DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1: Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
After 1-4 start to the season, and then a "fluke" win over the Miami Dolphins on the road, it looked like the Denver Broncos were primed to be picking high in the draft, presumably replacing Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback and moving on 100 percent from the Josh McDaniels era.
After a blowout loss on their own turf to the Detroit Lions, being mocked at home and getting flat out embarrassed, it was starting to look like this team might not win another game the rest of the season.
Then, the magic started to happen. It does not matter if you think the comebacks were because of Tebow, the defense, the special teams, the coaching, or some other-worldly power--they happened, and the Broncos are in the playoffs because they ripped off six straight wins and seven out of eight in the middle of their season.
Sure, it wasn't pretty. We trailed in Miami by 15 with barely enough time to put one touchdown on the board before garbage time, much less come back and win. We trailed on the road in Oakland and wound up coming back to win in impressive fashion. We dominated Kansas City on their home field, went into San Diego and overcame a 10 point deficit, and came back to beat a surprisingly upstart Minnesota Vikings team in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
We beat the Chicago Bears down 10 points with 2 minutes remaining, and at 8-5, it looked like this Broncos team could seriously contend with a red hot New England team in December.
Something happened in the Patriots game, though. The Broncos couldn't hold on to the ball, and the defense couldn't overcome the offensive woes.
After getting out to a 7-0 lead against Buffalo, the Broncos got thrashed and couldn't take advantage of missed field goals and missed opportunities early for the Bills.
Then, despite shutting out Kansas City for quarters two, three, and four, the Broncos were unable to put one touchdown on the board the entire game and finished the season on a three game losing streak--again.
This time, though, the Broncos still made the playoffs. As has been the theme of the season, despite getting off to a bad start, finishing was the only thing that mattered and while the Broncos needed a little help from the San Diego Chargers in the last week, it's not because of the Chargers they are in the playoffs.
The Broncos and their players worked hard to get to eight victories, just one year removed from picking 2nd in the draft and being one of the worst Broncos squads in team history.
Pat Bowlen cleaned house, and then the new regime came in and cleaned house, and while this team was off to a predictably boring and sluggish start, the only thing that matters is that they finished with eight wins, in good enough position to make the playoffs.
It doesn't matter how you get to the dance, it just matters that you get an invite, because there are plenty of teams right now that would trade places with the Denver Broncos in a heartbeat.
Heck, that's where we've been since 2005-06 when we got shillacked by the Pittsburgh Steelers on our home field with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. We have been the fans saying, "Man, I would love to be the 7-9 Seahawks right now. Yeah, that was us.
That's why I find it so surprising how many people are complaining about how we "backed in" to the playoffs. I don't really care how we got there, as I am sure many of you will agree, even if it meant we had to have a little bit of help from our big brother who has been beating us up all these years, and it might have been a tough pill to swallow, but we're there all the same.
The Broncos might be going into the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder, or they might just be going in down in the dumps. They lost a team captain and one of the nicest guys on the team in Chris Kuper to one of the most ugly and disgusting injuries I have ever seen in my life, and they only won three out of eight games at home this season. I was there for one, the two point victory over the Cincinnati Bengals where Jonathan Wilhite was making big plays and Kyle Orton was still the quarterback.
Now, the Broncos have Tim Tebow at the helm, who is playing the worst football I have seen him play this year. When we were winning games, Tebow was not turning the ball over, and despite his poor completion percentage, he was still able to get the job done and at least help the offense be opportunistic.
Now that he is losing fumbles and throwing picks, the offense isn't getting into any sort of rhythm, and the defense is on the field that much more than they should be.
Of course, you could make an argument about coaching, dropped passes, etc., but the bottom line is, we gave Tebow a lion's share of the credit when we were winning games, so he's inevitably going to take most of the blame when we lose.
He knows he has to get better. The Broncos have plenty of tape on Tebow, seeing what he can do and they are not just going to look at a box score or read stats on Pro Football Outsiders.
That being said, Tebow has to step up. If he plays like he has the last three weeks, heck the last four weeks against Pittsburgh, we might just be exactly what everyone says we're going to be in the playoffs--a one-and-done.
But if there's one thing I know about Tebow, and a lot of this Broncos team, it's that guys step up when it's time to make clutch plays, and I think that's what you'll see this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I am really hoping the Broncos start calling more pass plays that involve receivers being spread out. I realize that Tebow needs the extra blockers to extend plays and allow him to take his time to make decisions, but I wonder what would happen if you gave him more players to get the ball to, extra options in the pass game.
I also wonder what would happen if the Broncos actually implemented the screen passing game into their offensive attack, something that went on injured reserve along with Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos seem to refuse to off-set eight and nine man fronts with the screen game, something that seriously baffles me. they also don't run any crossing routes or drag routes from what I can see.
But, that's enough of my complaining. Basically, I believe the Broncos are good enough to beat the Steelers, a beaten up Steelers team that is going to be motivated to prove that they should have been division champions. I'm not just hoping for good effort from the Denver, I'm hoping this team can prove these last three weeks were just bumps in the road in what has otherwise been a very entertaining and fun season to watch.
The last time the Broncos' season ended in the postseason against Pittsburgh, it was in a 34-17 loss that I can still very clearly remember. This time around, maybe the Broncos can get the upper hand and be the team with the young quarterback and upstart defense who shocks everyone in the playoffs.
Maybe, just maybe.