Rave reviews pour in for Denver's Tebow

LYLE FITZSIMMONS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

He may not fit the mold of Manning, Montana and Brady, but there's no denying Tim Tebow has turned heads after just two weeks calling signals for the Denver Broncos.

In his second NFL start, the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at the University of Florida helped rally his team from a 17-point halftime deficit to a 24-23 defeat of the visiting Houston Texans Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High.

The Broncos scored on each of four second-half possessions against Houston, which saw Tebow run up 308 passing yards for the game after managing just 138 in his initial start against the Oakland Raiders a week prior.

Tebow threw just 16 passes and completed just eight in a watered-down game plan against Oakland, but was 16-of-29 with a touchdown and an interception against the Texans, who entered the game with the league's worst pass defense.

"He is exactly what you thought coming out of college," Houston head coach Gary Kubiak said of Tebow. "He is a winner. He will find a way to make a play. He will find a way to move the chains. He found a way to win a game [Sunday], and that is what this league is about."

NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders, a multiple-time All-Pro during his 14- season playing career as a cornerback, concurred.

"Forget his delivery and his arm action and his accuracy," Sanders said. "He gets the job done."

Interim Denver head coach Eric Studesville said Tebow will start this Sunday's season finale at home against San Diego, though Studesville is not expected to retain the job into next season, meaning a new coach will decide Tebow's fate with Denver in 2011.

The rookie reportedly received front-office assurances that he's a part of the team's future after former coach Josh McDaniels was fired. McDaniels was believed to have championed Tebow�s 25th overall selection in April�s draft.

Meanwhile, previous starter Kyle Orton signed an $8.8 million extension for 2011 during training camp that included $5.5 million in guaranteed money. Studesville said Orton would not have been able to play against the Raiders because of bruised ribs in Week 15, but stated he was ready to go heading into the game against Houston.

Orton has thrown for 3,653 yards on 293-of-498 passing this season, with 20 touchdown throws and nine interceptions. He threw for 3,802 yards with 21 touchdowns in 2009, his first season with Denver after being acquired as part of a trade that sent Jay Cutler to Chicago.

"There definitely was progress [with Tebow]," Studesville said. "He got much better. He made plays and he scrambled and did some things. He threw the ball well, got the ball down the field, and he continues to keep developing. And that's what it is: The more he plays, the better he'll get.

"Everything wasn't perfect. It wasn't perfect. But he'll get up there, and he'll look at the tape, and he'll get better from those things, and we'll get better [production] from him and the more he's in there."

CHIEFS: There�s no history like revisionist history for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Winners just 10 times in 48 games over the previous three seasons heading into 2010, the once-moribund franchise completed a remarkable turnaround by defeating Tennessee, 34-14, on Sunday to clinch its first AFC West championship since 2003.

And what's more noteworthy, the Kansas City roster is still dotted with a host of players considered liabilities during the franchise's recent struggles.

"The first thing you have to do when you come into a new situation is you have to be right on who the guys are that you keep around, that you think have a chance to be a part of what you're trying to do," head coach Todd Haley said. "We had to make some tough decisions. At least it looks like we were right on a lot of those decisions."

Among those kept in the fold when Haley arrived in 2008 were wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson and running back Jamaal Charles.

All had been considered underachievers under previous head coaches and front offices.

"A little bit of both [holdovers and newcomers]," Haley said about the assembly of the current roster. "To be a successful team year in and year out, you have to develop your second, third and fourth-year players, and even fifth-year players. The way you do that is with coaching. To be successful you need good players and good coaching. You can't just do it with one or the other. You just can't."

Among the additions made by Haley and general manager Scott Pioli were starting quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, both of whom Pioli had worked with during a previous personnel tenure with the New England Patriots.

Additionally, safety Eric Berry was chosen with the fifth overall pick of April's draft, and Haley filled out his coaching staff with respected veterans Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, both of whom are in their first seasons as the team's offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.

"It's hard to put into words how big their impact has been," Haley said of his assistant coaches.

Bowe set a team record this year with touchdown catches in seven consecutive games and had a 75-yard catch-and-run for a score on Sunday, his franchise- record 15th of the season. Charles caught two touchdown passes against the Titans and boosted his season rushing total to 1,380 yards. He's averaging nearly six yards a carry.

Hali leads the Chiefs with 11 sacks, while Dorsey has become a solid defensive lineman. And Johnson, drafted in the first round in 2005, was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after making 17 tackles against St. Louis on Dec. 19.

"They're all a bunch of guys who are developing each and every day," Haley said. "You can see that. The coaches have done a terrific job last year and this year of helping in that process and the players themselves have done a terrific job. It feels good as the head coach to see some of these guys grow up before your eyes and become players before your eyes."

RAIDERS: They're no longer in contention for an AFC West championship or a playoff berth, but Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable is insisting to his team that it still has plenty to play for this week in a season finale against the first-place Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders, now 7-8, were eliminated from the playoff race early Sunday, then were dealt a 31-26 loss by Indianapolis in a late afternoon game at the Oakland Coliseum.

"[We can] finish at .500, undefeated in the division," linebacker Quentin Groves said. "That's big. Use it as a springboard for next season."

Finishing 8-8 would end a streak of seven losing seasons for the Raiders, and a win Sunday would make Oakland the first team in league history to finish unbeaten in its division and not make the playoffs.

"Our goal was to make the playoffs," tight end Zach Miller said. "That's over, so now we have to look to do whatever we can do, and that's be 6-0 in the division and finish 8-8. So that's what we're going to focus on."

Coming into 2010, the Raiders hadn't won more than five games in a single season since advancing to the Super Bowl after an 11-5 run in 2002. They plummeted to 2-14 under Art Shell in 2006 and had won four, five and five games in the last three years under Lane Kiffin (5-15) and Cable (9-19).

Last season Oakland lost seven games by 10 points or more, including five by at least 20. This season, there have been just three double-digit defeats. The other five losses have come by a combined 28 points.

"It's a process to get there," Cable said. "This week is just the last step for this year, and that is to go out and win a game and finish the season 8-8, stop the losing-record thing that has kind of been chasing this organization for a number of years, as well as complete the sweep in the division.

"I think that would be a heck of a deal for our football team and launch us into the future and the next year."

Cable's contract is essentially up next month, with the Raiders holding an option for 2011. And mercurial owner Al Davis has given no indication of which way he's leaning regarding a coach with a 16-27 record.

For what it's worth, punter Shane Lechler, a holdover from Oakland's 2002 team, said it would be a "huge setback" if Cable does not return.

"We've invested so much of our time and there's been so much commitment starting from the day he took over," Lechler said of Cable. "Not only this year. He had a plan. The plan is working. It would be a terrible disappointment if there was a change, because he's the guy for this job."

CHARGERS: They didn't make the playoffs after a four-year run as division champions, but one thing the San Diego Chargers will nonetheless not have in the offseason is management uncertainty.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, club president Dean Spanos has confirmed that head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will both return in 2011.

"I've learned the hard way," Spanos said. "Your GM and coach have to be two individuals who work together. It's very difficult for some teams. I've been through it. I like the working relationship at this level. We're as disappointed as anyone [about not making the playoffs].

"But I look to 1996-to-2003, when we couldn't even get beyond 8-8. We've turned it around to where we're a good team and a good organization. There's a lot of continuity, but we're still short."

The Chargers fell to 8-7 with a loss at Cincinnati that officially ended postseason hopes. San Diego entered the last two weeks of the season a game behind Kansas City and needed to win both its remaining games and hope for at least one Chiefs loss down the stretch.

Kansas City beat Tennessee on Sunday to win the AFC West for the first time since 2003.

"The easiest thing in the world is to start over," Spanos said. "Who the hell do I go hire? Blow the whole thing up? We're a pretty good team, but we have to make the right moves. We've fallen. It could have been our draft picks or our free-agent moves. But we have a good core, and I don't care what anybody says. I'm not afraid to make changes.

"If I thought [a change] was warranted, I would do it. [But] We have a good foundation here."

Turner was hired in 2007 and had led San Diego to division titles in his first three seasons. He took the Chargers to the AFC Championship game in year No. 1 and guided them to a 13-3 mark last year, when they were upset by the New York Jets in their playoff opener. His record with the team is 40-23 during the regular season and 3-3 in playoff games.

Smith has been with the Chargers since 2001, first as assistant general manager and director of pro personnel, then as GM after John Butler died in April 2003.

"I trust Smith," Spanos said. "He'll tell you he's made mistakes. Who hasn't? But he takes chances. Sometimes you lose the bet, but if you're going to win a world championship, you've got to take chances. A.J.'s committed 100 percent to this organization.

"They just want to win, and they're tired of coming up short. I feel the same way. Bottom line, we're all accountable, starting with me, A.J. and Norv. Every coach, player, staff member -- everyone is accountable -- and we all must look at ourselves in the mirror."


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