Tebow beaten but advances his reputation

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Tebow beaten but advances his reputation

DENVER -- Tim Tebow generated 287 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. The threat of Tebow's legs and his ability in running Denver's unique offense probably led to even more of the yards the Broncos gained. Early on, Tebow looked good. Denver led their game against the Patriots 16-7 early in the second before the turnovers started. And even though the Broncos lost and had their six-game winning streak snapped, Tebow only advanced his reputation. The Broncos were a victim of circumstance. The circumstance being three second-quarter fumbles -- one of which was offered by Tebow -- that led to 13 Patriots points. When teams give the ball away, things happen. Points are scored, game plans are scrapped, offensive diversity is lost. The young Broncos did that and paid the price. But turnovers are correctable physical mistakes. In other words, Denver didn't lose because of a lack of talent or Tim Tebow's limitations. They lost because they made mistakes that were -- in large part -- their own doing. "I think all in all we hung with them physically, but mentally I thought there were certain areas as far as dropping the ball on the ground and the turnovers were really the big difference," said Broncos coach John Fox. "You're not going to be minus three against the New England Patriots and win very many ballgames. Having played them very many times, I know that to be true. ... But the reality is, we're not at the stage where we can overcome minus three (turnovers)."

The somewhat tepid support Tebow has gotten from Fox and John Elway should continue to get stronger after a game like Sunday's. And it seemed to, at least from Fox' perspective. "It's usually a lot more fun when you win, but I thought he improved," Fox said of Tebow. "He'll continue to improve. This was a setback no doubt about that, but sometimes setbacks are setups for bigger things to come. That's the way we'll approach it."Can Tebow compete when the opposition is capable of scoring 30 very easily?"I can't predict that," said Fox. "He's gotten better every week. Six or seven weeks ago people said that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but I think he does that. I think he can do that. I don't think that's why we lost the game tonight."He absolutely wasn't. But because the pregame made this all about Tebow, the postscript must as well. And the surface investigators will say Tebow lost to Tom Brady. Fine. That's what we're living with and we all know that. But if you enjoy football for football, you saw an intriguing player with unique skills forcing an experienced team to sweat and adjust. And you saw a young team get overwhelmed by the best player of his generation in Brady.

"I said it before the game, he is still the best out there in my opinion," said Broncos corner Champ Bailey. "When you make mistakes against a guy like that, he is going to make you pay. That is pretty much what happened all day.He knows his guys; he knows where everyone is going to be. He is the best all-around quarterback that I know. That is what you expect out of him; he has been doing it for years."Despite the Tebow onslaught in the runup to the game that seemed to get the Patriots as a whole sideways, there was little doubt Brady respected Tebow the player if not the hypemongers. He shared a moment and some words with Tebow after. "He was very complimentary. He was very nice," said Tebow, who is redefining nice. "What a great quarterback, and what a class act he is, and for a lot of young quarterbacks, he does a lot of great things to look up to and try to emulate."And Bill Belichick's words?

"He was very nice. He said very nice things, as well, and he's always been very supportive," related Tebow. "He just said that he believes in me, and to keep fighting, and he's proud of how I played and stuff like that. It's very nice coming from a coach like that."

The Book of Tebow is still being written. And Tim, 12:18 will be all about lessons learned and not being too generous with thine enemies.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.