Tim Tebow’s appearance after halftime probably would have been enough to make Broncos fans feel good about losing to the Chargers even if he didn’t lead two touchdown drives and give them a longshort chance to win on the final play of the game.
Tebow did those things, though, and that’s why it feels like the 29-24 loss was the start of a new era under center in Denver. Tebow didn’t throw the ball particularly well and the third quarter looked a lot like the first two, but he eventually moved the team well enough to get them a chance to pull off the upset. Tebow ran three straight times for 23 yards and a score with a little under seven minutes to play and then, after a key challenge by John Fox got what was ruled an incomplete pass changed into a fumble by Philip Rivers, the Broncos got the ball back in Chargers territory. Tebow ran for eight more yards and then hit Knowshon Moreno on a short pass that the running back turned into a touchdown.
Tebow’s two-point conversion pass to Brandon Lloyd was broken up and the Chargers put together a three-minute drive that wound up with Nick Novak’s fifth field goal of the day. Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams picked up a bad unnecessary roughness penalty to help the Chargers down the field, but the Chargers were able to move the ball most of the day — 418 total yards — on the Denver defense without any outside help. They failed to cash in with touchdowns in the red zone and turned the ball over twice, two big reasons why Tebow got a shot to win the game.
Tebow had a shot at the very end, scrambling for eons before throwing a pass that Matthew Willis couldn’t grab in the end zone. He completed two passes for 51 yards to move the team in position, but those passes come with a pair of asterisks. They were his only downfield completions of the game and both came against prevent defense, so there’s clearly a lot of work that needs to be done. That work isn’t going to get done on the bench, though. Given how little Orton moved the team on offense and how much Tebow got done in the fourth, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fox opt for a more permanent change especially with his team 1-4 and going nowhere fast.
That’s a lot of chatter about a losing quarterback, so let’s turn back to the Chargers. They are now 4-1 and a game ahead of the Raiders in the AFC West, but there’s still a sense that they aren’t doing what they need to do on the field. They almost blew a 16-point lead today, continuing a trend of struggling to win games against mediocre or worse teams this season. Wins are wins, but you’d like to see more from a team that was talked about as a Super Bowl contender coming into the season. There are excuses for Sunday’s second half — Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert both left with injuries after gashing the Broncos in the first half — but the simple fact is that we’ve yet to see a full 60 minutes from the Chargers this season.
Maybe that’s a good thing and they’ll be a juggernaut when they finally put together a complete game. Or it could be a sign of bad things to come when the Chargers’ schedule forces them up in class.