The Denver Broncos Sunday posted a stirring come-from-behind 38-24 win over the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum, better known and forever regarded as the Black Hole.
On the same day that San Diego and Kansas City both lost, the AFC Western Division race is now a three-way tie among those three guys, with the Broncos just one game out.
And forget all the logic about this team, that team……just forget it. It belongs to whichever team winds up first, whether by wins or tiebreakers.
And spare me the discussion about who has the most talent, the best talent, the oldest talent, the youngest talent, and so forth.
Heck, we all know we are far from a finished product. Vice President John Elway and General Manager Brian Xanders are working very hard with the scouting staff to look at every way possible to add the talent that we know we need for next year. But this year still exists, and it means something and has an inherent value itself.
So, Sunday, did you win or did you lose?
Well, yesterday, all the classic beauties in the race lost.
Kansas City lost at home to the team with the worst record in football, the Chargers lost at home to the team with the best record in football, and in between, the Broncos, who have received nothing but the back of the hands from critics and so-called experts who seem less expert every day, beat the Oakland Raiders, in their stadium, in a game the Raiders needed to win to take sole possession of first place.
And Denver came from 10 down at the half.
It marked the third halftime deficit that Tim Tebow has led the team back from in his young career.
And winning still matters, right? Of course we realize that the team is a work in progress, and so is Tebow, and sometimes progress is two steps forward and one step back—that is why they talk about the development of young quarterbacks, not their finality.
But still, winning counts, winning matters.
And style points are for figure skating.
We do not know how it will all play out for the long term future, and not even for the balance of 2011, but Elway, John Fox and Xanders are juggling the present and the future and trying real hard to be winners at both.
Tebow played what Fox called the young quarterback’s “best game so far” against the Raiders, but every single player—not just Tebow—is developing all the time, and a team cannot be sure how far that development will take some one, or where and when it will end.
So you line up and keep playing.
And this week we go into another AFC West matchup on unfriendly turf, at Arrowhead Stadium. Tebow brings his 2011 2-1 record as a starter into the game, Champ Bailey is fresh off his two interception contest against the Raiders, and Eddie Royal’s two touchdown performance marked the first time since 1982 (Rick Upchurch) that a Bronco scored on a punt return and on a pass reception in the same game.
So it would be real easy to try to project the AFC West winner based on what we think must be, what is “bound to happen” (a very dangerous practice), and on projections of talent and play.
But there is one universal and absolute truth in pro football.
All the playing happens on the field. That is only place on which the final score is determined.
The standings are what they line up to be on paper, and the winning and losing will all happen on the field.
It is anybody’s race today.