With Tim Tebow back at the helm leading the Denver Broncos, NFL fans, talking heads, pundits, ticket-takers, and tailgaters have been subjected to a repeat performance of “Tebow Time” inundation. Of course, given the turn-around that the depth chart move has brought to the Mile High team, it’s hard to fault Broncos fans for being excited at their team moving from AFC West cellar to potential playoff contender. And now—considering some of the quarterback situations faced by teams like the Chicago Bears—it’s hard to believe that more teams wouldn’t want to be caught in the midst of the “Tebow Thing.”
This weekend, the Broncos will host those Bears and their new starting quarterback Caleb Hanie, forced into action for the second time in 2011—the first time coming in the NFC Championship game—due to an injury to Jay Cutler. With Denver nonetheless facing a ratings deficit in Madden NFL 12, I took control of the Broncos in a snowy afternoon game in Colorado attempting to replicate some of that “Tebow Magic.”
For most of the first half of this bizarre, snowy game, however, there was little magic to be found. I won the toss and elected to kick to begin the game, and the first three possessions—Chicago, then Denver, then Chicago—all ended in punts after minimal gains. On my second offensive possession with the Broncos, Tebow threw a pass off the mark to Julius Peppers for the first turnover of the game. While returning the pick, however, Peppers was stripped of the ball and Denver regained possession. With a second chance for the drive, however, Denver wasn’t able to take advantage. While their punt was downed at Chicago’s 1-yard-line, there were still no points on the board.
Moving into the second half, there was another series of three straight possessions ending in punts; the Bears, then the Broncos, then the Bears. It was looking as though the first half would end in a scoreless tie when Tebow drove to midfield and it looked as though at least a field goal attempt would be feasible. Unfortunately, a Tebow pass to the flats was intercepted by Charles Tillman and returned 57 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds left in the half. Before the first half would go into the books, however, Denver had to punt the ball away again and Caleb Hanie threw an interception. It was just not a good day for offense; the Bears finished the first half with 54 yards gained (56 rushing, -2 passing) while the Broncos gained 60 yards (48 rushing, 12 passing). Chicago managed to get 2 first downs, while Denver got 5 first downs; each team also suffered two turnovers.
To begin the third quarter, my first Denver drive took four-and-a-half minutes off of the clock but eventually resulted in only a 40-yard field goal conversion by Matt Prater. With the score now 7-3, I was happy to put points on the board but knew that I would need to turn things around to get into the end zone and challenge for the game. On the first play of Chicago’s next drive, Caleb Hanie threw another interception and set up a touchdown drive for the Broncos. Tebow drove the offense down to the 8-yard-line before finding Demaryius Thomas short of the end zone, setting Thomas up to fight his way in for the score. With 10 points scored in the third, I was able to take a 10-7 lead into the final quarter.
Offensive futility returned in the fourth quarter as the Bears were forced to punt on their next offensive possession and Denver was forced to do the same once they got the ball back. In the battle of field position, however, the Broncos punt was able to push the Bears back to their own 10-yard-line. After an incompletion on first down, the Denver pass rush was able to break through the line of scrimmage and chase Hanie down, with Rahim Moore getting the sack in the end zone for two points and the safety.
After the free kick from Chicago, Denver’s drive stalled once more and a punt was upcoming. With 2:23 left in the game, Devin Hester fielded the punt deep in Chicago’s end and was stripped of the ball by Denver defender Jonathan Wilhite. With just over two minutes remaining in the game, I put together a clock-killing drive and decided to do something unsportsmanlike—and perhaps un-Tebow-like—by scoring on a 6-yard rush by Willis McGahee as time expired to bring the final score to 19-7.
The final game statistics really tell the story. I was able to earn the in-game “Trophy” called the “San Diego Chargers Award” by holding the Bears to only 44 yards of total offense, with 52 rushing yards and -8 passing yards. Even though my 204 offensive yards were far below my usual average, I still gained 160 more yards on offense compared to Chicago. The number of First Downs gained was also one-sided, with the Bears only achieving 2 and my Broncos earning 12. Turnovers were also one-sided, as despite Tebow’s two interceptions there were two Caleb Hanie interceptions and two Chicago fumbles. And although my 50% 3rd Down Conversion rate was low, it had nothing on the 0 for 6 mark the Bears put up. Finally, the Time of Possession was drastically skewed; the Broncos had the ball for nearly 17 more minutes, 22:16 to 5:44.
Looking at the player statistics, Caleb Hanie put up a “perfect” 0.0 Quarterback Rating after only completing 28% of his passes for 14 yards and 2 interceptions. Though Tebow’s 34.5 Rating wasn’t much better, his 103 yards and scoring pass helped him shine by comparison. Willis McGahee led all rushers in both attempts and yardage, though without my decidedly un-sim-like score to end the game his 3.3 yards-per-carry average would have been underwhelming. Receivers didn’t have much of a good game, but defenders had a field day led by Brian Urlacher’s 12 total tackles. Rookie Von Miller also had a solid game with 4 total tackles in his 5-plus minutes of play and one sack.
I suppose a weird statistical result like this could only be expected in a game featuring as polarizing a player as Tim Tebow. While Caleb Hanie will likely put up a better game against the Broncos this weekend, it’s hard to bet against the former Florida quarterback when he has the ball; particularly late in games. Particularly striking to me about this game experience was the fact that I never really feared Chicago when they were on offense. Part of this is obviously due to the fact that they possessed the ball for so little time, had so little success when they had it, and were only able to score on a defensive play. In all of my time playing the Madden NFL videogame series, I don’t think I’ve ever held an offense in check to the degree that I did in this game. Had it been Jay Cutler under center instead of Caleb Hanie, the result surely would’ve been much different.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for a NHL 12 showdown between California rivals: the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks!