November 18, 2011
"I believe... I believe... It's silly, but I believe."
You don't have to believe he's the best quarterback in the NFL or that he's going to make people forget about Aaron Rodgers(notes) or that the Broncos will be a playoff contender down the road, or even this season. What's undeniable is that, right now, Tim Tebow(notes) is a quarterback who has brought the 1-4 Broncos all the way back to .500 after four wins in his first five starts and is doing so in the face of a football world that is eager to mock his unorthodox everything if it ever fails.
They can't do it after Thursday night. For the second time since taking over the starting role in Denver last month, Tebow orchestrated a magical fourth-quarter comeback, this time driving his Broncos 95 yards down the field in under five minutes and capping it with a 20-yard touchdown run to put his Denver Broncos ahead of the New York Jets 17-13 with 58 seconds left. On that run, everyone in the stadium knew which play was coming (a designed run to the left) and none of the 11 members of the highly touted New York Jets defense could stop him before he got to the end zone.
He finished 9-20 for 104 yards and rushed eight times for 68 yards, including that game-winning touchdown. He was sloppy at points (a lot of them), but he says he doesn't care about how it looks or how other people think it should look. "More than anything," he told NFL Network, "I just want to win football games." And you believe him.
The critics will say that can't go on. They'll scoff and point out stats and look at history and act like Tebow's story is cute but unsustainable. One day, they may be proven right. In this moment, though, the numbers don't lie. Tebow is 4-1 in his five starts this season, including three victories over potential AFC playoff teams. He's winning and he's doing it against decent competition.
Denver may have played another poor first 55 minutes (like in Miami) and benefited from an equally poor 55 minutes from the Jets (also like in Miami), but when it came time for Tebow to take over the game, he succeeded. Again. On that final drive, with his team trailing by three, Tebow took over the offense. Of the 12 plays run, 11 directly involved Tebow. They were, in order: Tebow pass, Tebow run, Tebow pass, Tebow pass, Tebow run, Tebow run, Tebow run, Tebow pass, Tebow pass, Lance Ball(notes) run, Tebow run, Tebow run. It was all Tebow, all the time. For that one drive, the Jets, with their highly ranked defense, were powerless to stop Tim.
The Tebow story has always been one of perception and conjecture. When he was starring at Florida, the question posed was: "Can Tebow succeed in the NFL?" He's answered that question over the past five games. Yes, in the right circumstances, Tebow can be a serviceable NFL quarterback. As we tend to do, we'll extrapolate that into the next round of perception and conjecture. "Can he keep it up? Can this really work? This can't really work, can it?"
Those are the questions used to fill countless hours of talk radio and TV analysis. They're meaningless. There's no deeper meaning to this 4-1 run, nor is it a harbinger of things to come. For now, he's proved the strongest critics wrong, made the skeptics doubt their position and reaffirmed to both haters and admirers alike that Tim Tebow can be a legitimate NFL quarterback. And if not, at the very least, his games will still be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
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