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Broncos in playoffs with offense that has more questions than answers

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

DENVER -- Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow ... not exactly Elway and Montana.

Tebow throws more pitches than passes, and on his best day resembles a poor man's Bubby Brister. Or Bronco Nagurski. The 1930s called, they want their football back. Orton returned to play the team that cast him off for Tebow and he played tight, uninspired football. Frankly, Orton spent the afternoon justifying why Denver dumped him.

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The game devolved into a quarterback contest of who could make deeper imprints into the dirt with the nose of the football.

The result was, well, I don't know what the hell that was. The Broncos made the playoffs but that beep-beep-beep sound was Denver backing in and the Tebow ethos takes yet another hit. The Broncos became only the sixth team in NFL playoff history to reach the postseason after losing its last three games.

Despite the 7-3 loss to Kansas City, the Broncos made the postseason because Oakland lost to San Diego. Denver won the division and deserves credit for doing enough to reach this point, but make no mistake: Denver is an ailing, troubled team that stands little chance of making a run as Tebow struggles to learn the position and complete basic NFL throws.

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Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
The only demerit is on style points, because the 7-3 decision over Denver was as ugly as it gets. QB Kyle Orton got his revenge, sort of, on the team that dumped him. He led the Chiefs to one single touchdown and a victory but his ex-teammates still slipped into the postseason. The Chiefs, especially defensively, played like a team that wants to keep Romeo Crennel as head coach. And after wins over previously unbeaten Green Bay and playoff-hungry Denver, he's got a true shot at the full-time gig.
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
C -
This very easily could have been the fourth collapse in six years. Denver scored only three points -- the lowest total in the series with Kansas City since 1971 -- as QB Tim Tebow completed just six passes for 60 yards. The defense held up its end, with Dexter McCluster's TD the only scoring. But in the end, the Broncos are the AFC West champions, rallying from a 1-4 start to do it, because San Diego put a hurt on Oakland to let the Broncos in the back door and into the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
By Lee Rasizer
RapidReports Correspondent

The Broncos will play Pittsburgh at home, getting a small break because running back Rashard Mendenhall is expected to be out with a right knee injury. Still, the Steelers will be heavy favorites.

The Broncos said all the right things after the Chiefs loss. They won the division ... they earned it ... it's a whole new season. Etc., etc. And some of that makes sense.

"We're AFC West champs," said Denver coach John Fox. "It doesn't matter how you do it. Once you get into the dance, they can't kick you out ..."

Fox is an extremely bright man who knows the truth of his situation. He knows this team isn't good enough. He stated outright the passing game needs to be improved. When what changes specifically to the passing game was needed, he responded dryly: "Yes, complete more of them." The big issue for Denver is clearly the same person who got Denver in position to make the playoffs in the first place. Tebow's inspiring play allowed the Broncos to win the division but as the NFL quickly adapted to his style and devised a Tebow inoculation he has become, ironically, the problem. That's the cruelty of the sport. It can be both rewarding and crushing all within the span of not a few seasons, but a handful of weeks.

"Three losses haven't shaken my confidence," said an emphatic Tebow.

Each of those losses for Tebow were duplicates of what Kansas City did. The Chiefs mush-rushed Tebow going upfield, tentatively—shutting down Tebow's escape routes -- while also keeping their defensive ends and blitzers stationed on the edges instead of rushing hard.

The effect was to create a sort of U-shaped force field which forced Tebow to stay in the pocket. Now, Tom Brady loves to stay in the pocket. Aaron Rodgers loves pockets. Peyton Manning, too. Most quarterbacks do but Tebow is still having extreme difficulty with throwing motion and accuracy. Pockets -- for now -- are not his friend.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson offered this cruel but accurate assessment of Tebow: "You try to get him to beat you with his arm."

You don't hear that said much about quarterbacks in today's NFL. No one says: You want Drew Brees to beat you with his arm.

On all but two of his pass attempts, Tebow had difficulty scanning the field. And when his first option was covered, he looked to run. When he couldn't run, he attempted again to step up and pass in a makeshift pocket, but by then it was too late. Throw in the fact the Broncos coaching staff clearly doesn't trust Tebow and combine that with what is clearly Tebow's own lack of confidence with attempting passes in tight windows, and the result is an offense that simply cannot function in the modern NFL.

The league has completely figured Tebow out while the Broncos still don't know what Tebow is.

Orton was pedantic, going 18 of 29 for 180 yards and a 71.0 passer rating. But he wasn't Tebow, who finished an astonishing 6 of 22 for 60 yards, one interception, one lost fumble and a 20.6 rating.

"It was a long year for me," said Orton. "All around, family stuff, career stuff, it was a long year."

He beat his old team. It wasn't a convincing win but it was a win.

Even if you needed to occasionally cover your eyes.


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