Over the course of the season, I've held my tongue on Tim Tebow. I may have rolled my eyes at his mechanics and shook my head at anyone who credited a win to one person on a team, but I said little. I knew that he was going to play my Bears in Week 14, but I had faith that Chicago could stop him, even without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
The defense's physical, active nature seemed like the perfect antidote for the option. That, coupled with a competent performance by the offense and the strong leg of Robbie Gould in mountain air, could snap both the Broncos winning streak and the Bears losing skid.
My biggest concern was conditioning. Since Cutler's injury, Chicago's defense had spent too much time on the field. Playing at a high altitude plus its need to be on point late in the game could spell trouble when the offense gave up so many three-and-outs.
The first half was exactly what I expected. The one time anyone got close to the end zone was when the Broncos attempted a field goal, which was blocked by Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers.
As soon as Marion Barber scored a touchdown in the third quarter, the tweets started. "Tebow's got them right where he wants them!" "It's Tebow time!" But I had faith in the Bears because their defense was so effective at stopping Tebow for most of the game.
When Idonije and Craig Steltz combined to take the ball away in the fourth quarter, and Robbie Gould set a new Bears record with a 57-yard field goal, I took a deep breath and thought, "Maybe they can do this."
Then the Broncos scored. Barber, who was given the ball 27 times, made a dumb play that stopped the clock, and the Broncos nailed their own record-breaking field goal. We all know what happened after that.
The biggest lesson I learned is that it is absolutely ridiculous to credit the Broncos win streak solely to Tebow. The Broncos have a swarming defense, a clutch kicker, receivers who are well connected to their QB and a coach who has found a new life in the mountains of Colorado. They are an incredibly well-conditioned team who knows how to peak at the right time, and who can smartly execute when their opponents are making mistakes.
But there is something special about him that inspires faith. It may not be faith in Jesus Christ, whom Tebow thanks often. It's the faith his teammates, coaches and fans have in him to make up for bad play through three quarters with an electric fourth quarter. It's the faith that Tebow has in his teammates, who support him on every play.
It may not be pretty, and it may not be the brand of football that's worth watching until the fourth quarter, but it has given the Broncos an 8-5 record and the lead in the AFC West.