Former President Thomas Jefferson once said, "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." Now, Jefferson was not talking about Tim Tebow or the 2011 Broncos and their current six-game winning streak, but his quote is applicable to both.
There is nothing wrong with admitting a team has been a little fortunate. This takes nothing away from the quality of the wins. We all know winning in the NFL is not easy and often requires being in the right place at the right time. And no team has been in position more than the Broncos the past six weeks. The Broncos have won their past three games by just three points each, and the past four by a combined 13 points. They have overcome incredible obstacles to finish on top -- doing it as if it were written for a movie. How many screenwriters in Hollywood are pissed right now that they did not come up with the idea of a player who is beloved nationally and yet doubted by so many -- including by some in his own organization -- coming off the bench for a 1-4 team and leading them to the playoffs? Get ready for the Tim Tebow movie; it is coming soon.
Have they been lucky? A little. But more than luck, the Broncos are fighters and their number one fighter, Tebow, keeps proving -- some way, somehow -- that he is the quarterback of the present and future in Denver.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a high-level NFL executive who told me, based on talking directly with the Broncos, that the team's original plan was to play Tebow a few weeks for the fans, and then start with the rebuilding process. Tebow was former coach Josh McDaniels' pick and the Broncos, according to this executive, wanted to move on. They wanted nothing to do with the McDaniels' regime. However, with each win the past six weeks, Tebow -- as well as other McDaniels' draft picks -- has proven the Broncos brass wrong. Each week, Tebow has done more in the passing game to prove that he can lead a team to victory with more than just his feet. And Sunday's performance had to seal his fate as the Broncos quarterback for 2012 and on.
There is no stopping Tebow now (sorry, Charles Barkley), especially after Sunday's improbable win against the Bears. The Broncos played their worst game offensively on this six-game win streak. They dropped too many passes, did not run the ball well, and even messed up a chip-shot field goal. But their defense was once again solid, limiting the Bears to 12 first downs for the game, and allowing just two conversions in 15 third downs. This win was different than any other win on the current streak, as the Broncos looked like the better team, but trailed by 10 points with less than four minutes to play. But then it became Tebow Time.
At one point in the game, Tebow was 2-of-15 passing, but a bad play -- or bad quarters -- never seems to deter his belief as he keeps fighting. Once he found his rhythm passing and the Broncos receivers held onto the ball, the offense looked effective. No one was criticizing his passing release as he drove the ball down the field for their first touchdown. On that drive, Tebow showed he could make all the throws from the pocket with accuracy. The Bears got beat with Tebow's arm, not his legs, on the drive that put the Broncos in position to have a chance.
For a brief moment, the Broncos were unlucky, as they failed to recover a perfect onside kick. Once the Bears had the ball, holding onto a 10-7 lead, it seemed like the game was over. The two-minute warning was Denver's only way to stop the clock ... unless they got lucky. And they did, as Bears RB Marion Barber ran out of bounds to give the Broncos one last chance to tie the game.
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Yes, they were lucky that Barber ran out of bounds, but luck is only worthwhile if taken advantage of. And this is where Tebow proved to any of his doubters that he can win with his arm. With no timeouts, Tebow had to throw the ball down the field; he had to be smart, not take the sack, and keep the ball in play but not risk losing too much time. He had to tie the game with his arm, not his feet.
Tebow operated the two-minute drill as if he were Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, using the sideline to his full advantage and making sure he did not take a sack. No matter what point in a game, Tebow's ability to run always scares the defense. Even though everyone knows the threat of the run is not viable at that point, defenses still are a little concerned he might take off on a big run, so playing zone coverage with all defenders' eyes on the quarterback is a smart call. The last thing the Bears wanted to happen was what happened to the Jets, when Tebow broke containment and ran untouched to the end zone as the defenders were covering their own man and not watching Tebow. Playing some form of zone, the Bears allowed Tebow to gain 39 yards passing, which was enough for Matt Prater to tie the game with a 59-yard field goal.
Once the game reached overtime, was anyone thinking the Broncos were not going to win? Even after losing the coin toss? Of course not. Six games of Tebow fourth-quarter heroics have made us all believers, including team president John Elway, who mentioned this week they were getting closer to a final decision on Tebow. Really? What decision does Elway really have now? Tebow is beloved in the locker room, his teammates believe in his ability, and he has made the Broncos relevant for the first time in a long time. There is no decision to be made, just continue to let Tebow play and continue to win games. The playoffs await.
Things I loved about Week 14
» I loved all the come-from-behind wins that took place in the league. The Falcons trailed the Panthers by 16 points and came back for the win behind Matt Ryan and his four touchdown passes. The Falcons could ill afford to lose to the Panthers, and even though they were down at the half, they showed true character and fought back, not allowing the Panthers to score again. The Jags trailed by 14 to the Bucs, but stormed back for an easy win -- scoring more points in one game than they had in their previous three combined. The Cards, behind backup QB John Skelton, came from 12 down to defeat the 49ers, dropping them into a tie with New Orleans for the NFC's second-best record. The Cards are 5-1 over their past six and have beat quality teams like the Cowboys and 49ers. Their defense has really improved, in part because rookie corner Patrick Peterson is a star.
But the best come-from-behind win was the last game of the day, when the Giants overcame a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys, ending their four-game losing streak and taking over first place in the NFC East. The Giants never quit, and with defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul showing the world he is a star, the Giants made the plays they needed to make to leave Dallas with a win.
» I love watching Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski play the game of football. He dominates with his incredible size, ability to run with power, speed and soft hands. With two TDs against the Redskins, Gronkowski now has 15 receiving TDs and one rushing score this season, most ever by a tight end in league history. And he still has three games to go. He is a matchup nightmare for any safety in the league. Getting him on the ground is hard -- just ask the Redskins. In the Patriots' no-huddle offense, Gronkowski moves all over, finding the right matchup that favors the Patriots, and then Tom Brady exploits it. Even when Gronkowski is covered, he is open because he has a long wingspan to go and get the ball. Clearly, Gronkowski is going to the Pro Bowl, but right now he is the best tight end in football.
» I loved that the Texans came from behind on the road in Cincinnati, with third-string QB T.J. Yates making every throw he needed, and buying himself more time with his athletic ability. A huge scramble on third-and-15 to avoid a sack might have been the play of the game. Nothing bonds a team more than a come-from-behind win on the road, and the Texans are now finally in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Congratulations to owner Bob McNair for having patience with his current staff. Congratulations also to GM Rick Smith, coach Gary Kubiak and all the passionate Texans fans. The game is not too big for Yates, as Sunday he led the Texans to more than 400 yards of offense, the most the Bengals have given up all year. And with each week, he will gain more confidence as will the coaching staff in his ability to make plays. The Texans will be a tough team to beat come playoff time.
Things I hated
» I hate the Cowboys' four-minute offense. The Cowboys love to play conservative late in games and their four-minute offense has cost them at least two games this year -- Sunday night's game and the Week 6 loss at New England. Failing to get one more first down allowed the Giants to have one more chance. And naturally it came back to kill them. Two weeks in a row, the Boys have had a chance tie or win the game on a last-minute field goal, but they missed both. The real problem, however, is their approach to the four-minute offense and their unwillingness to attack. They play not to lose, and they end up not getting first downs and giving the ball back to their opponent. When this season is over, the Cowboys are going to hate to watch their four-minute tape.
» I hated watching the Raiders play in Green Bay. It looked like they were not into the game, getting down 31 points halfway through the second quarter. The Raiders are fighting for the AFC West title as well as the final wild-card spot, but the the game appeared too big for them in Green Bay. Oakland's defense, which has been suspect all season, was really bad. And Carson Palmer keeps looking like the Carson Palmer of old. Not enough zip on the ball, does not protect the ball and cannot carry a team. When the Raiders cannot control the pace of the game with the run, they cannot win. Palmer must complement their offense, not carry it. I realize they paid a king's ransom to acquire Palmer, but he is not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or even Matt Ryan. The Raiders need to get healthy and they need to play better on defense, or else their season will end short of the playoffs.
» I hated watching the Bucs play and this is the last time I am going to write about them all season. They played like a team that does not care about giving up 41 points to Jacksonville. The Jags have not scored 41 points combined in their past three games. Does this offensive outburst indicate the Jags have really improved or the Bucs stink? I'll take the latter. Bucs coach Raheem Morris has babied this team all season, failing to address the flaws, wanting to be a player's coach. Now, based on the way they are playing, I cannot imagine his job will be safe at the end of the season. Some teams cannot handle winning. Winning 10 games last year went to the Bucs' heads. They think they accomplished a great deal, when in fact they accomplished nothing. Making the playoffs is the first step, not coming close. The Bucs right now are bad and it will only get worse from here on out.
Things on my mind
» I love how Patriots offensive coordinator Billy O'Brien and Tom Brady were competing on Sunday. Loved how Brady proved he wasn't too good to take a little criticism. Both men were competing, both men want to win, and both respect each other, or else they would not have hugged after it was all over.
» The 49ers better keep their edge. They must play their style because if they have to throw the ball, like they did in Arizona or when they played the Ravens, they fail miserably. The 49ers must run the ball and control the tempo of the game, or else they are in trouble.
» Is Kevin Kolb a "China Doll" or "Bust" in Arizona? You make the call! He cannot stay on the field for any extended time and this has to worry the Cards.
» The loss of safety Jim Leonhard in New York -- the only guy they could trust catching punts and the quarterback of their defense, especially the secondary -- will hurt the Jets as they make their final push into the playoffs. The Jets played their most complete game in the last month against the Chiefs.
» The Eagles finally played a good game on both sides of the ball, and they have to be kicking themselves right now based on what has happened in the NFC East. The Birds could be right in the middle of the playoff race had they not given games away when Mike Vick was injured. Based on how the Birds played Sunday, they might not get in the playoffs, but they might keep other teams from getting in.
» The Lions found a way to win, in spite of allowing the Vikings to move the ball up and down the field on them. If the Lions get into the playoffs they are going to have to play much better than they did Sunday.
» I was impressed with Jake Locker coming off the bench to make solid throws. I've always been weary of his accuracy, but with little work with the first team Locker looked comfortable running the Titans offense. He will need to play well down the stretch as the Titans can get in if they win out.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi.