Published December 05, 2011
Tebow's success hasn't surprised Percy Harvin one bit. The quarterback's former teammate has seen it all before.
Tebow passed for a season-best 202 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns Sunday to help the unflappable Broncos win their fifth straight game, 35-32 over the Minnesota Vikings on Matt Prater's 23-yard field goal as time expired.
"I've been on his teams," said Harvin, who teamed with Tebow to win two national titles at Florida. "I've seen him pull a lot of fourth quarters, a lot of last drives, a lot of two-point conversions."
On a day when the normally stout Broncos defense was eating Harvin's dust, Tebow did what he does best — led his team back from an early deficit. Denver trailed 15-7 at halftime and 29-21 with less than 10 minutes to go.
Demaryius Thomas had four catches for 144 yards and two scores in the third quarter, Tebow ran for a 2-point conversion that tied the game at 29 in the fourth and Willis McGahee rushed for 111 yards and a TD to help the Broncos (7-5) forge a first-place tie in the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders, who lost to Miami.
"I know I have been saying this for the past couple weeks but I'm so proud to have a team like this," said Tebow, who posted a career-high passer rating of 149.3. "When adversity hits and you're not doing good, most teams pull apart and they're not on the same page anymore. But our team grows closer together."
Harvin had eight catches for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings (2-10), who lost their fourth straight game.
Christian Ponder threw three TDs and set a Vikings rookie record with 381 yards passing, but he turned the ball over three times deep in Denver territory, including on Minnesota's last possession of the game.
With the game tied at 32 and 1:33 to play, Ponder threw the ball right to Denver cornerback Andre Goodman, who returned the interception to the Minnesota 15. Prater's second field goal in the final 93 seconds of the game split the uprights as time expired, lifting Tebow to 6-1 as a starter this season.
Jared Allen had a sack, a forced fumble and a safety, Harvin scored on two spectacular catch-and-runs of 52 and 48 yards, and Toby Gerhart rushed for 91 yards in place of the injured Adrian Peterson for the Vikings.
"It's hard to look Jared Allen in the eyes and tell him I had two picks and a fumble and I cost us the game," Ponder said.
Tebow has now led game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime five times in his first 10 starts, tied with Scott Brunner and Marc Wilson for the most since the merger in 1970.
When asked if he feels like he's watching a movie replayed over and over again, Denver coach John Fox said, "The ending is what I like most. You thank the world for some big, whole-hearted guys that keep fighting."
Denver's defense was missing stellar rookie linebacker Von Miller, who was out with an injured thumb. But Mario Haggan filled in beautifully, returning an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter and recording 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass defensed.
"It's been fun, a fun ride," Haggan said. "This team is close, believes, has a lot of character, but we're not done."
Harvin's second score, a 48-yard catch-and-run, was the first fourth-quarter touchdown given up by the Broncos in five games and made it 29-21 Minnesota. They averaged 15 points allowed over their previous four games.
Tebow hit Thomas for 42 yards, and Willis McGahee rumbled into the end zone from 24 yards out. Then Tebow took the snap on the 2-point conversion and rolled to his right and over the goal line to tie the game at 29.
"He's a great guy. He's a great leader," Harvin said of Tebow. "I've got tremendous faith in him, always will. Just disappointed they got us today."
Notes: Tebow's NFL career high is 308 yards passing, against Houston on Dec. 26, 2010. ... Allen tied an NFL record with his fourth career safety, stopping McGahee in the end zone on the Broncos' first play. ... All three replay reviews, including a TD pass to Kyle Rudolph, went in favor of the Vikings. ... Miller said he hopes to play next week. ... Vikings DE Brian Robison left with a concussion.