Tim Tebow has taken the Denver Broncos from a sidenote in the AFC West into first place with a run of wins that continued on Sunday with one over the Minnesota Vikings 35-32. As AP reported :

Percy Harvin knew he’d have to give everything he had if the Minnesota Vikings were going to get the best of his old college buddy Tim Tebow.

The versatile receiver did that and more on Sunday, and it still wasn’t enough to overcome Tebow’s surging Denver Broncos.

Harvin caught eight passes for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns, but Christian Ponder turned the ball over three times in Minnesota’s 35-32 loss to the Broncos.

Harvin scored on receptions of 52 and 48 yards and also rushed five times for 19 yards, but his career day provided little consolation after the Vikings (2-10) dropped their fourth straight game, extending the misery of a season that is shaping up as one of the worst in the franchise’s proud history.

But Tebow was not going to let his fellow former Florida Gator outshine him. He hit Demaryius Thomas for 42 yards to setup a 24-yard scoring run from Willis McGahee, then scored on a two-point conversion run to tie the game.

“I was sure enough hoping we were going to get him,” Harvin said. “But I’ve been on his teams. I’ve seen him pull a lot of fourth quarters, a lot of last drives, a lot of two-point conversions. So I got a little worried once he got it.”

Tebow and Thomas torched the depleted Vikings secondary the entire second half. Tebow completed 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards and Thomas had four catches for 144 yards and two TDs.

“When you’re out there and you’re professional athletes, you have to find a way to do your job and we did not find a way to do our job,” Frazier said of his secondary.

Tim Tebow was forced to rely on his arm to get his Broncos into winning positions on Sunday, and the quarterback stepped up and delivered, even as he rushed for a two-point conversion to tie the game in the late stages. As Cindy Boren explained :

Tim Tebow had to play more like a quarterback and less like a running back to pull off this week’s miraculous victory. Passing isn’t something most pundits thought he could do successfully in the NFL, so naturally Tebow carried the ball all of four times and passed for 202 yards, finishing with a 149.3 passer rating.

Of course he did.

After a 1-4 start, the Broncos have won five in a row and are 6-1 with this guy — tied for first in the AFC West with Oakland. Of course they are.

Over his first 10 NFL starts, Tebow has led the Broncos to game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime five times. (He is tied with Scott Brunner and Marc Wilson for most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.) “The reason we play is to win,” he said without a hint of a Herman Edwards impression or even any irony.

“Trust me, it doesn't hurt to have No. 15 at quarterback,” cornerback Champ Bailey said (via the Denver Post). “Because you know he's fighting. The fight's the thing with him, because Tebow is doing it unconventionally. It's not like he's doing it like Tom Brady or Drew Brees.”

Tebow’s particular blend of leadership and religion continues to draw its share of detractors and disbelievers. It isn’t particularly unique; Aaron Rodgers spoke eloquently last week on ESPN Milwaukee about his faith. It’s just more public. And it’s coupled with criticism about his ability to adapt to the NFL.

The continued wins for the Broncos, who are now tied for first place in their division, has justified the faith that Coach John Fox has put in his quarterback. As Jenna McGregor wrote :

Whatever you may think of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback who has inspired love, hate and his very own Internet sensation, there’s one thing few can argue with. Yes, we may debate whether an NFL quarterback can be successful if he isn’t a very accurate passer. And yes, we may argue over whether his outspoken Christian piety—the home-schooled Heisman Trophy winner is known for eye-black evangelizing—makes him more likeable to fans or more likely to induce eye-rolling for his wholesomeness. But one thing is for certain: He is winning games for his team, even though his passing record is weak enough that his own coach, John Fox, has said “if we were trying to run a regular offense, he’d be screwed.”

But Fox is not doing that. He’s decided to run the option, a run-based offensive system that both he and Tebow favor. In Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, which the Broncos won in overtime with just seconds left, Tebow carried the ball 22 times for 67 yards, apparently the most carries in an NFL game by a quarterback since 1950.

That would be fine if it weren’t so atypical. Because it requires time to score, risks more hits to the quarterback, and doesn’t work as well against the speed of NFL defenders, an option-based offense is rarely used in the pros. Mention of its use produces chuckles from sports analysts who seem to scoff that a play people ran in high school might also be used at the professional level. The Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations and former quarterback John Elway even caused a minor uproar for seeming to question whether Tebow’s unconventional style makes him a long-term answer for the team.

But to me, what makes Fox’s willingness to run the option so unusual isn’t just that the system isn’t used much in the NFL. It’s that a coach has decided to capitalize on a player’s strength and not worry too much about his weaknesses. After all, NFL coaches are known for scouring college rosters each year, looking not just for the best quarterback but for the guy with a cannon for an arm who can be molded into the accurate passer everyone expects to see at the pro level. 

Related Content:

Early Lead: Kurt Warner says Tebow should tone down religious rhetoric

The League: John Fox, the man behind Tim Tebow

Q&A: Why does Tebow grab so much attention? How far can he go?

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