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The Denver Broncos won again. But who deserves credit, Tim Tebow or the defense?
In the five games the Broncos have won since Tim Tebow took over as the starting quarterback, the passing-impaired Tebow has staged his own personal version of NFL Mythbusters.
Myth No. 1: A purely running quarterback will never succeed in the NFL, where the athletes are too good and the speed too overwhelming.
Reality: On the season, Tebow has rushed 78 times for 455 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. That's the best number in the NFL. You read that right: Tim Tebow leads the NFL in yards per rushing attempt. And these aren't Michael Vick scrambles we're talking about. Tebow rushed the ball 22 times against the Chargers, the most rushing attempts by an NFL quarterback since 1950. Of the 22 attempts, 17 of them came on designed runs. Tebow, Willis McGahee and the Denver rushing attack clearly wore down the athletic Chargers defense in piling up 208 rushing yards.
Myth No. 2: The option will never work in the NFL.
Reality: In the Broncos' 16–13 overtime win over San Diego yesterday, the Broncos earned 147 of their 208 rushing yards via the option.
Myth No. 3: In today's NFL, passing accuracy, yardage and mechanics are essential to success.
Reality: For the season, Tebow is completing 45.5 percent of his passes. Yesterday's game marked his first time to hit the 50 percent completion mark (he was 9-of-18 for 143 yards). His season high of 172 passing yards came in the 45–10 loss to Detroit.
For Tebow, though, the only important number has always resided in the win column, and by that measure, the Tebow Train is gathering steam. Denver's improbable march toward the playoffs continued yesterday with another tight, low-scoring win, as the Broncos stuck a fork in the Norv Turner regime in moving to 6–5 on the season and only a game behind the AFC West-leading Raiders.
The Tim Tebow era in Denver is now six games old — still a small sample size, but enough of a body of work to start drawing a few conclusions.
At a glance, it's easy to say that the defense deserves the credit for Denver's resurgence. During Kyle Orton's five games as a starter, the defense surrendered an average of 28 points; in the last six games, the Broncos have allowed an average of 20 points, and if you throw out the 45–10 loss to Detroit, the number falls to 15 ppg.
A-ha, say the detractors. The defense has keyed the surge, and Tebow doesn't play defense. Time to shut up about Timmy and give credit where it's due. Safety Brian Dawkins said as much yesterday: "It's time to start giving the defense some credit," he snapped. I'll gladly do so, Brian: In Tebow's five wins as the starter, the defense has allowed an average of 320 yards per game. That's a more than respectable number.
But let's dig a little deeper. I would argue that Tebow is a key component of Denver's defense, even if he's merely Tebow-ing on the sidelines while the defense does its work. Football is a game of possessions; if you don't have the ball, you can't score. Tebow and the Broncos are playing a remarkably effective game of keep-away. In Tebow's five wins, the Broncos have turned the ball over only twice — Tebow himself, only once — and forced six turnovers of their own.
By shortening the game with the NFL's leading rushing attack and protecting the football, Tebow and the Denver offense are playing the most effective brand of defense imaginable.
Perhaps most importantly, Tebow, the true believer, creates belief among his teammates. The defense, knowing its margin for error is slim, plays a little harder. The offensive line holds its blocks a little longer.
And in the game's waning minutes, the team knows its leader will make just enough plays to win.
"Just having that guy around, it makes us better men," said linebacker Von Miller. "I think he plays for us, and he makes us want to play for him."
Bottom line: Whether John Elway likes it or not, the current Denver formula is a winner. Will it last for the long haul? That's debatable, but the current results are not. Tebow and the Denver defense are the story of the NFL at the moment.
• The Dream is dead. New England dissected the corpse of the Eagles' season with surgical precision. Tom Brady was flawless in the Patriots' 38–20 win over Philly, completing 24-of-34 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Vince Young passed for 400 essentially meaningless yards and was robbed of two TD passes by alligator-armed All-Pro wideout DeSean Jackson. Time to put the Dream Team out of its misery.
• Houston's quarterback situation deteriorated further, as Matt Leinart was lost for the season in the Texans' 20–13 win over Jacksonville. New starter T.J. Yates has a tiny cushion — a two-game lead over the Titans — as he tries to coax this injury-depleted squad into the postseason. The decisive game may come in Week 17 as the Titans visit Houston.
• Speaking of emergency replacement quarterbacks, Chicago's Caleb Hanie was game in defeat, but it was still a defeat, 25–20 at the hands of the Raiders. Sebastian Janikowski made a team-record six field goals as the Oakland special teams were the stars of the show.
— by Rob Doster