DENVER (AP) - Tim Tebow had plenty more gaffes - and one last laugh.
Their six-year playoff drought is history.
Even though Tebow completed just 6 of 22 passes for 60 yards, killed a promising drive with a red zone fumble and capped an awful afternoon with an interception in the waning seconds, he's the one preparing for the playoffs while Orton regroups from a trying season and gets ready for free agency.
Tebow couldn't beat the guy he couldn't beat out in training camp.
"It's obviously a little bittersweet right now," Tebow said. "We would have loved to have won that game to have a little momentum going into the playoffs. But I think it's still a special thing what we accomplished, to come back and win the AFC West is very special."
Orton had laid low all week but he finally admitted after the game that this game had special meaning to him, even though it was for pride and payback and not the playoffs.
"I can't hide that," he said. "But I congratulate those guys. They're in. I congratulate them and I look forward to next year."
"We go out there and perform like we did the past three weeks, we don't stand a chance," Champ Bailey said. "We've got to get better."
In a hurry.
Tebow has turned the ball over seven times in Denver's three-game losing streak and the Broncos haven't managed a single takeaway since they beat Chicago in overtime on Dec. 11 for their fourth straight fourth-quarter comeback.
But you can get bounced pretty quickly, something the Broncos know is a strong possibility if they don't get their act together.
"Everything is mediocre," Bailey said. "We've got to get better. If we want to make any kind of fuss in the playoffs, we've got to get better."
Orton, who also handed Green Bay its only loss, went 2-1 in Kansas City. His steady play likely raised his stock as he prepares to enter free agency. And he might have secured interim coach Romeo Crennel's future.
Those notes came in handy Sunday.
The Broncos saved $2.6 million by releasing Orton just before Thanksgiving, but he nearly made them pay an even heftier price for that decision, completing 15 of 29 passes for 180 yards against his former team and connecting with Dwayne Bowe six times for 93 yards before losing him for the second half with a suspected concussion.
"Dwayne was on fire in the first half, and then to lose him for the rest of the game, that really hurt our offense," Orton said. "I have the utmost respect for Champ Bailey, but Dwayne had him turning around in circles a couple times out there."
"That was a big blow," offensive tackle Ryan Clady said. "But we really rallied. I'm the first to tell you that I nearly broke down because of that. It was scary. He's a good friend of mine and a leader on the offensive line. But we were able to rally and rush the ball and protect pretty well. We've got to move on and hope he recovers fast."
Kuper's injury made Orton's day bittersweet, too.
"Chris Kuper is a very good friend of mine and to see what happened to him really put a damper on things," Orton said. "He's a great teammate, a great leader on that team and I hope he's able to get back as soon as possible."
Neither QB had a great day. The game's only touchdown came on Dexter McCluster's 21-yard scamper in the first quarter, so this game was as much about the Punting Colquitt brothers, Dustin and Britton, as it was about Orton vs. Tebow.
Tebow had one last shot at another miracle comeback when the Broncos got the ball at their 16 with just under a minute left.
Had Denver not backed into the playoffs, boss John Elway's dangerous decision to release Orton at midseason would have gone down as one of the biggest blunders in Broncos history.
Instead, it was a footnote in the Broncos' return to the postseason parade just one season after a franchise-worst 4-12 debacle.
"Nobody said how you had to get in," Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan said. "It's what you do with the opportunity once you get there."
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton