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Shutdown Corner

Broncos fans chant loud and long for Tebow in close loss to Raiders

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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You started to hear it when Kyle Orton threw to receiver Eric Decker on third-and-19, down 23-13 with 9:30 left in the game. Orton was nearly intercepted instead; that's what happens when you throw into double coverage on a quick slant…

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

Of course, the Broncos faithful were already frustrated, having watched Orton do little from a passing perspective until garbage time late in the game … and there was that ridiculous fumble early in the fourth quarter, when the ball just popped out of his hand…

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

Announcer Brad Nessler, after the Britton Colquitt punt, reminded everyone that "Time is running out on the Broncos, who have won 11 straight home openers…"

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

The Broncos got the ball back with 7:39 left in the game, and Orton threw a catchable ball to receiver Matt Willis, which Willis dropped. Then, a short pass to tight end Daniel Fells, which was negated by a holding call. Then, three incompletions in the next four passes…

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

The boos really started coming thick and fast at about the six-minute mark, as Orton started forcing throws he shouldn't have, while the pace of the Denver offense (still down by 10 at this point) remained remarkably non-urgent. At 6:06, when Orton threw the ball away when faced with a corner blitz, the noise from the stands really started … and got louder after Orton sailed a quick screen pass to running back Willis McGahee…

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

No matter that Orton eventually led the Broncos to a touchdown on that drive; the noise never stopped and the Broncos lost the game, 23-20. Orton eventually adjusted to Oakland's pressure concepts, but as he has almost no mobility in the pocket, there was only so much he could do. The Raiders' front seven was simply overwhelming Denver's offensive line. Orton took five sacks on a night where he completed 26 of 42 passes for 304 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Not a world-beating evening, but not exactly a Kerry Collins Colts nightmare, either.

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"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

Still, no matter that the line was leaky, or that Orton's receivers weren't always where they should have been, or that official Jerome Boger was seemingly paid by the penalty call (seriously — 25 total penalties? You could call that many in any game, but do you really need to?) To the Denver fans, who said loud and clear in the preseason that they wanted to see Tim Tebow at starting quarterback to alleviate what they perceive to be a go-nowhere offense, it really doesn't matter what Kyle Orton does or does not do at this point in time — he's just the guy in the way. This despite two excellent seasons from Orton in 2009 and 2010. There wasn't much Tebow could have done after the fact — following Orton's only touchdown pass of the night, the Raiders ran out the clock and ate the last four minutes of the game.

After the game, local media didn't help. From Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post:

[Denver head coach John] Fox is the guy who's standing in the way of what the people want: Tim Tebow, America's favorite back-up quarterback.

We were promised a fresh era of Broncos football, with the legendary John Elway running the front office and the professional demeanor of Fox on the sideline. But the clock struck midnight early on the new regime. The honeymoon is over.

Tebow was in uniform. He looked handsome wearing a Broncos cap on the sideline. But he did not play a down. Guess it would have required imaginative offensive thinking to find any role for him in the game plan.

When asked if he considered making a change at quarterback, Fox ignored the question.

That's all well and good, but you do realize who you're asking for, right? The third-string quarterback. The guy who couldn't beat out Brady Quinn in the preseason! The same Tim Tebow whose only NFL claim to fame is that he led the Broncos in rushing touchdowns last year? He's probably the team's best running back right now — maybe that's the way to get him on the field and silence the Orton doubters at the same time — but Tebow has proven little as a passer. Perhaps the cries for Tebow are more a reflection of the fans' belief that the Broncos don't have a lot of hope this year, and they might as well see the former first-round pick. Or, just a simple need for a more exciting offense, which Tebow could supposedly personify, despite the lack of on-field evidence to date.

"TE-BOW! TE-BOW! TE-BOW!"

Perhaps the best thing John Fox can do is to put Tebow in there, and get it over with. Coaches don't make roster moves based on fan preference, but watching Tebow behind the same iffy offensive line, throwing to the same adequate receivers, and undermined by the same conservative game plan and terrible run defense, would have everyone on the same page with the real idea — Kyle Orton is only a problem.

He's not the problem, and all the chanting in the world isn't going to change that.

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