranking second-to-last in the league in passing this season with 160.8 yards per game, but Denver is first in the league in rushing with about 156.2 yards per game.
Brady said he will mostly focus on deciphering the Denver defense, which has limited its opponents to only 15.9 points per game under Tebow's leadership, among the best in the league in opposing both rushing and passing attacks. Elvis Dumervil and rookie Von Miller have been standouts this season, racking up 73 tackles and 17 sacks between the two linemen. The team has also managed nine interceptions and has forced and recovered 11 fumbles.
But if there's anyone who can tear up the Denver Broncos defense, it's Tom Brady. Brady, as well as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Saints QB Drew Brees, is well on his way to breaking Dan Marino's all-time NFL record of 5,084 passing yards in a single season with 4,273 through 13 games. Brady has completed more than 66 percent of his passes, notching 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.
Despite Brady's brilliance, it may surprise you to learn that Tebow actually ranks on an equal plane with Brady when it comes to total efficiency. Tebow gains an average of 2.6 yards each time he touches the ball, but only four quarterbacks in the league average more yards than the Broncos QB, including (in order) Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and the Texans injured QB Matt Schaub.
Tebow has won many of his games thanks to his team's strong running game and its formidable defense, but there's no denying that Tebow is the key to Denver's success. Since taking over the team after Kyle Orton's abysmal 1-4 start, Tebow has been the spark for both his offense and defense, particularly late in the game, leading them to six straight victories, which hasn't been accomplished since John Elway ran the show in Denver.
Sunday's match-up in Mile High Stadium against the New England Patriots will be the toughest test yet for Tebow and the surging Broncos, who claim a one-game lead over the faltering Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. If the Broncos can find a way to stop Brady's high-octane passing attack, Tebow's MVP campaign will be officially legitimate, and Brady's might as well be over. The two quarterbacks will be ready for each other, but Brady better not be distracted by Marino's record if he hopes to beat Denver's inspired team.