Casual fans will remember the Denver Broncos‘ Thursday night win over the New York Jets for Tim Tebow‘s late game heroics. Down 3 points, after punting on the previous eight drives, the Broncos offense somehow drove 95 yards in the waning minutes against Rex Ryan‘s vaunted defense with the entire nation watching.
In the age of Sportscenter and five-second sound bites, fans have become accustomed to 60-minute games being summarized in one or two highlight plays. Thursday night in Denver, Tim Tebow’s 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was one of those plays.
If it weren’t for the clutch performance of a rookie, however, Sportscenter might be airing highlights of a different quarterback this weekend.
After Tebow put the Broncos up 17-13 with 58 seconds left, Broncos fans knew all too well how fortunes can change in the final moments of an NFL game. After all, just last season, the Jets offense negated a late Broncos lead by drawing a deep pass interference penalty on fourth down–despite being outplayed for much of the game. LaDanian Tomlinson then slipped through Denver’s orange-clad defensive front for the go-ahead touchdown. Kyle Orton fumble. Ballgame.
You know, for all his mistakes, Mark Sanchez has been very Tebow-like in his tenure with the Jets: He often makes up for inaccuracy and bad decisions when the game is on the line. Besides rallying in Denver, Sanchez orchestrated back-to-back overtime wins on the road last season to go with a final-minute winning drive against the Texans and, who could forget, besting Peyton Manning with a under a minute to go in a wild AFC Wildcard win.
So when Sanchez took over this time, the defense knew they needed one more big play. They got it in a big way from rookie linebacker Von Miller.
On third-and-10 with 38 seconds left, Miller exploded through protection to drill the quarterback, adding a final touch to Sanchez’s muddied white jersey.
The sack forced New York to burn a timeout, which proved to be critical when Denver inexplicably allowed a conversion on the subsequent fourth-and-19. With no timeouts remaining, the Jets were down to a Hail Mary. Their prayers weren’t answered this time around, though, as Champ Bailey batted down Sanchez’s final desperation heave with the game clock at zero. Ballgame.
Miller’s veteran play proved to be the nail in the Jets’ coffin Thursday night–perhaps in their playoff hopes this season, also.
And while the media recounts The Drive 2.0 and doles out much-deserved praise for the heroics of #15, those of us who bleed orange and blue will also remember the veteran play of #58. Here’s to hoping Miller and the Broncos find a way to finish the regular season as strongly as they finished off the Jets.