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Tebow takes lumps, but his faith not bruised

By John Powers
Globe Staff / January 15, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH - Tim Tebow was wearing a purple shirt and a purple tie as he came into the interview room last night. All he was missing was a Purple Heart. The man who gave a new name to genuflection this season and had much of the planet emulating or mocking him, took a thorough beating from the Patriots - on the scoreboard, on the stat sheet, and on the field. But he was determined to finish the game and give thanks to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when it was done.

“I pray before games, during games, and after games,’’ the Broncos quarterback said after New England’s defenders had chased him around their playpen as if he were a pet beagle in their 45-10 victory, Denver’s worst playoff loss since their 55-10 smackdown by the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV more than 20 years ago. “Regardless of whether I win, whether I lose, whether I’m the hero or goat, I still honor the Lord.’’

The only chance Tebow might have had at being the hero last night would have been if he had sold his soul to the devil. Even then, there was virtually no chance he could match Tom Brady, who had a supernatural night. “He’s a great quarterback and he showed it again tonight,’’ said Tebow, who said that it was an honor to play against him.

Tebow, for his part, spent most of the night tangled up in blue. He completed only 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards, was sacked five times and ended with a 52.7 rating to Brady’s 137.6. “They came out with a great scheme and we weren’t able to get it clicking tonight,’’ said Tebow, who had fewer completions than Brady had touchdowns after three quarters.

Last night his teammates were 7 points down by the time he buckled his chinstrap. By then Brady already had thrown the first of his six touchdown passes. Tebow had the ball in his hands for six plays before he was sacked by Rob Ninkovich and fumbled. Another Brady touchdown pass and it was 14-0. “We just didn’t put forth a good enough performance tonight,’’ Tebow conceded. “You have to give them a lot of credit.’’

The one bright moment - Willis McGahee’s touchdown on the first play of the second quarter - quickly vanished with a personal foul by Zane Beadles that essentially gave Danny Woodhead a 15-yard head start and put the Patriots on their own 40. So Tebow got the ball back on his own 5, went three-and-out and Brady got the ball back near midfield. Another touchdown toss to Rob Gronkowski and it was 21-7 and it was gone. The Broncos, who had averaged barely 19 points a game, were 3-6 when they had allowed 20 or more.

“Even at halftime we said we’re going to play it one play at a time,’’ said Tebow, whose colleagues were down, 35-7, by then. “You never know what will happen. We just weren’t able to get it done.’’

With the Patriots sitting on a massive lead, their defenders simply jacked up their tails and came flying at Tebow, who was the victim of a game of hare-and-hounds. After yet another sack, he came up yelling at his linemen. But even after he had the wind knocked out of him and coach John Fox had backup Brady Quinn warming up, Tebow was determined to finish what he had started.

“Sometimes you can get hit and it hurts a little bit but I wanted to play that game,’’ he said. “I wanted to show character. You continue to fight. Even down by 42 I was going to be the same player and give everything I had.’’

Denver’s season was going sour when Fox benched Kyle Orton after five games and gave Tebow the reins for what turned into the most exhilarating revival in franchise history. “The run was a lot of fun,’’ Tebow said, “a lot of ups and downs.’’

And while he wasn’t the Broncos’ leader in September, he definitely is now.

“He is only going to get much better,’’ said safety Rahim Moore, “and I think he’ll be a great quarterback one day.’’

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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