Apparently, I was one of the fortunate ones. Since I was working Thursday evening, I did not get a chance to watch the NFL Network’s broadcast of the Jets-Broncos game in its entirety.
Apparently, I was one of the fortunate ones.
Since I was working Thursday evening, I did not get a chance to watch the NFL Network’s broadcast of the Jets-Broncos game in its entirety.
In fact, by the time I got home late Thursday night and tuned into the game, the Broncos had just gotten pinned back at their own 5-yard line following a Jets’ punt.
As an unsuspecting person who just started watching, the Broncos’ plight probably didn’t seem as bleak as it would have had I watched the game from the start.
The Bills’ fan in me was pulling first and foremost for a Jets’ loss. But I was also intrigued by the possibility of one of these much-hyped magical Tim Tebow-led finishes.
Denver was down by only three with 5:54 remaining in the fourth quarter and had a couple of timeouts at its disposal when the Broncos (who I’m obligated to mention are my wife’s favorite team) took over at their own 5. Again, I emphasize the perspective of a guy tuning in late who also happens to be a sucker for the dramatic.
Because had I been watching from the start, I might have been tempted to pack it in and call it a night considering how dismal and ineffective the Tebow-led Broncos offense had been against the Jets leading up to Denver’s final drive.
After putting in a rather uninspiring effort for the better part of 54 minutes, Tebow drove the Broncos 95 yards to the winning score against Rex Ryan’s vaunted Jets’ defense.
On the go-ahead touchdown, Tebow recognized and beat an all-out blitz up the middle, as he darted to his left and found the end zone rather easily from 20 yards away.
The Broncos’ stunning 17-13 win over the Jets gave Denver its fourth win in five games. And suddenly, a team that once figured to be a prominent player in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, is now just a half-game back of the division lead in the hopelessly-average AFC West. In fact, if the Raiders were to lose in Minnesota today, at least Denver and Oakland would be tied atop the division standings.
The frenzy surrounding Tebow – the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida – and the inexplicable manner in which he’s piling up wins seems eerily reminiscent of another underestimated quarterback a little more than a decade ago.
Even right down to how this underestimated quarterback of yesteryear was not the coach’s first pick for the starting job, but was clearly the fan favorite at QB.
And did we mention the precursor to Tebow also won a Heisman, but was dismissed by many top football minds as being too small and unorthodox to make it as a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.
While Doug Flutie’s first go-round in the NFL didn’t amount to much, his second tour of duty – following a career-rejuvenating move to the CFL – helped catapult the Buffalo Bills back into the playoffs in successive seasons.
Much like earlier this year when the Broncos appeared to be down and out with a 1-4 record, the Bills lost three straight to begin the 1998 season and were 1-3 when Flutie was thrust into the role of starter after the incumbent Rob Johnson went down with an injury.
With Flutie providing the magic, the former Boston College star eventually supplanted Johnson as starter in 1998 and led the Bills to the playoffs, where they lost in the first round. Flutie remained Buffalo’s starter in 1999, and while he didn’t deliver the type of season that made him a Pro Bowler and the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1998, he did have the Bills pointed back into the playoffs.
As a starter, Flutie went 8-4 in 1998 and he put the Bills in the playoffs with a 10-5 start in 1999.
Very similarly, Tebow is 4-1 as a starter this season and has the Broncos at least thinking playoffs, a thought that seemed laughable a month ago.
And while the Buffalo-vintage Flutie’s passing skills were significantly better than Tebow’s now, he definitely wasn’t always the most accurate of passers. But he won. At least that was the argument among staunch-Flutie backers back in the day, much like it is today for fans of Tebow.
Consider that before Denver’s go-ahead 95-yard touchdown drive, the Broncos accumulated 75 yards of total offense from scrimmage in its previous 10 possessions, which included seven three-and-outs.
The Broncos’ only other touchdown against the Jets came on a pick-six of Mark Sanchez. Clearly, Denver’s underappreciated defense laid the groundwork for Tebow’s magic.
Much like Buffalo’s top-notch defense in 1999 helped mask Flutie’s inadequacies. The Bills were the league’s top-ranked defense in yards allowed in ’99. No team was better against the pass and they ranked fourth against the run.
Yet, Flutie – after earning the benefit of the doubt from his breakout 1998 season – was lauded for his ability to win games in 1999, despite looking very unimpressive on many occasions.
Just like Flutie was a nice story a little more than a decade ago for his ability to prove the naysayers wrong by just winning, Tebow is doing the same thing in Denver.
Neither are aesthetically pleasing quarterbacks when judged over the course of an entire game, yet both possess an innate ability to improvise and make plays with their legs like few others can.
Flutie was a joy to watch in his prime and while he was viewed by many as a winner, one might wonder if he would have kept that label if not for the benefit of being teamed up with a superior defense.
Tebow seems to be in the midst of a similar journey, playing alongside a defense that’s given up 15 or fewer points during three of its five wins.
Bob Benz is assistant sports editor for The Leader in Corning, N.Y., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.