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An hour before his team would face the Broncos on Sunday, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo stood in the first row of the press box at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium and gazed down to the spot where 6'3", 235-pound Tim Tebow was loosening up. Angelo has a seasoned perspective on the NFL, having spent the last three decades as a scout or personnel man. Tim Tebow? Angelo flipped through the pages in his mind's scrapbook for a player he recalls generating as much mania, magic and polarization as the second-year quarterback, who's as interested in saving souls as he is in saving the Broncos.
"There isn't anyone like him," Angelo said. "I've always believed that 60 percent of evaluating quarterbacks is based on intangibles, and he has all the ones you'd want. He has talent too, but the main thing that drives [the Broncos] is his teammates' belief in him. You hear people talk about his religious beliefs—and that's O.K. I'm strong in my faith as well. But I believe there is some divine intervention associated with what's taking place."
Four hours later the resurgent Broncos' season went from improbable to indescribable, after they rallied from 10 down in the final 4:34 of regulation to beat Chicago 13--10 in overtime. The comeback left Angelo stunned and 76,487 spectators delirious. Team employees, stadium workers and police officers were shaking their heads. Viewers across the country stared in disbelief.
How to explain it?
The Broncos had failed to score on their first 12 possessions, seven of which were three-and-outs and three others of which lasted five plays or fewer. They committed two turnovers while forcing none in regulation. They had a field goal attempt blocked. There were dropped passes by Denver receivers—including one sure touchdown bomb—and many overthrows. Tebow was 8 of 23 for 106 yards and no scores through the first 55 minutes.
Then, well, something intervened. Tebow led a 63-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 10-yard strike to wideout Demaryious Thomas with 2:08 to go. The Bears recovered the onside kick and needed merely to burn clock—but running back Marion Barber inexplicably ran out-of-bounds on second down to give Denver an extra 35 seconds, at least. Starting from their own 20 with 56 seconds left and no timeouts, the Broncos pushed to the Bears' 41 (with Chicago's defense allowing receivers to run free and get out-of-bounds), setting up Matt Prater's 59-yard tying field goal with three seconds remaining. In overtime the Bears won the toss and drove into field goal range, but then Barber fumbled the ball away at the Broncos' 33. Tebow promptly drove his team to the Chicago 33, where Prater booted the 51-yard game-winner.
How to explain it?
"I don't think words can describe it," says Denver wideout Eddie Royal.
Truth is, the Broncos aren't scouring the dictionary for adjectives. They're riding the wave. Denver, which opened the season with four losses in five games, has won six in a row and seven of eight since Tebow moved into the starting lineup on Oct. 23. The games have been largely ugly, with the offense staggering for three-plus quarters before remembering how to put the right foot in front of the left. But the endings have been dramatic masterpieces. Six of the wins have been decided by a touchdown or less, including five by no more than four points. In five of the victories the Broncos trailed in the fourth quarter. Three came in overtime.
"I really don't know what to compare it to," says Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, a 13-year veteran. "I've never seen anything like it. Overtime game after overtime game. Three-point games and last-second field goals. I mean, when does that ever happen week after week? It doesn't. But I'll take it any way we can get it."