Broncos' fans are growing accustomed to improbable victories this season -- and yesterday's 13-10 overtime win over the Chicago Bears is no exception. But that doesn't mean we should take Tim Tebow's latest miracle for granted. Like his Lord and Savior, Tebow faced seven trials on the way to a seemingly inevitable crucifixion before his triumphant resurrection -- and these challenges only made the end result that much more meaningful. Count them down below.
Trial No. 7: The strength of the opponent. Coming into the game, many Broncos fans expected an easy win because of injuries to starting quarterback Sweet Baby Jay Cutler and super-back Matt Forte. But this assumption completely neglected the power of the Bears' defense. Tebow's designated shadow, Brian Urlacher may have long since earned the term "grizzled veteran," but he continues to perform at an extremely high level. Moreover, Chicago's team speed put a damper on many of Denver's go-to plays, including the run-option and Tebow's designed up-the-gut bursts. As a result, the Broncos were forced to rely on The Chosen One's arm more than his legs for much of the contest.
Trial No. 6: The sacrifices. With the return of Von Miller, the Broncos appeared to be back at close to full strength on the defensive side of the ball. But over the course of the hard-fought battle, major players went down, including Brian Dawkins, the squad's inspirational leader, Andre Goodman, whose interception return for a touchdown versus the Vikings made that W possible, safety David Bruton and lineman Marcus Thomas. Add to that the hamstring injury suffered by fullback Spencer Larson and the Broncos quickly went from vigorous and vibrant to severely depleted. Page down for more trials.
Trial No. 5: The first mistake. One of the keys to Tebow's recent streak has been the care he's taken with the ball. Coming into the game, he'd committed just two turnovers -- an interception and a fumble. But that changed in the first quarter, when the Bears' Charles Tillman grabbed a not especially accurate pass and then managed to tap his toes along the sideline in one of the most beautiful displays of precision we'll see this season. The pick squelched a scoring opportunity and suggested that Tebow might finally be coming back to earth.
Trial No. 4: Missed connections. After looking on-target with his passing early on, Tebow lost his way, as it were. At one point, he threw twelve straight incompletions. Granted, they weren't all his fault. Demaryius Thomas, who'd had a breakout game last week, suddenly betrayed Timmy despite having the name of the Virgin Mother smack dab in the middle of his own, failing to haul in a surefire touchdown in the third quarter (it would have been a tough catch, but still) and dropping a couple of others that even your third grader could have snagged. But as Tebow correctly acknowledged after the game, most of the misfires were his fault. Page down for more trials.
Trial No. 3: The second mistake. As crunch-time neared, Tebow initially looked rattled, confused -- a flashback to the Detroit game, when most NFL observers were ready to deem his comeback against Miami a fluke. He began taking too long in the pocket, tempting fate as each second slowly ticked past. And then, his apparent comeuppance arrived in the person of a man called Israel -- Israel Idonije, who scooped up a fumble knocked away by Craig Steltz. Had Tebow's heavenly Father forsaken him?
Trial No. 2: The miracle that wasn't. After the Broncos finally notched a touchdown, on a pass from Tebow to none other than Demaryius Thomas, whose hands finally began to function again with mere minutes remaining, Matt Prater lined up to attempt an onside kick -- and it was gorgeous, flying skyward into an area where either Jonathan Wilhite or Mario Haggan, another hero from last week, could haul it in. Problem is, the pair fought each other for the ball instead of allowing one or the other to capture the glory -- and it wound up in Bear paws instead, seemingly ending the Broncos' chances.
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Trial No. 1: The retracted redemption. Marion Barber's career was supposed to be over. Dallas had given up on the burly back, and thanks to Forte's heroics, he'd spent much of his time in Chicago warming the pine. But pressed into service on Sunday, he looked as impressive as ever, racking up more than a hundred yards and scoring the Bears' only touchdown. But then, at the end of regulation, the scales fell onto his eyes -- or something like that. His unbelievably stupid decision to run out of bounds shortly following the two minute warning, after the Broncos had spent all their time-outs, gave Denver life, and Tebow used it to drive the squad into field goal range to tie things up at 10-10. Then, in overtime, in the wake of a brilliant catch to move the Bears in Broncos territory, he coughed up the ball, giving Tebow and Prater the opening they needed. And they took advantage.
In his post-game press conference, head coach John Fox sounded downright evangelical, thanking the good Lord for his players and saying he'd been blessed. And he wasn't the only one.
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