If you can't pass, you can't win. Right? Tell it to the Denver Broncos, whose ground-bound attack flies in the face of the prevailing notion that aerial bombardment is the only way to go in today's NFL.
John Fox's team might be setting offensive football back decades — centuries, even — but the Broncos are also winning, climbing to 4–5 and only one game back in the wide-open AFC West. In Denver's 17–10 win in Kansas City, Tim Tebow posted the most bizarre stat line by a winning quarterback in recent memory: two completions, one victory. For the day, our hero was 2-of-8 passing; of course, one of his two completions went for for 56 yards and a touchdown to Eric Decker, giving him a sterling passer rating of 102.6 — his highest number as a starter.
More importantly, Tebow directed an old-school, cloud-of-dust rushing attack that produced 244 rushing yards — and that was without Willis McGahee, who went down with a bad hammie on Denver's first possession, and mostly without Knowshon Moreno, who sprained his knee later in the first quarter. That left the bulk of the work to some guy named Lance Ball, who pounded KC 30 times for 96 yards.
Think the option can't work in the NFL? Denver ran it 16 times for 95 yards, 5.9 yards per carry. Of those 16 plays, Tebow kept it four times for 31 yards (7.8 ypc) on his way to 44 rushing yards.
Among the game's statistical oddities: Denver, which led 10–0 at halftime, became the first team since the 1994 Packers to lead a game at halftime without having completed a pass. (The Packers' QB that day? Brett Favre.) The good folks at Elias tell us that Tebow is the fifth quarterback since 1980 to throw all of his team's passes, complete two or fewer and still win. The Broncos ran on eight straight plays on their opening possession, a 57-yard march that culminated with Tebow's 7-yard TD scamper.
It might be simple posturing, but Fox sounds like a guy who's simply sticking with what works, not a coach forced to run a stripped-down offense out of desperation. "It's just a mindset. It's a low-risk offense. It's not an indictment on Tim Tebow or whoever our quarterback is," Fox said. "It's just whatever is working for us. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We tried to possess the ball and keep our defense fresh."
For now, it's working. KC mustered only 258 yards of offense and rarely threatened.
So can it last? Seems unlikely. At some point, Tebow will have to reach double digits for completions and find his targets more than 50 percent of the time. But for now, it's kind of fun to watch a team trample all over conventional wisdom and stick it to the naysayers — even if it results in typical Tim-speak, which seems to annoy his detractors as much as his lousy mechanics and hyper-righteous image.
"I'm not trying to send a message," said Tebow, who moves to 3–1 as the starter since taking over for Kyle Orton and now has a career 20-to-6 touchdown-to-turnover ratio. "I'm just trying to be a football player. We can improve from what we did today and get better."
• You could make the argument that, right now, the Texans are the best team — and not just the best fantasy team — in the AFC. Their 7–3 record is matched only by Pittsburgh, and the Texans own a Week 4 win over the Steelers. Their remaining schedule includes games with Jacksonville, Carolina, Indianapolis and a season-ender at home against a Tennessee team that they beat by 34 in Nashville. They look like a safe bet for 11–5 and a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. They have the best two-headed rushing attack, the single best offensive weapon in the AFC in Arian Foster (21 touches, 186 yards, two touchdowns in a 37–9 win over Tampa Bay) and a quarterback in Matt Schaub who's finally limiting his mistakes. It could all fall apart tomorrow — these are still the Texans — but today, it looks pretty good. UPDATE: And here you go. Schaub has a foot injury that will leave him sidelined for several weeks, meaning Matt Leinart's the starter in Houston. Uh-oh. Forget everything I just said.
• Over in the NFC, the 49ers are making converts all over, myself included. The Niners may not eclipse Green Bay for the NFC's best record, but the Packers' margin for error is slim. Just take a look at San Fran's remaining schedule, the fruits of playing in the NFL's weakest division: two games with Arizona, two games with St. Louis, a game with Seattle (combined record: 8–19). Green Bay, meanwhile, still has to face Detroit (6–3) twice, plus the Giants (6–3), Oakland (5–4) and Chicago (6–3). After a 12–1 season with Stanford and an 8–1 start to this season, Jim Harbaugh is 20–2 over his last 22 games. The guy can coach. "I don't take any credit. It's these men. These mighty, strong men," Harbaugh said. "They deserve the credit."
• Don't go to sleep on the Patriots; they're clearly the class of the AFC East. Tom Brady was brilliant in a 37–16 shredding of the Jets, completing 26-of-39 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns. With their 117th win together, Brady and Bill Belichick passed the Dan Marino-Don Shula duo for most wins by a QB-coach combo.
• Tony Romo was brilliant in Dallas' startling 44–7 rout of Buffalo. Romo completed 23-of-26 passes for 270 yards and three scores as Dallas sent a message to the NFC East. That message? We'll probably fall apart later, but we're playing well right now.
— by Rob Doster