The game is tied up. It is now the fourth quarter. And although many analysts have pegged Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos as favorites to beat out the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West crown, the odds–in terms of the Broncos’ recent history in December–appear bleak. Can you say Tebow Time?
There is no question that Tebow’s mettle has inspired teammates. He has also humbled well-respected opponents–among them Jared Allen and Darrelle Revis–both victims of Tebow-fueled comebacks in recent weeks. One Dolphin is even crediting Miami’s turnaround to God inspiring them through Tebow in a Week 7 loss.
And now, having made their living in crunch time, the Denver Broncos enter the final four games of the regular season. If Tebow and co. really do come alive when the pressure is on, then the Broncos should pull out their most improbable comeback of all: their first AFC West title since 2005. To do it, though, they will need to defy recent history.
If you think about it, a season-long comeback is exactly the opposite of what Broncos fans have become accustomed to.
In 2006, Mike Shanahan‘s Broncos started off 7-2, then lost in historic fashion to miss the playoffs in a “win-and-you’re-in” Week 17 game at home. 2008 saw one of the worst late-season collapses in NFL history, with Denver blowing a three-game division lead with three games to go, again losing in the final week of the season with a playoff spot on the line.
Then, in 2009, Josh McDaniels led the Broncos to a perfect 6-0 start, and with a new coach and quarterback, we swore things were different. Like Bronco teams past, the 2009 squad had a great record early, aided by strings of nail-biting victories and some immaculate in-game luck (Brandon Stokley, anyone?). But by Week 17, the Broncos had, again, crashed and burned.
Folks, we’ve been here before.
Sometimes win-loss records can be deceiving, and you have to trust your eyes. Jason Elam‘s heroics in 2007, the Ed Hochuli gift in 2008, Brandon Stokley in 2009–they were all entertaining, but they also all carried with them a lesson in tempering expectations. If history repeats itself and the Broncos fall apart late yet again in 2011, won’t the onside kick in Miami or Nate Kaeding‘s miss in overtime feel a lot like nail-biters in the past–exciting but uncomfortable at the same time?
Harvard students have concluded that Tebow’s luck has to run out soon. I wonder if the numbers would have said the same about Shanahan and McDaniels teams past.
Watching these 2011 Broncos win has been exciting, no doubt, but the excitement feels less like watching the Green Bay Packers win–entertaining for their dominance–than it feels like watching somebody flip tails 10 times in a row, marveling at the mystery and wondering when it will stop.
If Tebow and the Broncos continue to improve while they win, this time, it doesn’t have to.