The Washington Post

Tim Tebow gets praise from Brady, but is Prater the real hero of the Broncos season?

Tim Tebow is winning over critics the league around, including Tom Brady, who gave the young Broncos quarterback praise for leading his team to the top of their division. As Cindy Boren reported:

Tom Brady was lavish, effusive even, in his praise of Denver Broncos quarterback and magic maker Tim Tebow.

Just what you’d expect, given that the Broncos are the New England Patriots’ next opponent.

“They play for 60 minutes. They’ve obviously closed a lot of games and finished very well. We have a huge test. We’ll all be excited, and hopefully have a good week of preparation and be ready to go,” Brady said Monday in his weekly WEEI radio interview on the “Dennis and Callahan Show.”

Although the subject of just how long Tebow will last in the NFL has been hotly debated, Brady said he observed no problems with Tebow’s technique as he led the Broncos to an overtime victory. (Again: the Patriots play the Broncos on Sunday.) Brady and the Pats watched while they were flying back to Boston after beating the Redskins in Washington.

“Everyone says he struggles throwing the ball. What I saw [Sunday] night, he had no problems throwing the ball,” Brady said (admittedly, he probably saw only the fourth quarter and overtime). “He threw the ball extremely well when I was watching.”

Brady, all sweetness and love after his sideline dustup with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, professed to have no problem with being The Quarterback No One Is Talking About on Sunday. “That’s okay. Believe me, there is great reason. They’re winning a ton of games and he’s playing very well.”

Some look beyond Tim Tebow to find the most important player in the Denver Broncos win streak , with kicker Matt Prater a strong contender. As AP explained:

Tim Tebow might be engineering all these comebacks for the Denver Broncos. It’s Matt Prater who’s sealing them.

Prater always considered himself an icy-veined kicker whose heartbeat stayed steady whatever pressure he was under. This year, he’s getting the chance to prove it — time and again.

Prater’s 51-yarder in overtime that sent the Broncos past the stunned Chicago Bears 13-10 on Sunday was his third straight walk-off field goal. It followed his 59-yarder that tied it with 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

He and former Indianapolis Colt Mike Vanderjagt are the only kickers in NFL history to have a 50-yard-plus kick to tie a game and then one to win it in overtime. Vanderjagt did it on Nov. 24, 2002, against Denver.

“Those were fabulous clutch kicks, both of them,” coach John Fox said of Prater on Monday. “He’s done it lately. He was in a little bit of a slump about a month ago and he worked himself out of it. We have great confidence in him really from any range.”

But especially from 50-plus, where he’s 12 of 16 in his career.

Prater’s teammates knew they had this one in the bag when Prater jogged onto the field in overtime — they’d watched him boom 70-yarders during warm-ups, so 51 yards was a chip shot.

“That’s amazing,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “Prater does a lot of good things for us. And I believe in him and I think that he’s finally believing in himself.”

For three quarters of each of the past several games Tebow and the Broncos offense had been unable to string together scoring drives, yet in the final period which some now call ‘Tebow Time’, they seem to find another gear. As AP reported :

Tim Tebow is doing what decades of conventional NFL wisdom said couldn’t be done. He’s winning game after game playing the most important position on the field less like a quarterback than an irresistible force of nature.

Seven times in their last eight games with Tebow in charge, the Broncos have somehow won when they shouldn’t have — six times coming back in the second half, five times in the fourth quarter and three of those in overtime.

Along the way, he’s befuddled critics, delighted his growing flock of fans and flummoxed opposing coaches, not to mention his own on occasion. He’s dazzled analysts and left it to teammates to explain the chain-reaction of events — freak turnovers by opponents, sparkling catches by young receivers, Tebow’s own pinball runs through defenders — that have made the closing minutes of Denver games must-see TV. The latest one might have been the most improbable.

Trailing the Chicago Bears 10-0 with 4:34 left Sunday, the Broncos faced the possibility of their first home shutout in team history. In short order, Tebow cobbled together a 63-yard touchdown drive, Denver failed to recover the ensuing onside kick attempt, but got the ball back after a punt with more time left than anyone expected. That’s because Chicago’s Marion Barber inexplicably ran out of bounds on a carry — stopping the clock — instead of simply falling to the ground.

“That’s usually something that never happens with a veteran running back,” Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “It’s just like things go our way.”

But as Woodyard and the rest of the Broncos have come to believe, things weren’t done going their way.

From his 20-yard line, Tebow again marched the Broncos back to the Bears 41, where Matt Prater coolly connected on a 59-yard field goal to tie the game at 10. In the extra period, Chicago was methodically grinding up a wearying Broncos defense when Barber bashed through a hole for another first down — only to have the ball stripped at the last second by Woodyard and recovered by teammate Elvis Dumervil at the Broncos 34.

From there, Tebow put together one more helter-skelter drive to reach the Bears 33, where Prater converted a slightly less eye-popping 51-yard field goal for the win.

That’s three straight Broncos’ scoring drives — after they failed in a dozen straight series in regulation — and two uncharacteristic Chicago miscues in less than five minutes.

More from Washington Post Sports

Barber’s blunders open door for another Tebow comeback

Kurt Warner says Tebow should tone down religious rhetoric

John Fox, the man behind Tim Tebow

John Fox says Tebow would “be screwed” running regular offense


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