If football were his sole priority, Tim Tebow would have to consider Sunday a lousy day.
The Broncos' second-year quarterback, who became a national phenomenon by orchestrating improbable comeback victories while sparking debate over both his unorthodox passing style and his openly religious personality, had arguably his worst game of the season yesterday during the Broncos' 45-10 loss to the Patriots in an AFC Divisional matchup.
Tebow completed just 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards, with no touchdowns, and his attempts to run -- his greatest strength -- were thwarted as he gained just 13 yards. He was sacked five times and lost a fumble as the Broncos were overmatched from the start by the Patriots, trailing 35-7 at the half.
Tebow had other lows this season -- he completed just 6 of 22 passes for 60 yards in the regular-season finale against the Chiefs -- but yesterday could have been rock bottom.
Except Tebow, so gracious that you get the sense he'd come up with something nice to say about you if you ran over his dog, wouldn't allow it to be. Football is important to him, but to the praise and detraction that has made him such a polarizing figure, he makes it apparent it's not most important.
"It still wasn't a bad day," Tebow said after the game. "It still was a good day, because I got to spend some time before the game with Zack McLeod [a 20-year-old Cambridge native who suffered a traumatic brain injury playing football] and make him smile, and overall when you get to do that, it's still a positive day. Sometimes that's hard to see, but it depends what lens you're looking through. I choose to look through those lenses, and I got to make a kid's day, that's more important than winning the game. So, I am proud of that."
Tebow was asked if the glare of the spotlight this season ever became too much.
"There are pros and cons with everything," Tebow said. "Sometimes, you don't want it all. You just like to be able to go to dinner, hang out with friends, be a normal 24-year-old. So that makes it sometimes hard. But I wouldn't change it for the world, because by having that, I have the platform to walk into a hospital to walk into the hospital and share with kids, I have the opportunity to hang out with Zack before a game, I have the opportunity to go build a hospital in the Philippines or to do a lot more important things than football."
Tebow was told it seemed he became more and more determined the bigger the deficit became on the scoreboard.
"Well, I just wanted to show character," Tebow said. "And anytime you're getting beat like that, you continue to fight. It doesn't change who you are, how you play, you just go out there and be the same at all times. That's what I wanted to show, and it doesn't matter whether it's the first play or the last play or whether you're down 42 points, I was going to be the same player and give everything I have, because that's all I have to give. Every time I step on the field, I'm going to give my whole heart, regardless of the score and regardless of what's happening."
It's something his teammates acknowledged after the game. Safety Rahim Moore was one who offered a vote of confidence for Tebow after the loss.
"He's our guy," Moore responded when asked whether Tebow should be the starting quarterback next year. "People put too much pressure on him. He's going to have some good and some bad. I believe in him and I would like him to be our quarterback. Our team gels around him.''
Just not yesterday, against the Patriots, who are as assured about their quarterback as a franchise can possibly be.
"It's not like we lost to some bums," Moore said. "We lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots. We lost to a great team and a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback."