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Broncos vs. Patriots


On Sunday Tebow threw a bullet across the middle, hit Demaryius Thomas in stride, and watched the gifted receiver stave off tacklers in an electrifying 80-yard pass play that gave the team a victory and a date with the Patriots in Foxborough, tonight, in the AFC Divisional Playoff game.

Watch this play here [beware the ads that precede it though].

Tim Tebow proved his mettle as a passer to many doubters and restored his own confidence, putting firmly behind him the three game losing streak with which he led the Broncos into the playoffs. Added to his devastating potential as a running-back*, his demonstrated potential as a passer secures his place as a dangerous and valuable NFL starting quarterback.

The emergence of other young players is a further source of encouragement. Thomas looks like the big strong speedy target he was advertised to be coming out of GA Tech. The delay in his development may derive in part from the offense he played in college: Tech’s triple-option leaves room for only a handful of throws each game. Thomas put up great yardage but his number of actual catches was way down compared to a WR out of a more standard offense. So in addition to several injuries, including a blown Achilles tendon, Thomas is still learning how to catch the ball.

Young Broncos propel a pretty effective outside pass rush. Von Miller in a cast is better than the average OLB. Meanwhile, Robert Ayers had a great game on Sunday, and the undersized but robustly named Elvis Dumerville continues his effectiveness.

The Broncos will have to get a safety to replace the great Brian Dawkins, and another RB to complement Willis McGehee, arguably the comeback player of the year in the NFL. They still need good runstoppers on defense as well: almost anyone can run on this defense.

But all that is in the future: an emphatically bright one for the Broncos. For the present, there is a chance to upset Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the formidable New England Patriots — a chance essentially no one expected.

* The TD run on Sunday, where Tebow scored from 8 yards out, was a play of ancient grace and power, timing crowned with brutal force: the left guard, Zane Beadles, pulled and blocked right; as there was no handoff to delay the runner, which was the 240-pound Tebow, the Broncos contrived to deploy many hundred pounds of human muscle into the Steeler backfield, a pulling guard and fullback-size QB, in a couple seconds. The chance of even a good defense stopping Tebow, led by a 300-pounder 4 yards downfield before he’s touched, may be illustrated in the hilariously impotent lunge made by Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu to stop him short of the goal line: a desperate attempt that barely even phased Beadles, Tebow’s escort on the play, who stood like a stonewall as Polamalu crumpled well short of the quarterback.

Watch this play here.

Comments (16)

Here's hoping they don't get any more hands on the face penalties like they did last time against the Pats. Youch.

The Elephant

I think losing Decker is actually a blessing in disguise for Tebow. Anything that forces him to change his game plan is going to make it that much harder for the opposing defense to counter.

We have a Tebow-hater at work who boasted he would buy everyone Tebow jerseys if they win the Super Bowl, thinking it was absurd and impossible. So I'm actually rooting for the Broncos for that exact reason. On the other hand, I'm worried about all the "signs and wonders" that are being hyped around Tebow. There is bound to be some strong disillusionment when his fans realize he is still human and that coincidences are sometimes just coincidences.

Here's a great little short about the Steelers-Broncos game, complete with music, slow-motion action footage, and tell-tale closeups:


The Elephant

Step2, I've heard that Tebow jerseys are in short supply. Twould be funny if your work friend couldn't pay up. I hope you've got a back-up plan.

The fans who think he's more than human aren't really fans, but fanatics of some sort. Even he knows he's only human and that God don't care if he wins a football game.

Btw, I don't think those close-cut wins are all coincidence, because there have been too many of them. Something in the way he competes helps him out when things are down to the wire. It won't go his way all the time though. That kicker, Prater, is phenomenal. If the Broncos can stay close, that guy could be the difference.

Well, it's all over. There is no God.

Boy, I'll bet Tebow is in a deep crisis of doubt right about now. Or maybe not.

The Elephant

I'm just happy the Broncos made it this far. Next season could be very fun.

Congrats to the Broncos on a stirring season. Simply put, they don't have the talent yet to match up with the likes of the Patriots. Though I'm not sure there's any player on Earth who can slow down New England's TE, Gronkowski. The man is from another planet.

The man is from another planet.

A planet of tanks, he runs over defenders after the catch. Plus they used their other TE as a rusher, which seemed to confuse the Broncos defense. The most unexpected part of the game was how well NE's defense shut down the running game and blitzed Tebow. Denver and every other running offense needs to take General Robert Neyland's maxim to heart: "Gentlemen, touchdowns follow blocking as sure as night follows day."

Bill, this is what I was talking about. I don't have a problem admitting the close wins are in some sense strategic.

The most unexpected part of the game was how well NE's defense shut down the running game and blitzed Tebow.

Yep, NE outsmarted and overpowered them in every way possible.

A big part of the picture is that the Broncos are still recovering from years of bad drafting under former coach Mike Shanahan. The Broncos really only got four quality, long term starters from the 2000 through 2008 drafts--DJ Williams in 2004, Dumervil and Kuper in 2006 and Clady in 2008. That is terrible. And former coach McDaniels' first draft in 2009 has been almost a total loss. The draft in 2010 was excellent and this past draft still has potential to be really good. The Broncos need to continue to improve their drafting in order to make it back to the elite.

Well, there was also Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis in those Shanahan drafts. Only problem: McDaniels drove them all away to appease his own ego. I love Tebow, but imagine if the Broncos still had those three players on their offense.

The Broncos need another WR to complement Demaryius Thomas (who, like Tebow, will likely benefit from a full offseason as a starter), and a young RB to complement McGehee. But above all they need to fill some holes on defense -- at safety and defensive tackle most obviously.

I credit John Fox with some remarkable improvement on defense. That improvement is likely to continue.

No reason for Broncos fans to hang their heads. A nothingburger 1-4 team reformed itself into a team capable of a deep playoff run, in the course of which run they accomplished some electrifying wins. We have ample reasons for hope that the positive trend will continue next year.

Whether or not they're the best team in the league, they're certainly the team everyone will still be talking about for a very long time. Next year should be interesting.

The Elephant

A bit off-topic but maybe someone can enlighten me. I am not American, I am a fan of soccer and my only idea of American Football is that it smacks of a very effeminate, ridiculous rip-off of rugby (ducks for cover); browsing through some blogs and their comment sections, I keep stumbling on a supposed connection between mr. Tebow and God. I am totally in the dark here, so what's the story? Thanks in advance.

Mr. Tebow is very outspoken about his Christian faith in a way that most football players aren't. This has made him into something of a cultural icon as a moral, upstanding young man who gives God the glory. His team's run of victories after he became the QB has prompted much discussion regarding the possibility of divine favor/intervention.

The Elephant

Well, there was also Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis in those Shanahan drafts. Only problem: McDaniels drove them all away to appease his own ego. I love Tebow, but imagine if the Broncos still had those three players on their offense.

Yes, I left off Cutler and Marshall who also came in the 2006 draft, which was easily Shanahan's best. While they're both blue chip talents, they're also headcases to some degree. Cutler leaving was mutual boneheadedness by he and McDaniels, though Cutler seems to have learned his lesson and matured since being traded to Chicago. But he's still throwing dumb interceptions which is how he injured his thumb this year (trying to tackle the defender on the interception return) costing his team their season. And all those picks we got for Cutler were basically tossed away in the 2009 draft. All that's left is DE Robert Ayers, a solid starter I suppose but definitely not the dominant defensive force you hope for and expect from a mid-first round pick. The Marshall trade on the other hand netted one of the draft picks that gave McDaniels the ammunition to trade back up into the first round in 2010 and grab Tebow, so that was a huge win for Denver.

Hillis was a 7th round gem from 2008 but even when the Broncos draft well sometimes they don't even know it, which is worse than just drafting badly. Shanahan waited for six running backs to go on injured reserve during the 2008 season before inserting Hillis into the lineup towards the end of the year. And McDaniels never liked Hillis and traded him for a career backup QB, at best. Uggh.

I also left off the Clinton Portis pick from the second round in 2002 which eventually gave Denver Champ Bailey in what was probably the second best trade in Bronco history behind, of course, trading for John Elway on draft night 1983. Don't forget, the Redskins actually gave Denver a 2nd round pick in addition to Bailey for Portis which was promptly squandered on journeyman RB Tatum Bell. Uggh again. Notwithstanding these additions, Bronco drafting the last decade has been pretty thin gruel.

I don't miss Cutler and Marshall at all. I'm glad they play elsewhere. Actually, I believe that Tebow was destined to play quarterback in Denver. All the excruciating and seemingly inexplicable events that have befallen the Broncos the last few years now seem part of a larger plan. First was the, not unexpected, firing of Shanahan after 14 years and having invested everything into Cutler. Then the arrival of a new coach who would, to my total bemusement, clash with Cutler, driving him away and creating the need for a new franchise QB around the same time that one of college football's greatest players was turning pro. The same new coach with the ego, audacity and vision to select one of the most polarizing and perplexing pro prospects ever in the first round before anyone else could get him instead. This after trading away his blue chip receiver Marshall for two second round picks giving McDaniels the draft firepower to make the Tebow selection possible. But then the disgrace of Spygate II and firing of McDaniels and the (coincidental?) return of the Broncos' greatest hero to revive the franchise and return them to glory. Enter the new coach, experienced, trustworthy, mature and wise enough to know the right time to insert Tebow and the steadfastness to stick with him and the perspective to handle Tebowmania once the craziness inevitably reached the stratosphere.

And then there's the play of Tebow himself. Inconsistent sure, but often brilliant, especially when it's needed most. Just like you know who, the Bronco legend who invented the come-from-behind victory and, as of this afternoon, is committed to making Tebow our guy for the next decade. As Elway said at this afternoon's press conference, Tebow's qualities have brought back the Mile High Magic. Tebow has restored a fan base that reveres the quarterback position more than any other football town. Tebow can do things that even Elway could never do. My friends ask me (out of secret jealousy I suspect) if I'd be this excited about Tebow if he played for the Raiders or the Chiefs. I tell them the question makes no sense, like what if up were down and down were up. Tebow was always meant to be a Bronco, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

And if Tebow was destined to play in Denver, then towards what purpose? Hmm, let's just see what happens.

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