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Tebow keeps hope alive in Denver

The Broncos' Tim Tebow eluded the Jets' Eric Smith to score the decisive TD. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

There it was, on display for a national-TV audience on Thursday night. Every single reason people keep saying that Tim Tebow will never succeed consistently as a quarterback in the NFL. And every reason why Denver fans are jumping on this guy's back and riding him as far as he can take them.

Tebow was terrible for 54 minutes against the visiting Jets. He couldn't find any room to run against New York's defense and, just as everyone expects every time Tebow drops to pass, he kept launching miserable pass after miserable pass -- overthrowing a simple route down the middle, missing Eric Decker behind the Jets' defense, burying one in the ground with a receiver sitting open at the first-down marker.

Then, just when it looked like his Denver team was dead and buried, Tebow turned it on. Just as he did in Week 7 at Miami and with his out-of-nowhere TD bomb to Decker last Sunday at Kansas City.

The Jets, absurdly bad in their own right Thursday, had a 13-10 lead and pinned the Broncos on their own 5 with 5:54 left.

At that point, Tebow had a grand total of six completions and had rushed for just 11 yards. In the next five minutes, he'd hit three passes, and run for 57 yards and a touchdown.

"I trust him. I trust him with everything," Denver's sensational rookie Von Miller told the NFL Network's Alex Flanagan after the Broncos wrapped up its 17-13 win. "No matter how many interceptions he throws, how many touchdowns he throws, I'm going to ride with him to the end."

There's just no explanation for how this happened ... how this keeps happening.

Since Tebow took over as the Broncos' starting quarterback, this team has gone 4-1 and now sits just a half-game back of Oakland (which plays at Minnesota on Sunday) in the AFC West. Denver is very much alive in the playoff chase, an unbelievable thought for anyone who watched this team play -- or at least, watched the offense play; Denver's defense, led by Miller, continues to get better each and every week.

The Broncos kicked a field goal in the first quarter, thanks to 13-yard punt by the Jets, then did nothing until Andre Goodman picked off Mark Sanchez and took the ball to the house for a game-tying pick-six in the third quarter. In between, the offense sat idling for three quarters.

But if there's anything Tebow brings to the table, it's what Miller alluded to in his postgame comments: Hope. No matter the situation right now, this team keeps winning in the most stunning, unexpected ways.

By the time Denver marched to the Jets' red zone on that final, game-winning drive, you could just sense Tebow's big moment coming.

It arrived on 3rd-and-4 with a little more than a minute left. Denver spread the field with Tebow alone in an empty backfield. The Jets countered by bringing the house, an all-out blitz that forgot to contain Tebow in the pocket. So, Denver's QB rolled to his left and took off -- stopping only once he reached the end zone to scream in exuberance with the rabid Denver fans.

"We got in the huddle and just said, 'This is an opportunity when great things can happen and let's be great right now,'" Tebow said.

What were the Jets doing on that play, storming the middle of the field against a quarterback whose first instinct is to take off and run?

There's no easy answer for that, just as there are no obvious solutions for what ails New York right now. This was a team Rex Ryan declared Super Bowl worthy, now relegated to 5-5 and the very outskirts of the playoff race.

"We played a great game, then give up the big play at the end there on a mistake," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We have to find a way to get better. I believe this team will, but this one stings, there's no question."

Ryan likely will be alone is his assessment that the Jets turned in a "great" performance.

The offense, and in particular Mark Sanchez, looked just as out of sorts as Denver's, pre-Tebow magic. Sure, playing on Sunday night in Week 10, then traveling to Denver for a Thursday game was a tall order. Losing Shonn Greene early to injury, with LaDainian Tomlinson already on the shelf, certainly did not make the task any easier.

But great teams, heck even good teams, find a way to overcome.

Instead, the Jets watched Sanchez toss that deadly interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, which erased a 10-3 New York lead. Even the Jets' lone TD came on a fluke play, with offensive lineman Matt Slauson recovering a fumble in the end zone.

New York should be better than a 5-5 team. And Denver probably should be a lot worse off than that same 5-5 record. Here we are, though.

Good luck explaining how we got here.

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