NFL

As Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos Continue to Win Close Games, Here's a Look at Other Miracle Runs

In the last week, as the Broncos have continued to mount close victories – often with late game heroics, and sometimes with inexplicable gaffes by the opponent or things that we would classify as “luck” – the talk has turned to the Broncos winning because of Tebow’s religious beliefs, or because God is favoring the team.

The pastor of his church, Wayne Hanson, recently told TMZ that God was actively intervening in the Broncos wins and aiding Tim Tebow. According to Hanson, “It’s not luck. Luck isn’t winning 6 games in a row. It’s favor. God’s favor.” I try not to talk about religious issues here, but I thought it might be time to address this. And I will note that it is those around and ancillary to Tebow that overpraise him, or reach for things. He is always crediting teammates, and has in the past said that God doesn’t care who wins or loses a football game. I think Tebow is very likable, and I think he is someone who has a strong character and resolve. My upbringing is probably a lot closer to Tebow, from a Southern Baptist family with several pastors. I can say that this pastor must have a direct line to both God and TMZ to be able to divine his mysterious ways, in far more certainty than what I’ve been taught.

Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. And sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. And sometimes people can be both good and bad at alternative times in their lives, everyone being human and all. I’m no more comfortable making proclamations that Marion Barber ran out of bounds because God favored Tebow over him, than I am that a CEO must be a good person because they are monetarily successful, or that children who have suffered at the hands of child abuse must have deserved it.

I don’t know what God’s plans are, and I sure don’t want to take guesses. I often look at numbers and will talk about this streak, but what happens when, inevitably, the Broncos lose? What then? Is that some larger sign that Tebow failed, or that God is dead? Heck no. You can believe what you want to believe. I see miracles in the little eyes that look up at me at night, and in the constant growth of my children. I don’t need a fumble in a football game to make broad pronouncements or achieve validation.

As for that streak for Denver, which is now up to 6 straight games, with the last five being by one touchdown or less, just where does this miraculous stretch rank? Since 1978, I know you may find this unbelievable if you are a pastor talking to TMZ, but other teams have gone on long winning streaks where every game was close. Here is a list of the other teams who have won 5 or more straight games by less than a touchdown:

  1. 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars, 7 straight close wins (games 12 to 18)
  2. 1994 New York Giants, 6 straight close wins (games 11 to 16)
  3. 1986 New York Giants, 6 straight close wins (games 8 to 13)
  4. 2011 Denver Broncos, 5 straight close wins (games 9 to 13)
  5. 2008 Indianapolis Colts, 5 straight close wins (games 8 to 12)
  6. 2006 Tennessee Titans, 5 straight close wins (games 11 to 15)
  7. 1999 Indianapolis Colts, 5 straight close wins (games 11 to 15)
  8. 1997 Minnesota Vikings,  5 straight close wins (games 6 to 10)
  9. 1992 Indianapolis Colts, 5 straight close wins 5 straight close wins (games 12 to 16)

What has Indianapolis done to curry such favor? Peyton Manning has twice had stretches where his team won 5 straight close games by the way, not to mention that Tampa Bay miracle in 2002. The holy trinity of Bill Belichick, Phil Simms, and Lawrence Taylor once reeled off six straight close wins on the way to a Super Bowl title. What larger life lesson am I supposed to glean from that?

A left-handed quarterback is responsible for the longest close game winning streak, and being left-handed myself, I do think we can draw larger conclusions from that. The longest streak is also one familiar to Broncos’ fans, because the 7th game came in Mile High. Two games before the streak started, the Jaguars, then at 3-6, came from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Ravens. A Pittsburgh blowout loss (similar, I suppose to the loss to Detroit) intervened, and then the Jaguars did it again, coming from 15 down in the fourth quarter, tying it on a two point conversion and winning in overtime. By the fourth straight close game, the young Jaguars team had gone from 4-7 to 8-7 and needing one more win to make the playoffs unexpectedly. That’s when Morten Andersen of the Falcons missed a 30 yard field goal in the final minute, and Jacksonville survived. It doesn’t get much more miraculous than Morten Andersen missing a short field goal from a distance he hit about 93% for his career. The Jaguars then rolled onto Buffalo and won a close one again, before upsetting the Denver Broncos in one of the largest playoff upsets of the last twenty years.

Finally, Vince Young and the comparisons with Tebow continue. The first of the Titans’ five close games – where the legend of Young began for Tennessee – was the largest comeback of this decade, when Tennessee won 24-21 against the Giants after being down 21-0 in the fourth. The next game? Prater has nothing on Bironas, who beat the Colts with a 60-yard field goal. (Bironas is a cross between birthday and pseudomonas, by the way). An overtime victory against the Texans followed. Then, the piece d’ resistance of the “quarterbacks who just know how to win:” a victory over the Jaguars when Tennessee had 98 total yards but scored on an 83 yard interception return, 92 yard fumble return, and 61 yard interception return. I’m sorry, but nothing that has happened over the last 6 weeks is as ridiculous as that. A week later, the streak got to five as Vince Young led a comeback in the fourth quarter with 10 points to beat the Bills 30-29.

The Titans were poised to make the playoffs after being 3-7 earlier in the year. Who ended that streak? You guessed it. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots.

[photo via Getty]

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