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Sure, the Bears choked away an infuriatingly winnable game at Denver yesterday. And sure they - in particular Marion Barber of course - committed cardinal football sins that cannot be redeemed.
But the biggest problem was that they were facing a team on a streak. And the Broncos have made it clear that they - as Ron Shelton, the auteur of Bull Durham once wrote - respect the streak.
Crash Davis would have very much approved of the fact that the Broncos believe with all their hearts that their quarterback has something special working for him and they win because of it. Young pitcher Nuke LaLoosh believed he was winning in part due to chastity, in part due to breathing through his eyelids, and in part due to wearing garter belts under his uniform. Denver believes it is winning because it has a quarterback who owns the fourth quarter no matter how bad he plays during the first three. Their streak is now up to six games.
Who knows if Tim Tebow is benefiting from divine assistance or just good old-fashioned refuse-to-lose determination (along with really good defense and special teams)? After all, it seemed like the Bears were the ones getting help from above at various times throughout the game. (Like when they improperly defended the Denver's onside kick with just under two minutes remaining but took possession anyway, mostly because two Broncos ready to recover it banged into each other.)
I would imagine plenty of people will bust out some blame for the Bears' coaches for the fact that Barber ran outside on third-and-long. Their thinking will be that if they had just run it up the middle again, he would have had no chance of stopping the clock and giving the Broncos a chance. But this one was all on the running back. There are very few more fundamental maxims in football than don't go out of bounds when you are protecting a late lead. Since Pop Warner football, coaches have been yelling at Barber to stay in bounds in such situations. He didn't and the tide turned one final time.
Football is such a team game. If a defensive end grabs a sack there is a good chance the key factor was a good push up the middle by his teammates on the line. If an offensive guard pulls and keys a successful sweep with a pancake, he can almost always give thanks to the tackle or tight end who successfully set the edge. And, of course, quarterbacks need receivers and running backs need blockers.
So it isn't often that a single scapegoat emerges so prominently. But for Barber to do what he did at the end of regulation and to then fail to hold the ball properly and fumble it away on the play that would have put the Bears in field goal range in OT, well, he wears this loss. Of course the Bears could have done all sorts of things to put the game away earlier, but this is the way so many games go in the NFL. Plays must be made - or mistakes must not be made - in the final minutes.
The Bears are now down (a game in the race for a wild card) and probably out. Then again, they are in exactly the same boat the Packers found themselves in last year when Green Bay won only seven of their first 13 games and needed to win out to make the playoffs. Of course, those Packers had their starting quarterback on the case. And he was the biggest reason they finished the season with the ultimate streak.
"Good Lord!" writes Woody Paige in the Denver Post.
"If it's not divine intervention, it's opposition assistance.
"It's Matt Prater kicking winning field goals; it's Wesley Woodyard causing a fumble and Elvis Dumervil recovering the ball; it's Demaryius Thomas making a touchdown catch and the offensive line making ferocious blocks, and it's Timmy making the Tebow Thing happen.
"He has become the first quarterback in NFL history with six fourth-quarter comebacks in his first 11 starts, and only the second quarterback with four consecutive fourth-quarter victories. The other was Peyton Manning in 2009."
His last known tweet (around 1 a.m.) at the time (9:30 a.m.) of this post:
24marionbarber Marion Barber I WILL REMAIN....STILL IN PRAISE.....(PRAISE THE LORD! LET ALL THAT I AM PRAISE THE LORD......PSALMS 146:1 NLT).....HALLELUYAH 8 hours agoStay Classy, Urlacher
On Tebow: "He's a good running back."
Stay Classy, Peppers
On Tebow: "It wasn't anything special that he did."
The NFL's Official GameDay Highlights
Relive the nightmare.
From The Beachwood Twitter Feed:
* Tebow with enough time to do the Mass in Latin back there.
* Personal foul: Roughing the Christian.
* Tebow with enough time to create the animals back there.
* Tebow should point to God after that interception and blame Him.
* Maybe the #Bears offense could learn something from this logistics commercial.
* Broncos exploit Option on the Brain. #Bears
* Herm Edwards: #Tebow - Broncos methodically wearing down the Bears D.
* These teams are gonna score less than Beavis & Butt-head. #Bears #Broncos
* NotJayCutler: No score? Sounds like date night with Tim Tebow.
* Ironically for a Denver Bronco, Tim #Tebow is not in the Mile High Club.
* A scoreless tie is like kissing Tim #Tebow's sister.
* Colin Cowherd: Caleb Hanie has the weakest NFL arm I've ever seen and that includes Garo Yepremian.
* Faux John Madden: Robbie Gould hits a 57 yard field goal . . . Or what Tim Tebow calls "passing yards through 3 quarters of play"
* PaulPabst: Caleb Hanie is completing some really crisp handoffs.
* As part of new NFL parity rules, Josh McCown is also the backup QB for the Broncos today.
* #Broncos receivers making #Tebow look worse than he is. #Hanie knows how he feels.
* #MarionBarber was probably just running the play as Mike Martz called it.
* This just became one of the greatest games I have ever seen.
* Ray Ratto: Today's philosophical conundrum? Is there an NFL team Tebow could not Tebowify?
* Rainn Wilson: They should send Tim Tebow into Iran to get our drone back. With just a knife.
* Bruce Feldman: I am riveted watching Tebow & Denver play. But I have less and less interest in the TV coverage of him the 6 days in between.
* Josh Wolf: As soon as Tebow gets laid his superpowers will disappear. #supervirgin
* Scott Pianowski: Beating Caleb Hanie was no big deal for Tim Tebow: he conquered 100 guys named Caleb in The Bible.
* Raymond Pritchett: Stat of the day. Tim Tebow leads all NFL Quarterbacks in 4th Quarter passing yards since week 7 (the week he got his first start)
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