You couldn’t watch much TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspapers last week and up until game time yesterday afternoon in Denver without rising (and heavily religious) star Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow either being the subject of some news story, conversation/debate, made fun of (ex. a funny SNL skit) or brought up in the oddest of places (ex. Rick Perry comparing himself to him in a recent GOP presidential debate). And so Tebow Fever was in full force when the New England Patriots came to town Sunday.
Their own top star and living legend, Tom Brady, is having another monstrous year, and came into the game hoping to lead his team to a victory that would clinch the AFC East title. However, he has had little success playing in Denver in his career (1-6), and many onlookers wondered if Tebow and company could keep up their fourth quarter/OT magic, should it be a close game.
The AFC West-leading Broncos came into the game yesterday looking to keep increasing their once unheard of chances of making the playoffs, having won their last six games behind both Tebow and the under-appreciated leg of kicker Matt Prater and a pretty good defensive unit.
The first quarter saw Tebow, and running backs Willis McGahee and Lance Ball run an insane amount of yards (167), with the star QB and Ball each easily earning rushing TDs to take an early first half lead.
In between those two first quarter scores, Brady found an open Chad Ochocinco on the left side of the field, and he easily scampered into the end zone with a 33-yard TD, his first of the season. It was long overdue!
From there, it was the Aaron Hernandez show. Often overlooked as the “other” Patriots tight end since being drafted out of Florida — where he was Tim Tebow’s fellow star teammate on offense — last year, he has battled injuries, having missed two games last year and two more so far this season. On Sunday, he used his wide receiver-ish speed to catch and run all over the field, setting new career highs with nine catches and 129 yards receiving (to go with a TD).
Denver smartly shut out stud Pats TE Rob Gronkowski for much of the game, but Brady adjusted and found plenty of players, eight in all, to successfully throw to. The running game also had a much needed great day (141 yards), with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Brady all scoring TDs. Rookie Stevan Ridley also helped out with his 65 yards of rushing, most of which came in the second half.
Tebow, meanwhile didn’t have a bad game (194 yards passing, 1 rushing TD and 95 yards rushing), and certainly didn’t wait ’til the fourth quarter to play his best. But he did get sacked four times, which shows that he still has a lot to learn about pocket awareness. Moreover, it was the second and third quarters where he and his Broncos stalled on offense and made costly mistakes, including three fumbles alone in the second frame (one by Tebow, one by Ball and another on special teams just before halftime). The Pats capitalized on the turnovers, put up 27 points in those two quarters, and went into the fourth quarter with a 34-16 lead.
After Tebow ran for a score nearly halfway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 34-23, the Denver crowd went nuts and I’m sure many in attendance thought another Tebow “miracle” comeback was going to happen. But I and I’m sure many others in Patriots Nation had confidence in Brady and company to put the game away, and Green-Ellis’ 1-yard TD run with just over four minutes left did just that, in effect ending a pretty entertaining game at 41-23.
With that, Brady and the Patriots got their first win in Denver since 2003, and therefore, Tebow Fever will now have to cool off a bit (thank God).
Photo credits: Tebow: Jeffrey Beall/Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons; Green-Ellis: Sportinglife.com