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'A Winner'

Posted Dec 26, 2010

Making his second career start, Tim Tebow led the Broncos to a come-from-behind victory against Houston. Champ Bailey called the rookie quarterback 'a winner.'

DENVER -- After a decorated college football career at Florida, Tim Tebow knows a thing or two about playing in big games.

The two-time NCAA National Champion said the excitement leading up to important contests ends up creating more nerves than in-game situations. By kickoff, it's just fun.

As the Broncos offense took the field in the middle of the fourth quarter on Sunday at INVESCO Field at Mile High with a chance to take its first lead of the game against Houston, Tebow found himself in a familiar situation. With the crowd at full buzz, the rookie signal-caller realized he had just enough time to make his home starting debut just a little more fun.

"The momentum is behind you, we were believing in each other," Tebow said. "We knew we had an opportunity to go down and give us a great shot to win the game and we wanted to take advantage of it."

Tebow capped the ensuing 12-play, 76-yard drive with a 6-yard scamper to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Minutes later, the 2010 first-round pick  stepped on the field to get into the victory formation and run out the clock on a 24-23 comeback win -- his first as a starter in his second NFL start.

On a day that started with his first interception as a pro as part of a scoreless first half for the Broncos, Tebow added a new entry to his impressive football legacy. The 23-year-old led the team to a come-from-behind victory, directing four second-half scoring drives to beat the Texans.

"No matter what he does," Mario Haggan said, "good things seem to happen."

Tebow's performance in the win came with a gaudy stat line to rival any posted by the previous 11 rookie quarterbacks to make a start in team history.

Tebow finished 16-of-29 passing for 308 yards with a touchdown and added 27 rushing yards and a score on the ground. He bounced back from a first-quarter interception to post the most passing yards by a rookie since John Elway threw for 345 yards against Baltimore in 1983.

But more importantly, Tebow also shined when it mattered most.

In the decisive final quarter, the quarterback finished 5-of-10 passing for 76 passing yards with 25 rushing yards and both scores. He orchestrated a comeback from down 17-0 entering the third quarter, which tied the largest halftime deficit ever overcome in a win in team history.

On the two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, the Broncos converted all four of their third-down opportunities -- on three Tebow completions and a pass interference penalty.

After taking a final kneel to run out the clock, Tebow left the field clutching the game ball -- a souvenir he called "definitely one I'm going to keep."

"(Tebow) deserves this win," Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville said. "He led this football team and did the things we asked him to do."

In the minutes after the game, Tebow described his progress from his first start in Oakland a week ago. He said he learned about managing the game and understanding communication in the huddle and with the coaches on the sidelines.

Those lessons helped down the stretch as he showed an ability to throw downfield and command an offense to lead the team back.

Tebow impressed his teammates with his poise and ability to make plays with his legs. Champ Bailey called him, simply, "a winner."

"You see that guy out there making plays and doing what he can do on every single play," Jabar Gaffney said, "and you got to go out there and try to do the same."

Tebow didn't want to speculate if his cool performance under pressure earned him a chance to start the season finale -- next Sunday at INVESCO against San Diego. His coach did not confirm a starter for the game, either, preferring to enjoy the win in the short-term and address the issue on Monday.

The rookie quarterback, who ranked the experience up with his biggest college wins, merely hoped that he showed what many who followed his career as a Gator already knew.

"I do not know necessarily what I showed, except I am someone that is going to play until the end and I love this game and I am going to play it with all my heart," Tebow said. "Any time I get the opportunity, I am going to play every second that I get, as hard as I possibly can."

It's a trait teammates said will serve Tebow well as his career progresses.

In the fourth-quarter, Brian Dawkins gathered the defense to stress the importance of staying together as a team and fighting until the end, according to Syd'Quan Thompson. The rookie -- who later made the game-sealing interception -- credited the talk with sparking the defense down the stretch.

After the game, Dawkins credited Tebow's ability to provide a similar lift as one of his greatest assets.

The 15-year veteran safety could tell the youngster had done it before -- and his ability to do it again ensured the Broncos' fourth win of the season.

"He's just going to do everything that he can in his power to keep plays alive if he can, and then to battle until the end," Dawkins said. "That's one of those traits that we've all heard about and we were able to see it first hand."