Tim Tebow did just about everything in his college career, but one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL has had an up-and-down start to his pro career.
Starting for the Denver Broncos today against the Miami Dolphins, Tebow did the thing he does best when it mattered: He won.
Despite playing a horrible game for the first 54 minutes, the former Florida Gators star took the last six minutes and made them his, leading the Broncos on back-to-back touchdown drives to tie the game against Miami with 17 seconds left and sending it to overtime with a two-point conversion run.
The Broncos won 18-15 on a 50-yard field goal in overtime, helping Tebow salvage what was an otherwise disappointing performance.
The setting couldn’t have been better for the Broncos quarterback, either.
The Miami Dolphins honored the 2008 BCS National Championship Florida team, and former head coach Urban Meyer and several players from the team were present to be honored at halftime.
However, the crowd created an interesting environment for Tebow, with a mixture of Miami Dolphins fans, Denver Broncos fans and Florida Gators fans present.
Tebow struggled early in the game, missing a few wide open receivers and struggling to find any sort of rhythm in the pocket. It wasn’t all his fault, either, as his receivers dropped passes and the Denver coaching staff refused to allow him to open it up in the passing game.
Chants of “Tebow Sucks” rained down at one point in the game, but that only seemed to bring out the best in Tebow when it mattered most.
After Denver punted on eight of its first 11 drives, missed two field goals and fumbled, Tebow led the Broncos on two near-perfect drives for scores late in the game.
Tebow did most of his damage early running the football, and he was just 4-of-14 passing for 121 yards and no touchdowns entering the final two scoring drives in regulation.
When crunch time came, so did Tebow time. Head coach John Fox opened up the offense with the Broncos trailing 15-0, and Tebow went to work, quickly shortening the chants in the stadium to “Te-bow! Te-bow!”
The former Florida star threw for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 9-of-13 passing on the final two drives of regulation, leading the Broncos back from the brink of certain defeat.
With an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive keyed by a 42-yard pass from Tebow to Matt Willis, Denver cut the Miami lead to 15-7 with 2:44 left to play.
The Broncos then recovered an onside kick to put the ball back in Tebow’s hands. He didn’t disappoint.
Tebow marched Denver right down the field on a methodical, clock-conserving drive. He put the Broncos inside the 5-yard line with a picture-perfect 28-yard pass over the middle to Daniel Fells.
Two plays later, Tebow rolled left and threw back to his right to a wide-open Fells for the score, cutting the lead to 15-13.
On the two-point conversion attempt, Fox let Tebow do what he does best. The quarterback lined up and plowed through right tackle for the game-tying conversion, knotting it up at 15-15 and sending it to overtime.
While many analysts will judge Tebow’s game based on the subpar performance from the first half, and perhaps rightfully so, the bottom line is that the former Heisman winner showed up to play with the game on the line.
He’s been doing it for years.
Maybe someday people will realize that Tim Tebow is a born winner, even if it looks downright ugly, like it did for the most of the day Sunday.
Something tells me Tim Tebow is perfectly okay with the ugly wins.
The Gators fans who watched Tebow for years knew to stick around to the end. In fact, a few hundred of them hung around well after the game.
Tebow came out an hour after the game ended to greet some of his former teammates who won a national championship with him on the same field a little less than three years ago.
The fans still left in the stadium let the chants ring out.