After the Green Bay Packers topped the Broncos last week, we predicted that if the team fell to the San Diego Chargers, no token Tim Tebow package would satisfy fans calling for a QB change. But in the second half of what turned out to be a 29-24 loss, Tebow got his chance half a game earlier than expected. Was this a case of "Be careful what you wish for"? Sort of -- and sort of not.
There's no question previously anointed starter Kyle Orton looked like mediocrity on two legs. As the pressure on him continued to build, his play has deteriorated. On Sunday, he often pressed too hard to make a play when odds of success were minuscule (his early interception was the sort of pick a veteran like him should never throw) and seemed to lack the cocksure confidence Philip Rivers, his SD counterpart, demonstrates whether awake, asleep or in-between. The sort of yardage collected by Willis McGahee, who's giving the Broncos a real running game, should have made Orton's job easier. But somehow, he repeatedly failed to capitalize.
Enter Tebow, who at times looked unbelievably inept. A born overachiever, he apparently thought one near-fumble of a snap suggested that he wasn't trying hard enough... so he bobbled at least three. And as the contest wound down, he nearly took too long executing one of the simplest plays in football -- a spike to the ground to stop the clock.
His passing, meanwhile, proved uninspired. He failed to hit a number of open receivers, and forced Brandon Lloyd to make a crazy, one-handed sidelines grab to temporarily maintain a last-minute drive. He's clearly got the arm strength necessary to reach receivers downfield, but they need to have arms as stretchable as Mr. Fantastic's to haul in many of his tosses.
And yet... there's no question Tebow energized not just the fans but his teammates. While he did more with his legs than his arm, he definitely kept the Chargers off-balance in the final quarter, taking advantage of a Rivers fumble to put the Broncos within striking distance. And when the defense failed to shut down the Bolts after Denver drew within two -- a microcosm of the D's performance throughout -- he almost willed the squad to an ultra-unlikely victory.
At this point, Coach John Fox hasn't officially made Tebow the starter going forward, but there's no doubt the die is cast. If Orton starts the next game, go into the torches and pitchforks business, because there'll be a lot of money to be made.
Can Tebow turn around what already looks to be a dismal season? Probably not. He does indeed have plenty of intangibles -- but his tangibles frequently blow, and he'll have a tougher time in future games if rival coaches are able to game-plan for him. But at least the chaos he creates will be more entertaining than the who-cares? funk in which the Orton-led Broncos have been mired.
Look below to see Tebow running for a touchdown, followed by Fox talking about his performance -- and trying in vain to hedge his bets.
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More from our Sports archive: "Ten slogans for the pro-Tim Tebow, anti-Kyle Orton billboard."