1. Tebow Time Expires – Tim Tebow has what basketball coaches call a “left-to-right deficiency.” When he scrambles out of the pocket, Tebow, who is a southpaw, loves to run to his left, where he can more easily sling the ball on the move. The New England Patriots, who beat Tebow and the Broncos 41-23 on Sunday, proved that when Tebow is forced to his right, the defense gains an advantage: at one point in the second half, Tebow had some room to run to his right, but he spun back to his left, into the arms of a Patriots defender who sacked him.
Tebow wasn’t terrible against New England: he went 11-22 for 194 yards, and rushed for another 93 yards, and two touchdowns. Denver was done in by turnovers – three fumbles in the second quarter – and an uninspired defense that let New England tight end Aaron Hernandez have the game of his career (9 catches, 129 yards and a touchdown). Tebow has his fourth quarter moment, as he completed a 39-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, and scored on a two-yard touchdown run, on a seven-play drive that cut New England’s lead to 34-23. But the Patriots responded with another touchdown that put the game out of reach. Despite the loss, the 8-6 Broncos still have a one-game lead in the AFC West over the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
2. No More Zeroes. If you’re interviewing for a head coaching job, beating the NFL’s only unbeaten team helps your case. Last week, Romeo Crennel replaced the fired Todd Haley as Kansas City head coach, on an interim basis. The Chiefs responded by beating the Green Bay Packers, 19-14, and handing the 13-0 Green Packers their first loss of the season. Crennel, the defensive coordinator for New England’s three Super Bowl teams and the former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, drew up a game plan that held Aaron Rodgers to a rare ordinary stat line: 17 for 35 for 235 yards, with one touchdown pass. The Chiefs, along with other former left-for-dead teams like the San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks, are actually still in playoff contention.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts avoided infamy by beating the Tennessee Titans at home, 27-13, ensuring that Indy will not become only the second team in NFL history to finish 0-16 (the 2008 Detroit Lions were the first).
3. Detroit in Driver’s Seat. If Detroit had lost to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the Lions would have had just have a one-game lead over four 7-7 teams in contention for the final NFC wild card playoff spot. After Oakland’s Aaron Curry returned a fumble six-yards for a touchdown, Oakland opened up a 27-14 lead with 7:49 seconds remaining. The Lions, however, rallied, and Matthew Stafford’s 6-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson, who finished the day with an incredible 214-yard receiving tally, gave the Lions a 28-27 lead with 39 seconds remaining. Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski tried a 65-yard field goal to win it: Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, back from a two-game suspension for stomping on a Green Bay Packers player on San Francisco, blocked it.
The win gives Detroit a 9-5 record, assuring the Lions their first winning season since 2000. Detroit also has a comfortable two-game cushion, with two-games remaining, in the NFC Wild card race. One more win, and Detroit is in, though the Lions two more tough games: the Lions host San Diego next Saturday, on Christmas Eve, before closing the season at Green Bay.