Broncos win behind Matt Prater's FG in OT, hand Chargers 6th straight loss
SAN DIEGO -- Tim Tebow wasn't watching as San Diego's Nick Novak lined up to attempt a 53-yard field goal that would have given the Chargers an overtime victory over the Denver Broncos.
He was praying, of course.
Did Tebow ask for a miss?
"I might have said that. Or maybe a block. Maybe all of it," the Denver quarterback said with a laugh.
Whatever, it worked.
Novak missed wide right. Tebow moved the Broncos down the field and Matt Prater kicked a 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in overtime to lift the Broncos to a 16-13 victory Sunday over the Chargers, who've lost six straight games for the first time in 10 years.
The Broncos narrowly avoided the first NFL tie since Cincinnati and Philadelphia ended deadlocked at 13 on Nov. 16, 2008.
Some people have a problem with Tebow wearing his religion on his sleeve. But he has been a savior for the Broncos, going 5-1 since coach John Fox elevated him to starter in the wake of his performance in a close loss to the Chargers on Oct. 9 in Denver.
Still, Hall of Famer John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, won't commit to the unconventional Tebow for his passing numbers and poor third-down conversions.
The Broncos (6-5) have won four straight to trail Oakland by one game in the AFC West.
"This is a special team, a special team when you have a bunch of guys that when things aren't going good we get closer instead of pulling apart," Tebow said. "The No. 1 reason we are like that is because we believe in each other, we believe in the coaching staff."
Coach John Fox believes in his quarterback.
"Tim has outstanding ability," Fox said. "He proved it at a high level of college football in the SEC at Florida. It's (the option) something that he is comfortable with. I think our team has adapted to it. Right now it's working in the run portion of our offense. We still have some growth to do in the pass portion."
Tebow led Denver from its 43 after Novak was wide right on a 53-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 left in overtime. Novak made a 53-yarder in the first quarter, a career-best, and was wide right on a 48-yard try early in the fourth quarter.
Tebow had a 12-yard gain and Willis McGahee ran 24 yards up the middle to set up Prater's winning kick, which was right down the middle.
Tebow, the talk of the NFL because he runs the read option and often struggles while passing, carried 22 times for 67 yards -- the most carries by a quarterback in a game since at 1950, according to STATS LLC.
He also threw for one touchdown and finished with a better rating than Philip Rivers, 95.4 to 77.1. Rivers was pressured all day by Elvis Dumervil, who had two sacks, and rookie Von Miller, who had one.
Tebow's first start was also an overtime win, 18-15 at Miami on Oct. 23.
Novak didn't have an explanation for his OT miss.
"I had a good warmup and hit that ball pretty decent," he said of the 53-yarder he kicked in the first quarter. "When you make the first kick of the game from 53, it gives you a lot of confidence for the next kicks to come."
The Chargers (4-7) are on their longest losing streak since ending 2001 with nine straight defeats and are last in the division, three games behind Oakland with five to play.
"There's nothing I can say to make it sound good," Rivers said. "It's about as rough as it gets."
Tebow got a final chance to try to win it in regulation after the Broncos forced the Chargers to punt. Starting on his own 26, Tebow kept the drive going with a 39-yard completion to Eric Decker -- which the Chargers unsuccessfully challenged -- and a 23-yarder to Dante Rosario. The Broncos had to settle for Prater's 24-yard field goal that tied it at 13 with 1:34 to go.
Referee Jeff Triplette confused the crowd and TV viewers by saying each team would get a possession in OT. He then corrected himself, saying it would be sudden-death.
The Broncos won it on their third possession in OT.
Rivers was 19 of 36 for 188 yards. Tebow was 9 of 18 for 143 yards.
The Chargers took a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Rivers hit Antonio Gates on a 6-yard scoring pass in the back of the end zone to cap a 15-play, 91-yard drive.
Tebow threw an 18-yard TD pass to Eric Decker just before halftime to pull to 10-7.
Novak kicked a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Denver had a long drive later in the quarter before Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull to 13-10.
McGahee ran 23 times for 117 yards. A week after having a critical fumble in a loss at Chicago, San Diego's Ryan Mathews ran 22 times for a career-high 137 yards. It was his third career 100-yard game, all against Denver. ... Broncos CB Cassius Vaughn injured an ankle in the first quarter and didn't return. ... Injured Chargers were LG Brandyn Dombrowski (foot), TE Kory Sperry (ribs), LB Na'il Diggs (chest) and Corey Liuget (tibia).
- Jeff Triplette
2022 AFC West Standings