Updated: October 9, 2011 at 12:00 am
DENVER – For months, Tim Tebow followers have been spreading the word.
He’s a winner, they said. Sure, he didn’t have the best passing touch, but his weaknesses failed to matter. He delivered big plays, inspired his teammates, seized the hearts of fans, transformed boring games to thrillers.
I’ve listened to the message from the Tebow faithful. Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you’ve heard the message, too.
The word is true. Or at least it was true Sunday when Tebow escaped the bench to convert a snoozer to a battle that gripped the hearts of an entire state.
Yes, Tebow trotted off the field in defeat, but this was a different kind of loss. Fans at Mile High chanted “Tebow, Tebow, Tebow” at a volume resembling thunder, and you got the feeling we’re all embarking on a new era.
The Tebow era could develop into a disaster, but you can count on this:
It won’t be boring. Sunday’s 29-24 loss to the Chargers delivered uproarious fun to an audience depressed after three tortuous years of ho-hum football.
Coach John Fox refused to confirm Tebow as his new starter, but don’t worry. Fox is stubborn; he’s not blind. He knows Kyle Orton is finished as the Broncos' starter. Orton was given every chance, and he blew it. He should be banished to the end of the bench.
If for some insane reason Fox goes with Orton Oct. 23 against Miami, expect riots to break out across Colorado. Think I’m kidding? That only means you don’t understand Broncos fans. Or Tebow fans.
A few minutes after the game, someone asked Tebow if the Broncos were now his team.
“I don’t think it’s anybody’s team,” he said.
He knows better. He knows he silenced his doubters. He knows he finally conquered a failed quarterback.
I’ve been a Tebow skeptic. He’s been overly in love with his legs at the expense of his arm. He’s prone to bolting from the pocket, declining to give his receivers the chance to break open.
Sunday quieted many of my doubts. Yes, Tebow again revealed why he ranks as our planet’s second-best running quarterback, trailing only the aging, faltering Michael Vick.
But it was his new-found restraint, his patience in the pocket that most impressed me. He waited for plays to develop, showed more trust in his receivers. Tebow is destined to fail unless he develops a passer’s mentality.
He showed that mentality against the Chargers. You might have missed the moment when Tebow announced his potential.
With 3:15 left in the third quarter, Tebow took a snap in the shotgun and searched the field for five seconds. The old version of Tebow would have taken flight.
The new Tebow rolled to his left. He was calm. He was determined to wait until he found a receiver. The wait lasted seven or eight seconds.
His patience almost was rewarded. Eric Decker broke into the open in the middle of the field. Tebow saw him, a blink too late. Under heavy pressure, Tebow launched a long pass.
His toss was a few inches too long, just beyond the reach of the lunging Decker.
The big, dramatic moments would come later. Tebow roared into the end zone after a 12-yard dash, showing speed and elusiveness. And then Tebow waited until the right instant to throw a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno, who transported the Mile High crowd to mass joy with a 27-yard touchdown.
Tebow came close, achingly close, to tying the game with a 2-point conversion. There was nothing wrong with his throw to Brandon Lloyd, who could not quite hold on for the tie.
Be sure to remember the pass to Decker. That was the big one, the play announcing this new era might, just might, be vastly different than the old era that tormented and saddened our state.