NFL Monday Morning Ramblings: Tim Tebow and Denver Broncos Lose Steam—for Now

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2011

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 18:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos reacts as he walks to the huddle during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Bears 13-10 in overtime. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos received quite the reality check on Sunday: they still have a ways to go to get in the class of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  Brady and New England’s elite offense exploited Denver’s supposedly vaunted defense on the way to a convincing 41-23 victory over Tebow and the Broncos in Denver.

The game lived up to its hype in the first quarter, as both teams were unstoppable on offense.  Tebow and company gashed New England’s atrocious defense on the ground, while Brady’s bunch peppered the Mile High sky in overwhelming Denver’s secondary.

However, the difference in the game was the second quarter.  The Broncos have struggled in the second frame all season.  Coming into Sunday’s game, Denver had been outscored in the second quarter by 89 points.  It was no different against the Patriots, as New England tallied a 20-3 mark in the second frame, fueled largely by a couple of Broncos fumbles.

As a result, Brady and his lethal offense were able to win going away.  What makes the Patriots offense so tough to contain is the fact that you can’t key on any one receiver.

One week, Wes Welker could put up big numbers.  The next week, it’s Rob Gronkowski torching the defense.  And on a day where Welker and Gronkowski were held in check, tight end Aaron Hernandez was Brady’s go-to man, hauling in 130 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Brady and his receivers will need to continue to play at a high level, because it looks like the only reason the Patriots will win any games in the playoffs is because of its offense and definitely not a defense that’s the worst in the Bill Belichick era.

Meanwhile, TebowMania cools off—for now.  But don’t expect it to stay that way. 

Simply put, Denver ran into a better team in the Patriots; that’s why they lost.  And Tebow didn’t play all that poorly in defeat.  He certainly wasn’t the reason why the Broncos had their six-game winning streak snapped.

Now that Denver will finish their regular season with two teams (Buffalo and Kansas City) closer to their talent level, expect the magic to resume as Tebow leads the Broncos to the playoffs.


Quick slants

Another team that received a harsh reality check on Sunday was the Houston Texans.  They saw the bad (and possibly more accurate) side of life with rookie T.J. Yates as their starting quarterback.

A week after leading a stirring comeback victory in Cincinnati, Yates crashed back down to earth against fellow rookie Cam Newton and the Panthers.  He threw two baffling interceptions (in terms of his decision making on the throws) as the Texans fell to the Panthers and their awesome fumble-rooski, 28-13.

It was unfair to expect the rookie Yates to duplicate the magic he had spun in Cincinnati so soon.  After all, Yates started this season as Houston’s third-string quarterback, and nobody ever envisioned he would be in this position when the season started.  However, if Yates doesn’t bounce back from his poor performance quickly, it may be time for head coach Gary Kubiak to give veteran quarterbacks Jake Delhomme or Jeff Garcia a shot under center.  If not, it’s going to be a quick playoff exit for Houston…  

You hear that?  It’s the sound of Mercury Morris and those perfect ’72 Miami Dolphins popping champagne in celebration of the Green Bay Packers losing.

Aaron Rodgers and his Packers teammates are unbeaten no longer after suffering a 19-14 upset loss to once-forgotten Kyle Orton and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Not only that, but on a day where the NFL’s last unbeaten team lost, the last winless team won, as the Colts upset the Titans, 27-13. 

Perhaps the biggest winner out of this situation is the league’s marketing office.  At least they know that the old “Any Given Sunday” credo is still alive and well…   

The Atlanta Falcons are poised to make another playoff appearance in the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith era.  The dirty birds easily disposed of the anemic Jacksonville Jaguars, 41-14, last Thursday night to move to 9-5 on the season.

I’m starting to see why Atlanta mortgaged so much of its draft to move up and select Julio Jones; he’s becoming quite the lethal weapon for Matt Ryan.  Jones had five catches (some of which were absolutely incredible) for 85 yards and a touchdown.  Given Jones’s upward trajectory, he, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez will be a very tough receiving trio to stop come playoff time. 

On the contrary, I feel pretty bad for Maurice Jones-Drew.  He’s arguably the league’s most complete running back but is wasting the prime of his career with a Jacksonville team in the midst of a terrible rebuilding period. 

It wouldn’t surprise me to see MJD pull a Chris Paul this offseason and demand a trade to a contending team.  And if he did that, I wouldn’t blame him one bit.  As long as the unprogressive Blaine Gabbert remains under center, it doesn’t look like the Jaguars are going to be in serious contention anytime soon…

The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed quite the night this past Saturday.  They played a game in the warm Tampa climate, beat the Buccaneers to keep pace in the NFC East race and finally won a game without having uber-iced kicker Dan Bailey on the field in the waning minutes.

Yes, it was quite the easy win for the Cowboys over the Bucs.  They built a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back, winning 31-15. 

You can make the strong argument that quarterback Tony Romo is the best in the business when the play breaks down.  Romo torched the Bucs to the tune of three touchdown passes, two of which came when he broke out of the tackle box to make highlight-reel strikes downfield.

With the loss, Tampa Bay’s disappointing season continues.  The Bucs were 10-6 a year ago but fell to an ugly 4-10 this year and are currently mired in an eight-game losing streak.

Despite this, if I’m Bucs coach Raheem Morris, I come away from this game at least knowing my team is still fighting for me.  Tampa Bay put up a decent rally in the second half against Dallas to make the final score pretty respectable.

That performance alone may be just enough to keep Morris around for another season…

For weeks, it’s been widely assumed that Aaron Rodgers would be the runaway selection for league MVP.  But given what transpired over the weekend, my current choice for that award has to go to New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

On a day where Rodgers looked quite mortal in defeat, Brees was unstoppable yet again.  Under the cozy confines of the Metrodome, the Saints’ quarterback went 32 of 40 for 412 yards and five touchdowns.

Brees is still on pace to break Dan Marino’s once-untouchable regular-season passing yards record and will likely do so by this season’s end (he’s only 300 yards away).  If there’s one team in the NFC that is going to dethrone the Packers in the playoffs, it’s going to be the Saints.  And if that happens, it’s safe to say that Brees will have taken the MVP trophy in comeback fashion…

A week before their anticipated Big Apple showdown, the Jets and Giants made their playoff lives harder on themselves.  Both New York teams looked incredibly flat in ugly losses. 

A week after showing he was Eli-te, Eli Manning was anything but on Sunday.  He threw three interceptions, and the Giants were outclassed by the lowly Washington Redskins, 23-10.

And it’s certainly no coincidence that in the first game without Jim Leonhard for two straight years, the Jets surrendered 45 points.  It happened in last year’s Monday Night Massacre to the Patriots (a 45-3 loss), and it happened in Philadelphia during New York’s 45-19 loss to the Eagles.

Of course, the Jets adjusted to life without Leonhard last season in time to make a deep playoff run.  But it may be asking too much of the Jets to make another playoff run yet again without its most vital defensive player (outside of Darrelle Revis) in Leonhard—that is, if the Jets even make the playoffs this year…

We should’ve been expecting another late-season “Charge” from a certain West Coast team, and alas, we have it once again.  The San Diego Chargers, masters of the late-season surge, are at it again.

They put it on the Baltimore Ravens big time on Sunday night, besting the birds 34-14 for their third straight blowout victory.  At 7-7 and just one game out in the AFC West, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Chargers yet again bite the Broncos at the last second to steal the division like they did a few years ago.

With all four teams still alive for the division title, the AFC West race is going to be the league’s best in these final two weeks.  Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are beginning to look quite overrated once again.

They were badly outplayed on both sides of the ball against the Chargers.  I’m not saying the Ravens can’t get to the Super Bowl, but it’s not like they exactly strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the AFC. 

To me, Joe Flacco is at best an average quarterback.  And on defense, you can pass on the Ravens with surprising ease. 

The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger did it when they knocked Baltimore out of last season’s playoffs; the Chargers and Philip Rivers did it on Sunday night; and if the Ravens meet the Patriots in the upcoming playoffs, there’s no reason for me to believe that Tom Brady can’t do the same…

It’s not the conventional way of doing it, but the Detroit Lions have found their own heart-pounding formula for winning in 2011: Come back from the depths of despair and let Megatron dominate.

Once again, the Lions found themselves on the precipice of defeat, and once again the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection led them back to victory.  This time, Stafford pulled off his greatest John Elway impression in leading the Lions on a game-winning 98-yard drive, capped by Johnson’s second touchdown of the day as Detroit squeaked by the Raiders, 28-27.

Megatron would finish the game with a staggering 214 receiving yards, leaving no doubt that he’s the league’s best receiver.  If it weren’t for his incredible contributions—particularly in comeback wins against Oakland and Dallas—then there’s no possible way the Lions are still in the playoff hunt.  


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