Thrill of the unknown: Rally answers little about Tebow's future

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- When Broncos coach John Fox walked off the bus into Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, he admittedly knew little of what to expect from his new starting quarterback, Tim Tebow. After all, Fox knows as well as anyone Tebow isn't the prettiest player in practice.

"But he's a gamer," Fox said.

By the end of Sunday's thrilling 15-point comeback in the final 2:39 of an 18-15 win, Tebow once again managed to twist the minds of many in the NFL with his dramatic heroics on this bizarre day.

Was Tebow indeed a gamer, as so many have suggested leading up to his first start of the season? That's a matter of defining a word that's as complex as the player himself.

For 3 3/4 quarters, the Broncos stalled often with Tebow under center. They didn't even convert on third down until 4:35 remained in the fourth quarter, failing on the previous nine attempts. Nothing was pretty. Nothing was easy.

"I need to get a lot better, that's for sure," Tebow said of the game's first 55 minutes.

Then, however, something about the game changed. On eight consecutive plays, Tebow ran out of the shotgun. It was a no-huddle offense, and it looked eerily similar to the style used during Tebow's successful tenure at Florida.

One completion for 15 yards. Another for 9 yards. Three plays later, nearing the Broncos' final chance to keep the game alive, Tebow hit wide receiver Matthew Willis for a 42-yard deep ball. The mood in the stadium began to shift.

A chant broke out: Tebow! Tebow! Tebow! This was his time, right? This is what "gamers" do, isn't it? They grab the moment.

"Without a doubt," Fox said. "Not everybody that plays in this league, or any league, has it. It's a great quality to have."

With a 5-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos pulled within a score. A recovered onside kick -- perhaps as important as everything Tebow accomplished to that point -- gave Denver hope.

Tebow then provided even more. By the time the Broncos scored again, driving 56 yards in 10 plays, it was harder to expect failure from Tebow than success. Of course, he'd convert the two-point attempt to tie the game.

Of course, he did.

"We're going to continue to fight until the end and continue to believe," Tebow said. "It's my fault that we were in that position in the first place. I just have to play better in the first three quarters so we don't have to make that comeback in the fourth."

Tebow is right: In many ways, those final five minutes managed to cover up for considerable blemishes against a Dolphins defense that's both vulnerable and lacking confidence. Miami is 0-6. That shouldn't be overlooked.

So what should the Broncos take from Sunday's win? What should anyone intrigued by Tebow's NFL career take from his first start of the season? Even with those magical few moments, did we really learn anything new about Tebow?

First, based on the offense that the Broncos used on those final two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, it's clear Tebow is going to require a system that accommodates his skill set.

Second, if Tebow is going to succeed against teams with more promise, he'll need to dramatically improve in several aspects of his game. This, of course, ties into the idea of playing in a system that works for him.

But finally, and perhaps most importantly, we now understand that Tebow is equally capable of coming up big in critical moments at this level, not unlike he did in college.

This win won't do much to solidify Tebow's potential in the league. If anything, because of the considerable struggles in the first three quarters, it might actually hurt more than it helps.

Tebow seems to recognize all of this. He isn't letting the game's ultimate success cloud the reality -- but he also isn't willing to dismiss the ultimate result. The Broncos won Sunday, and in thrilling fashion.

And Tebow, when it mattered most, most definitely looked like a gamer.

"We'll have to see more moving forward," Fox said. "I'm real pleased that he was able to pull us out of it. He's an excellent young man and an excellent competitor. I think everybody in the building knows that. He'll just grow as a quarterback.

"I believe that."

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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