Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow says a prayer as General Manager John Elway… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
From San Diego -- The premise that a higher being doesn't really care about football games continued to be challenged Sunday.
Tim Tebow won another one. He led the Denver Broncos to a tie in regulation and a win in overtime. We aren't sure whether he is magical or mystical. We don't know when, or if, he will start multiplying loaves and fishes. Right now, we just know he wins.
This time, at the end of five quarters of National Football League action — well, that's too strong a word, but more on that later — it was the San Diego Chargers who had to genuflect before him.
These days, when Tebow takes a knee, it isn't a football term.
After the 16-13 win, completed when Tebow led his team from its 43-yard line with 2 minutes 31 seconds left in overtime, to the San Diego 19, from where kicker Matt Prater could end the game from 37 yards, Tebowmania was even more alive and well. Picture a snowball rolling downhill.
There is an aura of the surreal to this. Is he real or is he Memorex?
Tebow has won five of his six starts, and the Broncos are now 6-5. Sunday's success meant that Tebow has led Denver on scoring drives in either the fourth quarter or overtime 11 times in the Broncos' last seven games. The most frightening sight for NFL opponents now is Tebow with the ball, the score in reach and the clock ticking down.
The truth is that running back Willis McGahee, and the line in front of him that opened the hole, won this game. McGahee made a 24-yard burst up the middle that set up Prater's field goal. But as long as Tebow has his hands on the steering wheel, the faithful will see only the bus driver. It is a phenomenon quite understandable in our current celebrity-crazed culture.
To those who have just returned from an African safari, Tebow is a story with multiple layers. He took Florida to a national championship and won a Heisman Trophy, and all that did was convince pro scouts that he was a great "college" player.
The previous Broncos regime ignored all the alleged flaws — too slow, not an NFL passing arm, etc. — and drafted him, anyway. He showed signs of clutch play last season, then took over out of some degree of desperation this season when the Broncos started 1-4. He was a big name, a college star. So if you can't win, you might as well sell some tickets.
Now, the discussions of Tebow's NFL skills have become polarizing.
The Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, John Elway, has been less than bubbly about Tebow's long-term prospects. Asked if, with Tebow's recent success, he thought the team had arrived at its long-term quarterback, Elway said, "No."
That brought the tweeters out of the woodwork, and one was so incensed that he tapped out, "John Elway is a Mile High jackass."
Yes, that was in reference to the most famous and successful Denver Broncos quarterback.
Most divisive is the religious stuff.
Tebow has always worn his religious beliefs on his sleeve, and maybe his chinstrap, if they'd let him. He began his postgame news conference Sunday by thanking "my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" and ended it with "God bless."
No less than Jake Plummer, a few years ago the Broncos' starting quarterback — and with much success — has publicly asked Tebow to keep the God stuff to himself, to act like his news conferences are from a podium, not a pulpit. Tebow hasn't even blinked at that. He thanked Plummer for all the other nice things he said about him and continued to honor Jesus Christ for wins and touchdowns.
Teammates, whom Tebow praises abundantly, right after he takes care of Jesus Christ, seem somewhere between tolerant and tired of this ongoing T-party.
Center J.D. Walton, asked afterward about Tebow's mushrooming popularity, said, "He seems to do OK for himself."
McGahee, who had 117 yards in 23 carries, was asked about Tim Tebow being 5-1.
"It's not just Tim Tebow," McGahee said. "It's the whole team."
Tebow, for his part, smiles, takes time for everybody, answers questions as thoughtfully as he can and does his best to do exactly what his hordes of followers and advocates don't always do — give credit to others.
Columnist Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune captured this current ga-ga fan base as follows: "People are thinking with the glands," Canepa wrote.
Still, it is difficult to dismiss, or dislike, a player who not only wins, but tries so hard to be nice; so hard, as a matter of fact, that his news conferences almost leave a scent of syrup.
Asked about the current Tebow Twitter craze, he didn't downplay it. He embraced it and told the story of an ill youngster who had tweeted that he was "Tebowing while chemo-ing."
"Tebowing" has become the description of going to one knee in religious gratitude and respect, as Tebow does after big moments.
There was no arguing that Tebow gave substance to a game that otherwise had none. In summary, the Chargers were dreadful and the Broncos, not any better, had Tebow. If this is the same San Diego team that has Tim Leiweke spending Phil Anschutz's money to build a fancy stadium, somebody needs to talk to Leiweke. He can build it, but for this team, Los Angeles won't come.
The only drama of the day was whether Tebow would do it again and whether this game would ever end.
The Broncos play at Minnesota on Sunday. In the spirit of fair play, somebody needs to pray for the Vikings.