- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- Sorry Charles Barkley, but this Tim Tebow thing isn’t going anywhere.
For those of you who are like Barkley and are burned out by Tebowmania, we send our deepest regrets. It has reached a new level. Yeah, we know Tebowmania trends upward weekly. That’s why it’s rivaling the 13-0 Green Bay Packers as the story of the NFL season.
And I’m getting the feeling Tebowmania may stick around for the next, oh, 10 to 12 years. After watching Tebow and the Denver Broncos score 13 points after being shut out for the first 57 minutes, 45 seconds of the game Sunday to beat the Chicago Bears 13-10 in overtime, how can anyone honestly say Tebow is nothing more than a temporary fix?
Hours after ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Denver will likely decide to move forward with Tebow as its quarterback in 2012 if he leads it into the playoffs, the Tebow train kept on moving. If we are ranking Tebow's victories, Sunday’s may have been the most stunning. But that’s like picking your favorite Rolling Stones song. There are so many classics to choose from.
The victory -- combined with a 46-16 Oakland loss at Green Bay -- gave Denver sole possession of first place in the AFC West at 8-5. The Broncos lead Oakland by one game with three games to go. Denver also owns the current tiebreaker over the Raiders. At this point, it looks like Denver may be headed to the postseason for the first time in six years either as a division winner or wild-card entry. If Denver beats Kansas City at home in Week 17, the Raiders will have to finish with a better record than the Broncos to win the division because of tiebreaker reasons.
Denver is 7-1 with Tebow as its starter and has won six straight games. It is 3-0 in overtime with Tebow as its quarterback and it has won five games late with Tebow playing. Denver has trailed in the fourth quarter in all of its past four games.
Sunday, though, was incredible.
The Bears led 10-0 until Denver scored 10 points in two frenzied drives in the final 2:15 of regulation and then won it with 8:40 remaining in overtime on a 51-yard field goal by Matt Prater.
Denver punted eight times before it scored. Tebow, who was the victim of six dropped passes in the first three quarters, completed three passes (all in the first quarter) before the fourth quarter. He had 18 of his 21 completions in the fourth quarter and overtime. He was 7-of-7 on pass attempts on the Broncos’ touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow was 4-for-4 with a touchdown pass when he threw outside of the pocket in the fourth quarter and overtime Sunday. He was 3-of-7 with an interception prior to the fourth quarter.
“His eyes light up when the pressure is on,” Denver receiver Eric Decker said of Tebow.
Still, several members of the Chicago defense were not overly impressed by Tebow, who completed 21 of 40 passes for 236 yards. He had 49 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
“He’s a good running back,” said Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher when asked his thoughts on Tebow after the game. Typically, Tebow was not bothered by the shot. “Coming from a really good player, that means a lot,” the unflappable Tebow said.
Added Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers: “It wasn’t anything special that he did.”
Despite those less-than-stellar assessments of Tebow, there is no doubt Denver is buying into Tebow.
“He’s huge,” Broncos coach John Fox said of his young quarterback.
Mortensen’s report makes complete sense. There is little chance Denver can dump what it has going with Tebow. First of all, if Denver makes the playoffs and tries to make a switch, fans will erupt.
As long as the Broncos continue to see Tebow making strides as a passer, they will be more than comfortable moving forward with him. The fact that he threw the ball 40 times Sunday is a sign the coaching staff is getting comfortable with him.
John Elway recently told Fox Sports that he plans to work with Tebow in the offseason, particularly focusing on his footwork. Remember, Tebow missed an offseason because of the lockout. This is a player who is improving quickly. An offseason of working with his coaches and Elway will help immensely.
At the present, though, the focus is on the final three games, beginning next week when Bill Belichick gets his crack at putting Tebowmania in its place. Still, Tebow and his teammates -- Denver continued to play strong defense Sunday -- have a good thing going with no signs of it slowing down.
“I think we’re rewriting the book on 'keep fighting,’” Fox said. “Our guys never blink.”
Nor does Tebowmania.