Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates after tying the score in the fourth… (Doug Murray / Reuters )
Tim Tebow's debut wasn't half-bad.
It was more than three-quarters bad.
But the Denver quarterback — each pass wobbling out of his hand like a waterlogged Nerf ball — somehow directed the Broncos to an 18-15 overtime victory at Miami on Sunday, reminding fans and critics alike that he simply knows how to win.
"It's tough to say, but man, Timmy did a great job," said Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, who played with Tebow at Florida. "Hopefully, the critics will get off him about what he can't do and talk about the things that he can do, and that's figure out a way to win the game, no matter what."
With less than six minutes remaining in regulation, the Broncos were down, 15-0, and Tebow had completed four of 14 passes for 40 yards with seven sacks. Of course, an NFL game is longer than 54 minutes. Denver finished with a head-spinning flurry of big plays that included two touchdown passes and a conversion run by Tebow; a successful onside kick; and a fumble forced and recovered by Denver in overtime that set up Matt Prater's winning 52-yard field goal.
"You can't lose confidence in yourself or you've lost already," said Tebow, who started three games at the end of last season. "When you get knocked down, you've got to keep getting back up."
Elsewhere Sunday, three other AFC West quarterbacks refused to give up. They just kept throwing interceptions.
• Three picks tossed by Oakland's Kyle Boller, who started in place of the injured Jason Campbell in a shocking 28-0 home loss to Kansas City.
• Three more against new Raider Carson Palmer, who replaced Boller in the second half and finished with a passer rating of 17.3.
• Two against San Diego's Philip Rivers, whose Chargers folded in the second half versus the host New York Jets and lost, 27-21.
Tebow was the only new starter to win Sunday. Washington's John Beck lost at Carolina; St. Louis' A.J. Feeley, starting in place of injured Sam Bradford, lost at Dallas; Minnesota's Christian Ponder had an impressive game and kept things close against undefeated Green Bay; and Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst lost at Cleveland.
As for the Chargers, they didn't start a new quarterback, nor did they feel the Jets were responsible for San Diego's loss.
"It's our fault," Chargers tight end Randy McMichael said. "You can ask any question you want to ask. The San Diego Chargers beat the San Diego Chargers. Nothing to do with the New York Jets. It's embarrassing."
For the Chargers, that's one loss. They're still atop a tightening division. The same cannot be said of the winless Dolphins, who have lost 12 of 13 at home and might be the first team of the season to dump its coach. Tony Sparano's 0-6 team has lost a league-worst nine in a row, dating to last December.
"I'm just discouraged for the players in the locker room," Sparano said. "They work really hard and we don't have anything to show for it right now."
Well, they do have something. Prime position for the right to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall next spring.
What were you thinking?
One of the strangest — and perhaps costliest — decisions of the day came in the Broncos-Dolphins game, when Sparano opted to go for two with 14 minutes 54 seconds to play and Miami leading, 12-0. The pass failed. Had the Dolphins simply kicked the extra point, Denver would have had to pull off a pair of two-point conversions, making their comeback even more unlikely.
After the game, Sparano defended the choice.
"It was the right decision," he said. "It was that time in the game. It was a fourth-quarter decision. You don't go for one there. Every football equation tells you to go for two in that situation. We went for two."
And what were you thinking?
Seattle defensive end Red Bryant made a big contribution at Cleveland, blocking a pair of field-goal tries. But Bryant blew it in the final moments, with the Seahawks trailing, 6-3, and about to take over for one last-gasp possession.
After Cleveland's Colt McCoy was sacked on third down with just over a minute to play, and Seattle's punt-return team was preparing to take the field, Bryant lost his cool and head-butted Browns tight end Alex Smith. Bryant was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected.
The Browns got the first down, McCoy took a knee twice, and the game was over.
"Dumb move on my part," Bryant said. "I take full responsibility for it. I'm supposed to be a leader. I lost my composure. You never know what could have happened if we got the ball back on offense."
It's a bird, it's a plane …
Among the more impressive highlights of the day came in the Washington-Carolina game, when Panthers rookie Cam Newton tried to high-jump into the end zone Superman style but was met at the goal line by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. It was a spectacular defensive play, and Fletcher celebrated by pretending to rip open his shirt like Clark Kent.