For as unimpressive 2017 and most of 2018 have been, the Denver Broncos had it much worse in 2010. In his second season as head coach, Josh McDaniels continued to ferret out players popular and replace them. It wouldn’t be McDaniel’s 3-9 record that would get him fired following a loss to Kansas City in week 13 alone, you must also factor in a cheating scandal surprisingly similar to the one that rocked the New England Patriots just a couple years earlier.
Interim coach Eric Studesville dropped his first game to the Arizona Cardinals with Kyle Orton under center. Following that week 14 defeat, Studesville finally gave fans what they long-hungered for and made the change at quarterback to Tim Tebow to face the Oakland Raiders. Although the Broncos didn’t beat Oakland, there was movement in an offense that had been largely declared deceased.
Then, the day after Christmas on December 26, 2010, the Houston Texans came to Mile High and witnessed Tebow’s first miracle.
As with any good miracle story, there needed to be a fair amount of adversity to overcome to make it special. I had the good fortune to be at this game and I remember slumping in my seat high in the upper deck of the north stands as the game went into halftime. Broncos were down 0-17, and there hadn’t been much of anything to get excited about. I may have been downright surly at that point.
Then, suddenly, in the 3rd quarter there was life in the Broncos. Running back Lance Ball ripped off a 15-yard run that was quickly followed by a Tebow pass to Jabar Gaffney for 50-yards. A couple of Correll Buckhalter rushes later and a Steven Hauschka PAT, Denver was on the board with 7. The remainder of the quarter would feature a tit-for-tat exchange of field goals, Houston with two and Denver with one.
With Gary Kubiak’s Texans up 23-10, Broncos fans started to feel that something special was about to happen when, Tebow again connected with Buckhalter for a 23-yard touchdown. What had been a game wrought with hopelessness had suddenly become a game Denver could actually win. Could this be a come from behind win like we saw in the old Elway days? Could Tebow actually do it?
With 3:00 left in the 4th quarter, Tebow scrambled 6-yards for the tying touchdown. Steven Haushka provided the extra point and Denver was in the lead with just minutes left to play.
Broncos fans in the stadium got nervous when Texans QB Matt Schaub maneuvered Houston from their 17 to the Denver 40, but then the miracle was complete.
Future Bronco Owen Daniels went over the middle for a pass that was hauled in by Bronco Syd’Quan Thompson. To the stadium chanting his name “Tebow, Tebow, Tebow,” Tim commanded the victory formation and the Denver Broncos got their final win of the 2010 season.
After years of Jay Cutler let-downs and scandalous cheating Patriots coaches, here was a legitimate come from behind win that showed grit and determination. It was a damn miracle in the darkness of a lost season. The fans needed it. In Tim Lynch’s article following the game, he noted its importance in terms of the belief it instilled in fans.
Mile High Magic isn’t some mystical aura that ensures the Broncos snatch victory from the clutches of defeat; no, it is people who believe that they will be led to victory. It takes a unique person to embody that belief within the minds of other players and fans. John Elway had that kind of effect on people and now, it appears, Tim Tebow may have that effect on people as well.
The magic never left the Mile High city; people just stopped believing in it. Last week, we got a taste of that magic and it tasted good. I have not felt that way since the AFC Divisional playoffs in 2005. Is this how Tebow’s legend begins? Or will it be a blip, an anomaly on what will become a forgettable football career? Tim Tebow has surely gotten off on the right foot and a win this weekend will only help continue his rise to greatness. As a fan, I am certain of only one thing - I will never again lose hope during a game until that clock runs down to zero-zero.
Looking back on his words, the Houston game was where the Tebow legend began. As we’ve seen this week with all the love for Demaryius Thomas following his trade to Houston, you can’t tell the story of Demaryius without the final penultimate act of the Tebow era - that Tebow pass that sealed an overtime victory over the Steelers in the playoffs.
This Sunday Denver faces the Texans again at Mile High. Tebow won’t be be there, but the magic that is Mile High will be. Maybe a little belief is all Denver needs to turn this season around. I’m game. Are you?