DENVER -- One month ago people started questioning how far Denver could go with Tim Tebow and an offense that seemed closer to the single wing than anything out of the 21st-century. Well, now they have their answer: Far enough to make the playoffs.
With Sunday's come-from behind 13-10 overtime defeat of Chicago, the Broncos are in position to steal the AFC West. All they must do is win two of their next three -- and with Buffalo and Kansas City on the schedule I'd say that's more than likely.
I'd say you can book it.
Look, maybe Denver's not your idea of what a playoff team should look like, but people keep telling me Tebow isn't their definition of what an NFL quarterback should like, either. Fine. That's your opinion. But the facts speak for themselves, and the fact is that since Tebow stepped in at quarterback the Denver Broncos are 7-1.
Sunday's triumph was the latest in a string of remarkable victories that Tebow described as "something of a whirlwind." It started when Denver trailed by 10 with under four minutes to go and ended with Matt Prater's second field goal -- this one a 51-yarder that clinched Denver's sixth straight win and third in overtime.
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"I think we're rewriting the book on 'Keep fighting,'" said winning coach John Fox. "Our guys never blink."
Some people will blame it on Marion Barber's fumble in overtime. Or maybe it was Marion Barber running out of bounds with just under two minutes left and Denver out of timeouts. All I know is that Denver ... no, Tebow and a never-say-die defense ... pulled out another improbable victory, and maybe it's time we recognize the Broncos for what they are -- a playoff team waiting to happen.
They have New England here next week, and let's say they lose. OK, that could make them tied with Oakland again, provided the Raiders beat Detroit. But the Broncos hold the tiebreaker, which means they hold a half-game lead. It also means if they can close out Buffalo on the road and Kansas City at home they reach the playoffs.
Buffalo hasn't won in its last six games. Plus, the Broncos won their last five on the road -- or since Tebow took over. And Kansas City? The Chiefs are DOA, dropping five of their last six.
Beating them puts Denver in the playoffs, and tell me this doesn't remind you of the 2003 Carolina Panthers, the team Fox coached before he came here. That was a club that pulled out last-minute victories with a quarterback (Jake Delhomme) critics loved to hate. Yet they won, and they won all the way to the Super Bowl.
I'm not saying Denver makes it to the Super Bowl. But I am saying that it's time to acknowledge these guys as someone for what they are -- a team that refuses to go away.
|The offense sputtered through one third down after another until finally putting together 10 points, while special teams produced enough big plays to win two games, including Robbie Gould's team-record 57-yard field goal. The defense fell into the trap others have: Tim Tebow has to be stopped the entire game.|
|By Gene Chamberlain |
|Chicago forced Tim Tebow to beat the Bears through the air and, despite some drops by his receivers, he was awful as a pocket passer until the very end of the game -- again. But another comeback, with help from Marion Barber's fumble and ill-timed decision to go out of bounds late in regulation, and the Broncos have a leg up in the AFC West. Credit a defense that forced an OT turnover for setting up Matt Prater's game-winner.|
|By Lee Rasizer |
"It does remind me a little of that team," Fox said. "They called us the 'Cardiac Cats.' I really don't know what they call us. But this team's found a way to do it. It's been a blast."
It's also unconventional. I mean, in most of these games Denver doesn't do much until the fourth quarter -- and then late in the fourth quarter. This game was no exception, with the Broncos first scoring with only 2:08 left. But then Barber came to the rescue, Tebow found a way to put Prater in position for a game-tying field goal, and, suddenly, it was Tebow Time all over again ... and you know how that story ends.
"I don't think it's Tebow Time," said the winning quarterback. "I just think it's Broncos Time. The team steps up, and we continue to trust each other -- and that makes all the difference in the world."
Go ahead and snicker. All I know is that it works. The Broncos are in first in the AFC West, and nobody can figure out how to solve them. Oakland was ahead of them, but it lost. Minnesota was ahead of them, but it lost, too. So did San Diego. And the New York Jets, Miami and, now, Chicago. So knock Tebow, the passing game and the Broncos' style of play.
"You can't really explain how we're doing it," said wide receiver Eric Decker. "We're just doing it."
Precisely. This isn't a game of style points. It's one of wins and losses, and the Broncos are 7-1 with Tim Tebow. They're 1-4 without him. What about that is so difficult to understand? These guys win, and so they win in unpredictable ways; so they win when others "blink," as Fox put it. Bottom line: They win, and their opponents don't.
"We'll take it," Fox said. "I don't know if they kind of wait until it's, 'Oh, man, we might lose this game,' and then they start playing. You'd have to ask them. I just know that it's aging my quickly."
Imagine what it's doing to their opponents. No, don't. We already know. Chicago just lost a game it should have won, and, afterward, linebacker Brian Urlacher called Tebow "a good running back." Please. If that's the case, why did Chicago let that "running back" complete 10 of his last 13 passes in regulation -- including one spike to kill the clock -- and another three in overtime?
The guy threw for 236 yards, but 130 were on the decisive last three drives -- with all three punctuated by scores.
Yeah, some running back.
"I think he's huge," said Fox. "I want to give Tim a lot of credit, but there are a lot of guys in there that are pretty special. I think that's what good teams do."
And, in the end, that's what the Denver Broncos are. I don't give a rip that it takes Tebow and the offense 55 minutes to wake up. I don't care that Denver sometimes needs help from others, either. All I care about is that the Broncos succeed. Once people thought their string of victories was an aberration, with one writer calling it "a mirage."
Well, this just in: Seven wins in eight games is no mirage. It's a trend. And it has Denver on top of its division.
"If you believe the unbelievable," said Tebow, "things can be possible. I think that's pretty special that we have a team that constantly believe and believes in each other. Great things are only possible if you're under very tough circumstances.
"That is the character quality of a good team. When it is clutch, and you need competitive greatness, you have to step up and you have to make plays. If you're able to do it when it really matters, usually you can find a way to win."
The Denver Broncos did. Again. So it's time to start knocking them and start acknowledging what's going on here. And what's going on is that the Denver Broncos are on their way to the playoffs.