Keeping Score

Three Things We Learned In the NFL’s — Aw Forget It, Let’s Talk Tim Tebow

We tried to ignore Tim Tebow in this space. But how is that humanly possible?

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Jack Dempsey/AP

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow reacts after kicker Matt Prater kicked a 51-yard field goal to win the game in overtime over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in Denver

1. On Sunday, Tim Tebow engineered yet another fourth quarter comeback, his fifth in eight games as Broncos starter, as Denver erased a 10-0 deficit with just over two minutes remaining to beat the Chicago Bears in overtime, 13-10. It was a typical Tebowian performance.  He did not complete a pass in the second or third quarters, and at one point threw 12 straight incompletions. But in the fourth quarter, Tebow morphed into a Hall of Famer. On the touchdown drive that cut Chicago’s lead to 10-7 with 2:08 remaining in the game, Tebow went 7-7 for 63 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown strike to Demaryus Thomas.

Denver’s Matt Prater then tried an on-side kick that the Broncos almost recovered: it was a valiant effort, but the Bears would surely clinch the game now. On the ensuing possession, however, Chicago’s Marion Barber foolishly ran out of bounds on a second down play, thus stopping the clock. This gave Denver time to get the ball back. With just 53 seconds left in Denver’s final drive, Tebow completed three passes for 39 yards, setting up a 59-yard, game-tying field goal attempt for Matt Prater. The Denver kicker sent the ball flying through the thin mountain air: the kick was good, with plenty of room to spare. Overtime.

Chicago won the coin toss, and was cruising into field goal range. Finally, Denver’s magic would run out. But Barber fumbled on a 3rd down and 7 play, giving the Broncos the ball at their own 33 yard line. Tebow connected on three more passes for 30 yards, and ran for 6 more yards, setting up a 51-yard attempt for Prater, a virtual chip-shot on a night that had already seen two successful kicks from over 50 yards. Prater made it, giving Tebow his third overtime victory since taking over as starter in October. With Green Bay trouncing Oakland 46-16 to stay a perfect 13-0, the 8-5 Broncos are in sole possession of first-place, and enjoy a two-game cushion over the Raiders in the AFC West since they hold the tiebreaker advantage. “If you believe,” Tebow said afterwards, “then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible.”

(PHOTOS: John 3:16 in Popular Culture)

2. A few weeks ago, Houston’s T.J. Yates was a third-string quarterback that most Texans had barely heard of. On Sunday, Yates threw a six-yard touchdown pass with two second left to give a first-place Texans a thrilling 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, sending Houston to the playoffs for the first time since the franchise started playing in 2002 … That’s a nice story, but we’d like to remind you how bad Tebow was through three quarters yesterday. He was 3-17, for 45 yards. In a piece in this week’s TIME magazine, former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner called Tebow’s feats a “modern-day miracle,” and a story of biblical proportions. Warner, who like Tebow is a devout Evangelical Christian, suspect’s that God is helping Tebow – did we mention he was 3-17? – exceed expectations during key moments. At this point, it’s hard for the most cold-hearted skeptics to dismiss Warner and other believers.

(MORE: ‘Tebowing’ Meme Goes from the Field to the Internet, and Back)

3. Yeah, we’re just going to stick with Tebow at this point (though we recognize that Eli Manning had one of his best ever games for the New York Giants, who engineered a Tebow-esque fourth quarter comeback to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 37-34). In what is now going to be an epically hyped match-up, the Broncos host Tom Brady and the 10-3 New England Patriots next week. The Pats beat Washington 34-27 on Sunday, but not before cameras caught Brady shouting profanities during a heated sideline confrontation with his offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Tebow doesn’t curse: if the Broncos can somehow pull off another surprise next week, Brady’s foul mouth might catch some flak. After all, something – God, karma, luck, skill – is on Tebow’s side. Whatever it is, we can’t get enough.

LIST: Top 10 Sports Moments of 2011

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