The Detroit Lions destroyed the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High last night with a 45-10 mauling. The damage wasn't done there, however – the Motor City team also stalled Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow's momentum by sacking him seven times in front of Colorado fans.
It was a rough night in the Rockies for Tebow after a much-celebrated 18-15 upset of the Miami Dolphins Oct. 23. Detroit's determined defense shut down his passing options, holding him to just 18 completed passes out of 39 attempts and a meager 172 yards. When Tebow did land a big pass, it was to enemy territory, and Lions player Chris Houston ran it 100 yards for a humiliating touchdown.
"Tebow's performance wasn't good," said Zac Snyder, lead blogger for the Lions fan site SideLion Report. "A few more like that and even the most pro-Tebow Broncos fans won't be able to argue that the team should keep him in a starting role.”
Notable for his 2007 Heisman Trophy victory and 2008 college football championship at the University of Florida, Tebow has also earned a following among fans for his outspoken Christian faith. In the past, he has written Bible verses on his eye black and thanked God following wins. Now, Snyder said, the quarterback is just struggling to succeed.
The NFL star's poor performance stood in stark contrast to Detroit's quarterback Matthew Stafford. While the Broncos faltered around Tebow, Snyder said Stafford played one of the best games of his 2011 season.
"Stafford threw the ball deep with accuracy on a couple of different occasions and completed an efficient 70% of his passes," he said. "It was just the kind of game the Lions needed after losing their previous two games."
To add insult to injury, Lions players taunted the Broncos with "Tebowing," Tebow's signature sideline prayer on one knee. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch led the charge by sacking Tebow and performing the move, only for tight end Tony Scheffler to score and kneel in the pose himself. The mocking conduct made light not only of Tebow's ugly game, but his devoted evangelical fans off the field.
Latif Masud, a writer for Pride of Detroit, another Lions fan site, said Denver needed a victory every bit as badly given their 2-5 record. Citing earlier incarnations of Detroit as an example, he said Denver still had some roster rebuilding to do before they racked up a winning season.
"The Denver Broncos look like the Detroit Lions of 2007 or so," Masud said. "They're potentially a good team but they just can't fit all the pieces together yet."
Masud said that football fans were quick to denounce Tebow's ability following the loss but that such backlash was premature. After all, he said, the former college athlete had only played two seasons with Denver, one as a rookie and one following the uncertainty of the NFL lockout.
"Tim Tebow doesn't do anything wrong but people still hate him or have negative thoughts towards him," Masud said. "I don't think it's fair to him. He's a young player. Denver needs to take a harder look at him next season."
Ann Bolin, a Denver fan residing in Castle Pines, Colo., said yesterday's game would reignite the popular debate over whether Tebow should continue leading the Broncos or if former starting quarterback Kyle Orton was a better choice. If Tebow keeps playing the way he has, she said, the final call wouldn't be a tricky one for Denver's management.
"The Broncos looked like they had never seen a game of football, much less played one," she said. "Apart from the running leading up to their first field goal, they looked unprofessional and ridiculous."
Snyder said Tebow was likely torn between wanting to prove he can effectively pass and personally running the ball like he did in college. He said it's an inner struggle that may see the popular Bronco benched if he doesn't change his ways.
"The naysayers will have a field day following Tebow's performance against the Lions," Snyder said. "Denver will probably go into next year's draft looking for a quarterback and there's no guarantee they'll give Tebow the remaining starts for the rest of the season. No one really knows how long the Broncos will let the Tebow experiment last."