Once again in astounding, have-to-see-it-to-believe-it fashion, the Denver Broncos emerged victorious in another overtime affair on Sunday afternoon in the Mile High City. This weeks’ victim was the Chicago Bears (7-6, third in NFC North), who now find themselves reeling after three consecutive losses.
The win improves the Broncos to 8-5 on the season and 7-1 with Tim Tebow at starting quarterback. With three games remaining, the Broncos find themselves one game ahead of the Oakland Raiders and alone in first place in the AFC West standings.
The story of the game is beginning to become same old, same old for Denver.
The Broncos struggled offensively for most of the game, failing to put points on the board for better than 50 minutes of play and being in the game late thanks almost entirely to standout defense. Yet in the end, Denver made some plays, got some breaks and found a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“I think we're re-writing the book on keep fighting,” said an elated Denver Head Coach John Fox after the game.
The Broncos did not score their first points until just over two minutes remained in regulation.
Denver capped off a 7-play, 63-yard drive with a pass from a scrambling Tebow to a wide open DeMaryius Thomas in the end zone. With the touchdown, Thomas – who is known as “Bay-Bay” to his teammates – atoned for an earlier drop that would have resulted in an easy touchdown for the often-injured, second-year receiver out of Georgia Tech.
On the Broncos opening possession of the second half, Thomas got open over the deep middle after turning around Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman. Tebow’s pass was right on the money and literally went right off Thomas’ fingers. Bay-Bay’s 3 drops on the afternoon could something taken away from another strong performance (7 receptions for 78 yards and 1 touchdown) for the former Yellow Jacket.
In his last two games, Thomas has begun to show signs of living up to his first round draft status by tallying 11 receptions for 222 yards and three scores. He continued to shine in the overtime period.
On a pass from Tebow to the far sideline, Thomas leaped backwards against his momentum to snag the ball out of the air for a 16-yard gain that put the Broncos at the Chicago 40, well within placekicker Matt Prater’s field goal range.
“I saw the ball coming and I thought, if I make this catch and put us in field goal (range) it will be great, I won't worry about the drops,” Thomas said of the second of his two overtime receptions.
Thomas and the Broncos, however, would not have been in position to come back and win the game had it not been for 110 yards worth clutch field goals from Prater and a pair of devastating mistakes from Chicago running back Marion Barber.
After the touchdown pass to Thomas at the 2:05 mark, the Broncos found themselves without a timeout and thus no way to stop the clock, unless of course, a Bears ballcarrier went out of bounds.
Following a run for no gain and the two-minute warning, the Bears handed the ball to Barber who ran to his left, turned up field (rather than just go down in bounds and run another 40 seconds off the clock) but got dangerously close to the sideline and was pushed out of bounds by Broncos outside linebacker DJ Williams.
Denver stopped Barber on third down and Chicago punted. The Broncos took possession at their own 20 with only 56 seconds remaining on the clock. Yet everyone in the stadium and watching from their living rooms and sports bars around the country could foresee what was going to happen.
Tebow completed three passes, spiked the ball at one point to stop the clock, and scrambled (out of bounds) for no gain. All was left to send the game to overtime in a 10-10 tie was a 59-yard field goal try. Prater’s kick was a no-doubter the moment it left his foot; the ball sailed through the uprights with room to spare as time expired.
Fox said Barber running/getting pushed out of bounds “gave us about 35 extra seconds,” in other words, enough time for Tebow to move Denver into Prater’s range.
Like Thomas earlier in the game, Barber had a chance to atone for his earlier mistake as Chicago won the coin toss and got the ball first in overtime.
Yet Barber not only failed to make up for his earlier error but instead hurt his team once again.
The Bears moved down field and got close to kicker Robbie Gould’s field goal range. On a third and seven run from the Denver 38, Barber burst through the line and had nothing but 35 yards of daylight between himself, the end zone and a game-winning touchdown.
Yet, miraculously, Broncos nickel linebacker Wesley Woodyard was able to get his hand on Barber’s right (ball-carrying) arm and force a fumble.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Denver moved downfield and Prater nailed a 51-yard kick with what appeared to be even greater ease than with which he made good on his earlier 59-yard attempt.
“Your heart is definitely beating a little more on those type of kicks...but I've got confidence in myself,” Prater said in the Broncos locker room after the game.
“I wouldn't call this a miracle team, I'd say we're fighters, we compete to the end, we finish strong,” was how defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who recovered Barber’s overtime fumble, said when speaking to the media following another amazing Denver win.
Whether or not the Broncos are a miracle team is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the Broncos continue winning games in miraculous fashion.