Don’t look now, but it looks like winning is becoming contagious for this group of Broncos players.
Wonderkid Tim Tebow and the Broncos did it again Sunday, as he engineered yet another comeback for the Broncos. Matt Prater’s 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining in overtime lifted Denver over the reeling Chargers, 16-13.
Tebow led Denver to a game-tying field goal with 1:34 left in regulation, then moved the ball into Chargers territory late in OT after San Diego’s Nick Novak pushed his 53-yard field goal attempt wide right.
After a first-down run by Tebow, Willis McGahee ran up the middle for a 24- yard gain to reach the Chargers’ 17-yard line. A kneel down by Tebow preceded Prater splitting the uprights to keep the Broncos (6-5) in the AFC West title hunt.
San Diego’s Ryan Mathews ran for a career-high 137 yards, 14 coming on a sprint off tackle to move the ball to the Denver 35-yard line with under five minutes remaining in overtime.
Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller tackled Mike Tolbert for a four-yard loss on 3rd-and-6 from the 31 to bring out the kicking unit. Even though an ill- timed timeout nullified a blocked kick, Denver stayed alive thanks to Novak’s unsuccessful kick
“I expected to make it. I didn’t do my job today,” Novak said.
Philip Rivers completed just 19-of-36 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown for the Chargers (4-7), who have dropped six straight on the heels of a 4-1 start.
San Diego’s last win came at Denver, a 29-24 victory that ended with Tebow taking over for an ineffective Kyle Orton down the stretch.
A Week 6 bye marked the turn for both teams, with the Chargers beginning their downward spiral and Tebow breathing life into the Broncos, who have gone 5-1 since and sit one game back of the division-leading Raiders.
“I don’t want to look into the future too much, but he definitely has helped our football team and we’re proud of the way he has played up until now,” Broncos head coach John Fox said. “He’s been protecting the ball very well, not turning it over and that always gives you a chance.”
Tebow completed at least 50-percent of his passes for the first time this year, connecting on 9-of-18 throws for 143 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 22 times for 67 yards and, as per usual, saved his best efforts for the fourth quarter.
Trailing 13-10, Tebow connected with Eric Decker for a 39-yard gain on 3rd- and-11 from the Denver 25-yard line.
“The offensive line did a great job on that play. That was a crazy play. We had two receivers crossing from the right, Decker going on a seam and coming back all the way to the left,” recalled Tebow. “He made a great play just like he does every game.”
A 23-yard hookup to Dante Rosario moved the ball to the 12, but the drive stalled and Prater kicked a game-tying 24-yard field goal with 1:34 showing.
San Diego moved the chains just once in the remaining time, and the first three possessions in the extra session ended in punts.
Novak booted a career-high 53-yard field goal on the game’s opening possession, and Antonio Gates caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to cap a lengthy 15-play, 91-yard drive midway through the second quarter.
The Broncos punted in enemy territory on their first two touches and had just one first down in the second quarter prior to their first scoring drive, which was made possible after San Diego failed to recover Daniel Fells’ fumble. Two plays later, the Chargers secondary bit on a pump fake and Tebow fired an 18- yard strike to Decker in the end zone with 55 seconds left in the half.
Novak made it 13-7 with a 25-yard field goal 5 1/2 minutes into the third, and Prater countered with a 41-yarder in the final minute of the quarter.
Novak pushed a 48-yard try wide right early in the fourth, and the Broncos gained the Chargers’ 33-yard line before a holding penalty negated Tebow’s first-down scramble down to the 21. An incomplete pass on the next play brought out the punting unit.
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