Tim Tebow didn’t complete a pass till there was about three minutes left in the third quarter.
The Broncos Sunday in Kansas City got their third win in four starts with Tebow, as the run game and a solid defense shut down the Chiefs in a 17-10 win to move to 4-5 on the year.
The win puts them a game behind the Oakland Raiders for first place in the AFC West, and drops the Chiefs to 4-5. The Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs are all in a 3-way tie for second in the division.
Tebow ran for a score in the first quarter and threw a long touchdown to Eric Decker in the fourth. He was just 2-of-8 passes and rushed nine times for 43 yards, but his two key plays led the Broncos to their third win in four games. He has been the Denver’s starting quarterback for each of those contests.
“You’re on a team to win games and that’s it, however you can do that,” Tebow said. “I’m a football player first before quarterback.”
Tebow’s performance was especially crucial Sunday because the Broncos lost Willis McGahee, their leading rusher, to a hamstring injury. Fellow running back Knowshon Moreno suffered a knee injury.
Lance Ball filled in with 96 yards on 30 carries, and the Denver defense played a big role in the victory by holding the Chiefs to two third-down conversions.
Matt Cassel threw for just 93 yards and a touchdown for Kansas City (4-5), which has scored just 13 points in its last two contests — both losses. He was pulled late in the game because of an undisclosed injury, replaced by Tyler Palko.
“I wanted to go, but I was told not to,” Cassel said.
The Broncos pulled out the victory thanks to two touchdown drives. Their first came during their first possession, which they started at their own 43-yard line.
McGahee ran for 12 yards on the first play, and Moreno later broke out for a 24-yard gain. He hurdled over Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers during the play, which brought the ball to the Kansas City six.
McGahee suffered his injury on the next play, when he was stopped near the line on a run up the middle and lost a yard.
But Tebow took advantage of the opportunity with a patient run. He received the ball in shotgun formation and took a few steps toward the line of scrimmage before pausing while a hole opened. After darting through that hole, he progressed toward the end zone, made another brief cut and crossed over the goal line.
Denver’s second touchdown came in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Broncos holding onto a three-point lead.
A series of runs by Ball got the Broncos near midfield, and the drive seemed to stall. But faced with a 3rd-and-10 at the 44, Tebow provided Denver with some cushion.
He dropped back and pump-faked slightly before airing out a long pass along the right side of the field. It was a near-perfect throw that dropped over Decker’s shoulder and enabled him to continue running into the end zone.
The score gave Denver a 17-7 advantage with 6:44 to play, and the Broncos’ defense forced a turnover on downs during the next two Kansas City possessions.
Ryan Succop did bring the Chiefs within a touchdown with a 32-yard field goal, but that came with only seven seconds to go. The Broncos recovered Kansas City’s onside kick to secure the victory.
There wasn’t a whole lot of offense between Denver’s touchdown drives.
The Broncos punted six times and got a 38-yard field goal from Matt Prater midway through the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Chiefs also punted six times and scored a touchdown in the third quarter.
They started at their own 35 and immediately got into Broncos territory thanks to a 34-yard run by Jackie Battle. The drive was nearly ruined by a Dexter McCluster fumble, which Denver lineman Robert Ayers recovered.
But the fumble ruling was overturned by a challenge, and Kansas City continued marching. After reaching the one, Cassel dropped back and used a flawless play-fake to get Broncos defenders to commit to the run, nonchalantly hiding the ball by his side while Chiefs fullback Le’Ron McClain sneaked into the end zone.
McClain was wide-open and made the catch with 8:10 left in the quarter, bringing the Chiefs within 10-7.