At this point, even the most extreme doubters have to be impressed. Or, at the very least, willing to come off their perches for a second to take another look at the Tim Tebow phenomenon as more of a football matter and less a referendum on religion, politics, spirituality, and whether the "good guys" really do win.
When Tebow led his Denver Broncos to an improbable 17-13 win over the New York Jets on Thursday night in the Mile High City, the syntax finally felt right. People have been far too quick to attribute too much or too little credit to Tebow for the Broncos' recent success based on their own feelings for the hype, but it was Tebow who set the Broncos on course for a game-winning 95-yard drive. It was also Tebow who ran for a 20-yard touchdown when the Jets went against type and blitzed a quarterback they had to know was probably going to run.
Basically, Tebow proved that he is a matchup problem — just not in the traditional way you'd expect of an NFL quarterback. On the 12-play sojourn that ended with 1:06 left in the game, Tebow ran the ball six times for a total of 57 yards. You can know what he's going to do, and what he's going to do can't be stopped consistently — that's been proven. For Tebow, as you'd expect, the message after the game was more than about the game.
"It is very exciting and we're excited about the wins that we've been able to put together," he told the NFL Network after the game. "I love it and I care about it. But the greatest thing with this sport and with the NFL is we have such a platform, and we can take that platform and we can influence the next generation. That is honestly my passion. This week we got to announce that I was building a hospital in the Philippines. This game means a lot but that hospital means more to me because that's changing peoples' lives. That's giving people faith, hope and love, and that's more important.
"My ultimate goal with this, with playing football, is to be a great role model that a parent can look at their son and say, 'That's someone that is trying to do it the right way; he's not perfect but everyday he's trying to get better, he's trying to honor God, do the right thing, do what's right and do his best.'"
Some will certainly cringe, more at what the media has made of the Tebow Brand than anything the man himself says, but in a football sense, the second-year quarterback hit on an important point. He's not perfect, but there are ways in which he's able to make things work.
Tebow said after the game that that last drive was less about matchups, though -- he's a firm believer in the intangibles of the game, especially when they matter most.
"We got in the huddle and we just said that this is an opportunity where great things can happen, and let's be great right now. That was our focus and everybody believed, and we went out there and we achieved it. But it was because of our faith, and our relentlessness. We're just going to keep fighting."
It's been said that with the way he plays, Tebow has managed to prove everyone right who has an opinion of him. The detractors will say that he has very limited ability at the quarterback position, especially when you consider what's generally required at the NFL level. And in completing just nine passes in 20 attempts for 104 yards, he showed once again that he's not near where he needs to be as a pure passer.
However, the true believers -- and this is where they seem to have a point — will tell you that the kid will find a way to win, no matter what. The Broncos are 4-1 under Tebow, and though it took some ridiculous red zone defensive concepts in Miami and a busted assignment on a blitz against the Jets for it to happen, Tebow has indeed proven the ability to rise to the occasion.
Winning ugly? The Broncos will take it.
"I've said it before: I trust him," rookie endbacker Von Miller said. "I trust him with everything. No matter how many interceptions he throws, no matter how many touchdowns he throws, that's Tim Tebow. I'm going to ride with him until the end.
"I hope he shut up a whole bunch of critics today."
At the very least, Tebow certainly extended the argument.