DENVER – Tim Tebow still can’t beat Kyle Orton on the football field.
And Orton still can’t top Tebow when it’s all said and done.
Tebow fell short in his latest comeback bid but his Denver Broncos got into the postseason party anyway when San Diego knocked off Oakland minutes later.
Orton got his revenge in leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 7-3 win over Denver on Sunday, but it’s the Broncos who clinched the AFC West and are headed to the postseason, where they’ll host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round Sunday.
“It’s obviously a little bittersweet right now,” Tebow said. “We would have loved to have won that game to have a little momentum going into the playoffs. But I think it’s still a special thing what we accomplished, to come back and win the AFC West is very special.”
After begrudgingly congratulating their former teammate, the Broncos celebrated the end to their six-year playoff drought once the Chargers eliminated the Raiders 38-26.
The Broncos finished 8-8, same as the Raiders and Chargers. They won their first division title since 2005 on a tiebreaker, going 6-6 against common opponents while the others went 5-7. So, everybody at Mile High got what they wanted even though Tebow couldn’t beat the guy he failed to beat out in training camp.
“Well, we’re AFC West champs,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it. Once you get into the dance, they can’t kick you out.”
So, Tebow got the last laugh after all.
Orton, who also handed Green Bay its only loss, went 2-1 in Kansas City. His steady play likely raised his stock as he prepares to enter free agency. And he might have secured interim coach Romeo Crennel’s future.
Best of all, he beat the team that benched him after he finally caved under the weight of Tebowmania and the Broncos stumbled to a 1-4 start.
Orton had laid low all week but said after the game that this game had special meaning to him even though it was for pride and payback and not the playoffs.
“I can’t hide that,” he said. “But I congratulate those guys. They’re in. I congratulate them and I look forward to next year.”
The Broncos revamped their offense to fit Tebow’s unconventional skill set and surged to the top of their division. They released Orton in the midst of a 7-1 run that included a series of fourth-quarter comebacks.
Never before in the four-plus decades since the AFL-NFL merger has a starting quarterback returned to start a game in the same season against his former team.
The Broncos got one last shot when they got the ball at their 16 with just under a minute left.
Tebow time? Not this time. He was intercepted by cornerback Brandon Carr with 8 seconds left.
KC—McCluster 21 run (Succop kick)
Den—FG Prater 38
|Total Net Yards||281||266|
|Time of Poss.||27:02||32:58|
RUSHING—Kansas City, McCluster 12-61, Jones 15-42, McClain 2-4, Orton 1-(minus 1). Denver, McGahee 28-145, Ball 9-24, Royal 2-18, Tebow 6-16, Johnson 2-13.
PASSING—Kansas City, Orton 15-29-0-180. Denver, Tebow 6-22-1-60.
RECEIVING—Kansas City, Bowe 6-93, Baldwin 3-27, McCluster 3-25, Copper 1-14, Pope 1-12, Breaston 1-9. Denver, D.Thomas 3-34, Fells 1-14, Larsen 1-7, Decker 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Kansas City, Succop 44 (WL).