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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: Denver defense is what winds up Tebow time

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Updated Nov. 29

I feel sorry for Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and Broderick Bunkley and Champ Bailey and all the Denver Broncos defensive players.

They're getting Tebow-ed.

That doesn't mean kneeling down to take a picture, but rather losing credit for being the real reason why the Denver Broncos have won four consecutive games.

Lost in all the Tim Tebow hype and his 5-1 record as a starter is the play of the Denver defense.

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The Tebow cult will tell you it is Tebow who makes those guys play harder. That's garbage.

The reason Denver is playing better on defense is because some of their young players have improved. Guys like Miller.

Remember early in the year Miller was benched for not knowing his assignments and blowing a few plays? Now he's one of the dominant outside rushers in the league. It was his play on third down against San Diego that forced the Chargers to attempt a 53-yard field goal rather than one closer.

If not for that play, Tebow is 4-2.

So give this defense credit. It has held four of the past six opponents to 16 or fewer points. In the past four games, the Broncos have gone from 31st in scoring defense to 23. They've improved in almost every statistical category. Their third-down defense has dropped from 39.5 percent to 35.6 percent in that four-week span.

Tebow certainly has energized the Broncos with his "gimmick" style of playing quarterback, but the defense has been the reason Denver is winning and now ranked 15th in our CBSSports.com Power Rankings. Tebow has had his moments, but without the defense playing as well, he doesn't have them.

Tebow had two overtime drives before the game-winner against the Chargers, and he didn't get a first down. The defense had two stops to give him the final chance. On that last drive, Tebow didn't complete a pass.

He is certainly a tough player, a strong competitor. You can't take that from him. But without the Denver defense, he's probably just a .500 quarterback over the past six games.

So take note of Miller and Dumervil and Bailey and young players like nickel corner Chris Harris.

The reason the Broncos are suddenly a playoff team isn't just Tebow. It's those guys on defense.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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