It wasn’t pretty by any means, but for Tim Tebow and the Broncos, they will for sure take it.
Tebow played what appeared to be an awful day, but playing like the comeback kid, the former Florida QB led the Broncos back from what appeared to be certain defeat to help Denver to an 18-15 win.
It was vintage Tebow.
Tebow, in his first start of the season, led the Broncos to two touchdowns in the final three minutes before Matt Prater’s 52-yard field goal midway through overtime lifted Denver to the win, driving the Dolphins to 0-6.
The moment the Broncos lined up for a two-point conversion with 17 seconds to play and a chance to tie the game, it seemed destined Tim Tebow would get the ball.
And as he crashed over the goal line, Tebow looked less like the quarterback who struggled for most of Sunday’s game and more like the player who rose to stardom in Florida.
Tebow led his Jacksonville-area high school to a Florida state championship during his senior season, then became a star for the Florida Gators. He led them to a pair of BCS national championships and won the Heisman Trophy during the 2007 season, finishing his career as one of the most decorated college football players ever.
Sunday’s game also provided a stage for Tebow to lead the Broncos (2-4) to a thrilling victory. They benefited from an onsides kick recovery after their first touchdown and two big plays by tight end Daniel Fells, then won after recovering a fumble in overtime.
On the other hand, the Dolphins (0-6) were left the stunned losers after their 15-point lead evaporated in the final quarter. They sacked Tebow seven times and held Denver in check for most of the game, but couldn’t hang on.
On Sunday, the Dolphins honored the Gators’ 2008 national title squad, which featured Tebow. He led Florida past Oklahoma in the BCS title game at Sun Life, and the Dolphins got a first-hand look at his abilities while playing against him.
Tebow passed for only 24 yards in the first half and couldn’t led Denver out of its own territory in the third quarter, but late in the fourth, something clicked.
The Broncos took over at their own 20 with 5:23 to play and quickly made their way up the field.
Tebow found Demaryius Thomas for 15 yards on the first play, and later hit Matthew Willis for a 42-yard gain. He followed a sack with a 13-yard scramble, which brought the ball to the five-yard line for a third down.
On the next play, the left-handed Tebow threw across his body to Thomas in the right side of the end zone. Thomas made the catch, which was upheld upon review, to put the Broncos on the scoreboard.
The 80-yard drive was remarkable. Until that point, the Broncos hadn’t converted a third down and hadn’t gained more than 54 yards on a single possession.
With 2:44 to play, Denver opted for an onside kick and recovered after Miami’s Marlon Moore couldn’t hang on to the ball.
Tebow then went back to work, keeping the ball for a four-yard keeper to convert a third down just inside the two-minute warning. Tebow’s five-yard pass to Eric Decker along the sideline converted another third down and put the ball at the Dolphins’ 31 with 62 seconds left.
Two plays later, Tebow aired out a wobbly pass over the middle between a few defenders, but Fells managed to haul it in for a 28-yard gain. Tebow went to Fells again moments later, connecting with him on a screen in the right flat. Fells’ three-yard score brought Denver within 15-13.
Tebow got the call on the two-point try and ran off right tackle to get across the goal line, pumping his fists after reaching the end zone.
Having been saved by Tebow, the Broncos seemed destined to win in overtime. Linebacker D.J. Williams stripped Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore of the ball as he sacked him, then recovered at the Miami 36.
The Broncos ran the ball three times before Prater — who had missed two field goals earlier — made the winning kick with 7:24 left.
The final stretch of the game was a whirlwind, especially how Tebow played early on. He was nearly intercepted on one of his first passing attempts and spent a lot of time in the pocket looking for passing options, which sometimes led to him being sacked.
Tebow also fumbled in the final minute of the first half and missed receivers. He overthrew a wide-open Eric Decker in the middle of the third quarter and didn’t see a wide-open Fells with about seven minutes remaining, opting instead to throw the ball away.
But the Broncos were never really out of the game thanks to a strong defensive effort. They limited the Dolphins to two Dan Carpenter field goals in the first half and held them scoreless in the third quarter.
Miami reached the end zone six seconds into the fourth quarter, when Matt Moore connected with Anthony Fasano on a 16-yard score. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Dolphins’ lead at 12-0.
Carpenter kicked a 43-yarder through the uprights on their next touch.