The legend of Tim Tebow grows

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
2:06
AM ET
Tim TebowChris Humphreys/US PresswireTim Tebow capped a 12-play, 95-yard drive with a 20-yard game-winning touchdown run.

DENVER -- Eric Decker searched his brain, trying to come up with an explanation for what we all just witnessed.

Finally, the Denver Broncos receiver gave up, laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

“A miracle,” Decker said. “Greatness.”

What else can you say?

This Tim Tebow thing is officially out of control.

On Thursday night, a national audience got to see the Dilemma of Tebow. He looked awful for much of the game. Even the NFL rarity -- the option offense, which was installed for Tebow three weeks ago as a life preserver -- wasn’t working in Tebow’s favor.


Then, Tebow took over in the fourth quarter, engineering a brilliant final drive to give Denver a stunning 17-13 victory over the visiting New York Jets. The Broncos are now 4-1 since Tebow was inserted as the starting QB, 5-5 overall, and a half-game behind first-place Oakland (5-4) in the AFC West.

Denver, which is 4-14 since the start of last season without Tebow as the starter, wouldn’t be in the playoff mix without Tebow. But there’s also no doubting Tebow struggles to move the ball for much of the game.

That part, though, is starting not to matter. There’s one thing I can’t do -- and that’s argue against winning. I won’t even try.

“Would you rather us look good and lose?” asked Denver's future Hall of Fame cornerback, Champ Bailey. “I’ll take the win, and if people say we look bad doing it, I’m OK with that.”

Denver is not going to change anything now. The Broncos are going to ride Tebow and his unconventional ways as long as he wins. What about next year? That doesn’t matter right now. This hapless franchise, which hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2005 season, is as high as it has been since it started the 2009 season 6-0 before falling out of the playoff mix. Denver has already surpassed its win total of last season.

It was looking like this game was going to be a missed opportunity for Denver. It had four drives that started in Jets’ territory that did not result in points. Until the Broncos’ last drive, they punted eight times and had six completions. At one point, Denver had a 17-play stretch in which it gained 29 yards.

Then, it became Tebow Time.

“I don’t know what it is, but he has the 'It Factor,'” Decker said of his quarterback. “He just gets better later in the game. He really does.”

With the Jets leading 13-10 and the Broncos taking over at their own 5 with 5 minutes, 54 seconds remaining, Tebow was a changed man, Decker said.

“He said that it was our time,” Decker said. “It was our time to stay in this race and make something of the season.”

Suddenly, the dreadful Denver offense we saw for much of the game -- the Broncos scored on a first-quarter field goal and a defensive touchdown in the third quarter -- was gone. Tebow was in win mode.


The first 11 plays of the drive, Tebow ran for 31 yards. He threw for 35 yards. Then, on third-and-4 from the Jets' 20, Tebow wasn’t interested in playing for overtime.

He made a beautiful run, darting upfield, breaking a leg tackle and bullying his way into the end zone, which sent the home crowd into a tizzy. Bailey said he hasn’t seen anything like it since he entered the NFL 12 years ago.

“It’s amazing,” Bailey said of watching Tebow take the team down the field late in the game. “You just watch it happen.”

For those interested in statistics (again, they don’t seem to matter in Tebow Metrics), Tebow was 9-of-20 for 104 yards passing. He had 68 yards rushing on eight carries.

“Tim is going to be Tim,” said first-year Denver coach John Fox. “You don’t want to change too much about a guy that makes plays and makes plays in pressure situations.”

While Denver strayed from the option at times Thursday night, this is the offense we’re going to see Tebow run. After a home debacle against Detroit three weeks ago, Fox scrapped the idea of forcing Tebow to be a traditional passer, at least for this season.

The Broncos changed the offense simply to survive the season. Tebow is surely a survivor and the team is thriving.

In addition to Tebow’s spark, Fox has brought stability to the team. And the defense -- the worst in the NFL last season -- is much-improved. It is led by a ferocious pass-rusher, rookie Von Miller, who had a monster game Thursday. Miller is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

The Broncos may not look pretty, but they have a good thing going.

“I know people are still going to talk bad about us,” Bailey said. “But I don’t care. ... We always have a chance with 15 as our quarterback.”


Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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