Tebow, Broncos win fifth straight
Denver now tied atop AFC West
MINNEAPOLIS - Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos came through again with a strong, determined finish after enduring another slow start.
This time, Tebow was in a groove the entire second half - not just in the waning minutes - and his teammates on defense were getting gobbled up. But there they were in the end, emulating Tebow’s late-game touch.
Tebow passed for a season-best 202 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns to help the unflappable Broncos win their fifth straight game, 35-32, over the Minnesota Vikings yesterday on Matt Prater’s 23-yard field goal as time expired.
“I know that I had a lot of help. Offensive line did a great job, and receivers stepped up and made me look a lot better than I really am,’’ said Tebow, who completed 10 of 15 passes, his best percentage as an NFL starter, and posted a career-high passer rating of 149.3.
Prater kicked two field goals in the final 93 seconds for the Broncos (7-5), who forged a first-place tie in the AFC West with a loss by the Oakland Raiders. Christian Ponder set Minnesota’s rookie record for a game with 381 yards passing, including a pair of long touchdowns to Percy Harvin, but his sideline throw with 1:33 remaining was intercepted by Andre Goodman and returned to the 15-yard line.
Lance Ball’s first-down run for 11 yards brought Denver to the 4 with 1:12 remaining, and the Vikings decided against letting the Broncos score right away and took their chances with a shank or a block instead. Denver drained the clock for Prater’s winner and raised its record to 6-1 with Tebow as the starter.
“Hard to argue. That guy wins games,’’ Ponder said.
Harvin had a career-high 156 yards for the Vikings (2-10), who lost their fourth in a row.
In seven games with Tebow, the Broncos’ offense has 30 first-half points. They were blanked in this one, scoring only because of Mario Haggan’s 16-yard interception return in the first quarter. Tebow’s third turnover of the season, a sack by Jared Allen that forced a fumble with 39 seconds left before halftime, led to a field goal.
After serving as the backbone of Denver’s resurgence, putting Tebow in position for all of those rallies, the Broncos gave up 489 yards. But they picked off Ponder twice, recovered his fumble, and applied enough pressure to equalize the game.
“It’s been fun, a fun ride,’’ Haggan said. “This team is close, believes, has a lot of character, but we’re not done.’’
With Denver trailing, 22-14, late in the third quarter, Tebow left the pocket and delivered an on-target, across-the-body throw to Demaryius Thomas, who ran the rest of the way for a 41-yard score.
Harvin’s second score, a 48-yard catch and run, was the first fourth-quarter touchdown given up by the Broncos in five games and made it 29-21 Minnesota.
But Tebow hit Thomas for 42 yards, and Willis McGahee rumbled into the end zone from 24 yards. Tebow rolled to his right on the tying 2-point conversion.
Ryan Longwell’s third field goal, with 3:06 left, made it 32-29 Vikings.
Tebow had a 40-yard pass to Thomas to help set up Prater’s tying 46-yard field goal with 1:33 to go.