ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After starting the season 1-3, the Broncos were sitting in last place in the AFC West, but had reason to be optimistic. Of their three losses, two were by a combined six points and the other one came at the hands of the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, who hadn't lost since Week 15 of the previous season.
With one second left on the clock, Tim Tebow scrambled feverishly to avoid the rush and launched a deep pass for the end zone with a chance to defeat the San Diego Chargers.
At one point in the fourth quarter the Broncos were down 16, now they were looking for the game-winning score as the ball soared towards the goal line. But Tebow's hopeful, 29-yard pass for Matt Willis was knocked away. Time ran out on a furious Denver comeback and the Chargers emerged with a 29-24 victory.
"Thought we had a chance there," Tebow said of the game's final play. "I was just trying to scramble around and see if we could find a one-on-one matchup in the end zone.
"Came up a little bit short."
TURNING POINT: When the Broncos jogged out of the tunnel after halftime down 23-10, they had a new starting quarterback: Tim Tebow. Though Tebow couldn't bring the Broncos back to victory, it was a turning point for the Broncos season. The Broncos left Sports Authority Field at Mile High that day with a 1-4 record, but with Tebow at the helm, the Broncos would finish the season 7-4 and make the playoffs.
KEY STATISTIC: Down 16 at one point in the fourth quarter, Tebow's 28-yard screen pass to Knowshon Moreno brought the Broncos within two points with 3:19 remaining. But for the last time all season, the two-point conversion failed as the Broncos went for the tie.
QUOTABLE: "There is a lot of fight in that locker room, and we've got a chance with that."
-Head Coach John Fox
For 57 minutes, the Broncos were held scoreless.
But it just took three minutes -- and overtime -- for them to make history Sunday.
Down 15-0 late in the fourth quarter, the Broncos scored two touchdowns and added a two-point conversion in the final 2:52 of regulation to become the first team in NFL history since the 1970 merger to come back from a 15-point deficit with three minutes left in a game and win.
"I kept believing and more importantly, I kept believing in the people around me that eventually we were going to be able to start getting things going, and eventually we did," said Tim Tebow, who was making his first start at quarterback of the season. "It started with little bits then we started getting chunks and we kept going. I was proud of our team that we kept getting up."
The comeback became complete after Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal halfway through the overtime to lift the Broncos to an improbable 18-15 victory over the Dolphins.
TURNING POINT: With 2:52 left in the game and no timeouts, the Broncos attempted an onside kick having just scored a touchdown to bring them within eight points – one possession. Dolphins receiver Mark Moore jumped up to grab the kick, but he was met by linebacker Nate Irving, who's hit helped knocked the ball loose. Fellow rookie Virgil Green was there to recover it, giving the Broncos the play it needed.
KEY STATISTIC: Tight end Daniel Fells had two receptions for 31 yards, but both of those catches were the biggest plays of the game up to that point. Firstly, with 56 seconds left and the ball at the Dolphins 31-yard line, Tebow found Fells, who made a diving 28-yard catch among three defenders over the middle to set the Broncos up with first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. A few plays later, Tebow again found Fells, this time on a misdirected screen pass, as the tight end ran into the end zone for the 3-yard score to set the Broncos up for the game-tying two-point conversion.
QUOTABLE: "You hear that old cliché, 'Never quit. You hear that all the time and I even scream it. Today it showed up and turned out to be true. That was amazing. Guys just kept fighting, that's all it was. Tebow did some spectacular things there in the last few minutes and got us the win."
The Broncos got on the board first against the visiting Lions with an eight-play opening drive and a field goal conversion to take a 3-0 lead.
From there, however, the Lions seized control, responding on the ensuing possession with a 41-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Titus Young en route to 45 unanswered points and a 45-10 win over the Broncos.
"I can speak for the whole team. I think we basically just got whipped," Head Coach John Fox said. "We got outcoached and outplayed and we've got a lot of work to do."
At first glance, it appeared to be a perfect start for Denver.
Behind solid gains on the ground from both Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball and a 14-yard completion from Tim Tebow to Eric Decker, the Broncos quickly moved into Detroit territory on the first drive of the game.
On second down from the Detroit 21-yard line, Tebow lofted a pass to the back of the end zone for Decker, who seemed to haul in a reception that would have given the Broncos a 7-0 advantage. But Decker was ruled out of bounds -- a ruling that was confirmed after Fox challenged the call.
Tebow's third-down pass then fell incomplete and Matt Prater came on to knock in the 39-yard field goal try.
"We had a good first drive," Tebow said, "but we've got to sustain that throughout the first half."
The Broncos couldn't and the early lead was short-lived.
TURNING POINT: After the Lions scored with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter to make it 17-3 – thanks in large part to a circus catch by tight end Tony Scheffler earlier in the drive – they scored again just before halftime on a Maurice Morris touchdown run to put the Broncos in a three-score hole at the half.
KEY STATISTIC: The Broncos weren't behind the Lions by far in many categories, but they turned the ball over three times, something the Lions never did. Detroit scored two touchdowns directly off two of those turnovers, with a 24-yard fumble return and 100-yard interception run back for scores.
QUOTABLE: "It was just one of those games where one thing went bad and then another. After that it all snowballed on us. They put points up on the board. It was tough today."
Broncos 38, Raiders 24
Just like that, Denver is back in the thick of the AFC West race.
The Broncos, trailing at halftime, scored 31 second-half points en route to a 38-24 win Sunday at O.co Coliseum, leaving them just a game behind a three-way tie for first place in the division.
"We're still in it," said Elvis Dumervil, who notched 1.5 sacks in the game. "It's going to be a long season -- we all know that. But I think we made a lot of strides today as a team."
Willis McGahee and the Broncos running game as a whole had huge days. The veteran back rushed for 163 yards and Tebow added 117 of his own, the first time a Broncos quarterback and running back both eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark since 1976.
It was part of a 299-yard rushing day -- the fourth-highest total in team history -- for the Broncos, who outgained the Raiders by 198 yards on the ground.
"Tebow's got the ball in his hands and he's dangerous," McGahee said of the mobile quarterback. "When I have the ball in my hands, I can be dangerous too. We have a (two-man threat) as far as running the ball. Tebow is doing a great job and hopefully we can keep this going and change things around towards the end of the season."
TURNING POINT: With the score knotted at 24, Eddie Royal fielded a punt at his own 15-yard line with six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, and ran 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown. McGahee would go on to add an insurance touchdown on a 24-yard run following the two-minute warning.
KEY STATISTIC: Champ Bailey had his first two interceptions of the season, giving him 50 for his illustrious career.
QUOTABLE: "It was a deep kick and I knew I had time to kind of set it up. I have to give the guys holding up the gunners a lot of credit – André Goodman and (Jonathan) Wilhite – they did a good job single pressing. I got up there and Dante (Rosario) made a great block, I cut off of him and the next thing I knew, it was just don't get caught."