It was beyond comprehension at the start of the season; the Broncos making the playoffs. Yet here we are, the Broncos are at the top of the division with the Raiders and four games left to play. Next week the Raiders face the dominant Packers and the Broncos face the suddenly toothless Bears. Could Denver get up a full game on the Raiders? After that Denver faced the Patriots, and then they go visit the Bills and then at home against the Chiefs. Barring a complete implosion by the Broncos, there are potentially three solid wins sitting out there. The Raiders face a much tougher challenge against the Lions, and then the unpredictable Chargers and probably a win against the Chiefs. So, can the Broncos ride Tebowmania all the way to the playoffs? Possibly with a home game should they lock up the number four seed? Crazy. Just crazy. But it could happen, especially if they keep playing like they did against the Vikings:
Week 13: Denver 35, Minnesota 32 - The Denver defense allowed more yardage than usual, but they still made the plays when they counted. Two key interceptions on Ponder were the make or break moments for Denver’s chances of winning. But made those plays they did, and what a difference they made. Then, wonder of wonders, what should my wondering eyes behold, but a Tebow playing almost like a conventional QB. Making passes from the pocket; accurate passes, deep passes. The Vikings determined to make Tebow beat them with his arm; and he did. Tebow finished the day 10 of 15 for 202 yards and 2 TDs. That’s better than our 12 of 17 for 151 yards and a TD, but not by much. The big difference was he only rushed four times for 13 yards, short of the 30 we had in our game. The Vikings thought they could bottle him up, but he still found a way to win. Meanwhile McGahee went 111 yards and got a TD compared to the 123 yards and 2 TDs in our game. Ball had 25 yards in the game, which is exactly what he picked up in our sim. The real break-out, thought, was Thomas. He caught four passes for 144 yards and 2 TDs. Now if this turns into a trend, suddenly Tebow has a couple of receiver threats to go to when not scrambling on his feet. The Broncos look good, Tebow is improving, the defense got three sacks even without Miller; what are other teams going to do. Now if Denver can just get going earlier and play with the lead, then the playoffs are all but assured. Regardless, it’s been an exciting and amazing ride.
Let’s just assume a few things for this weekend’s game. Let’s assume that Adrian Peterson won’t be playing, and let’s assume that Von Miller will. With those two key parts in place, it seems very likely that if the Broncos stick with their script, they just might find themselves up another win after visiting Minnesota. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly going to be a cake walk. In our Madden sim Gerhart still rumbled for 78 yards, and Ponder was able to find deep-threat Percy Harvin at least once, but if the Broncos defense plays as well as it has, and if Tebow continues to improve his passing and protects the football, I think Denver walks away from this with another win. Here’s how it went down in our sim:
Week 13: Denver 28, Minnesota 3 - Things got off to a slow start. The Viking didn’t get far on their first drive and were force to punt. The Broncos got the ball and began their steady, methodical play driving down the field with a steady dosage of running the ball and the occasional pass. In fact, the only remarkable thing about the first quarter was that Tebow completed five in a row, all for short gains.
The second quarter began with Denver capping off their long drive with a 1 yard TD run by McGahee. After that, the teams traded a couple of punts, and then disaster struck. As Denver was finally making progress down the field once again, Tebow got spun around and fumbled the ball. Minnesota recovered and had their best opportunity up to that point to get into the game. Unfortunately for them, on the very next play, Gerhart fumbled as well, Miller scooped up the ball and sprinted 29 yards for a TD. Not the way the Vikings wanted to end the half, but it gave Denver a nice cushion, and they were receiving the second half kick.
Denver opened up the third quarter with a couple of runs, and in truth, that’s all they need. On the second rush of their drive, McGahee blasted through the defensive line and rumbled 73 yards for a TD. The Vikings finally got a decent drive going on their next possession, but it eventually stalled and they settled for a 38 yard field goal.
As the fourth quarter began, the Broncos once again chewed up clock and yards with a steady drive, but just as they got into field goal range, they started moving backwards. A holding penalty set them back 10 yards, and then Tebow got sacked for another loss of 8. However, on 2nd and 28, Tebow connected with Cosby down the middle for a 42 yard TD that pretty much sealed the game.
By this point, Minnesota had to all but abandon a ground game that truthfully served them pretty well, and would have meant more if they weren’t constantly playing from behind. However, the heavy focus on passing eventually led Ponder to throw an interception, and that was the end of it.
Tebow finished the day 12 of 17 for 151 yards and 1 TD, he also had 30 yards rushing. McGahee had a great day with 123 yards rushing and 2 TDs, and Ball added another 25 yards on the ground. And the Denver D certainly did their part as well. Ponder was constantly harried, was sacked twice and intercepted once. The defense also forced a fumble and recovered it for a score. The winning formula is still winning games for the Broncos in Madden, we’ll see if that remains true this Sunday for the real deal.