DENVER — Tim Tebow's 20-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left capped a 95-yard drive and sent the Denver Broncos to a 17-13 victory over the stunned New York Jets on Thursday night.
Tebow saw the blitz and outflanked safety Eric Smith around the left edge, then cut back and bulled his way past other Jets into the end zone.
"We have a resilient team," Tebow said.
And a resilient, if unorthodox quarterback.
The Broncos (5-5) are 4-1 since Tebow replaced Kyle Orton.
Tebow said during the week that the most exciting thing he did during the week wasn't preparing for Rex Ryan's dominant defense but announcing his foundation was building a children's hospital in the Philippines.
The Jets (5-5) lost their second heartbreaker in four days. Mark Sanchez's desperation pass toward the end zone was batted down as time expired.
Nick Folk's 45-yard field goal broke a 10-10 tie with 9:14 remaining, and the Broncos found themselves facing a daunting task when they got the ball back with 5:54 left at their own 5.
New York safety Jim Leonhard could have throttled Denver's winning drive on the first play when he wrapped up Eddie Royal in the end zone on a throw to the right flat, but Royal wiggled free for 8 yards.
Tebow ran just twice for 11 yards until the final drive, when he carried seven times for 58 yards in a performance reminiscent of his miracle in Miami, when he was ineffective for 55 minutes, then led the Broncos to two TDs in the final 5 minutes of a game Denver won in overtime.
After completing just two passes in a win at Kansas City four days earlier, Tebow completed 9 of 20 passes for 104 yards Thursday night.
"I said before, I trust him. I trust him with everything," teammate Von Miller said about Tebow. "No matter how many interceptions he throws, no matter how many touchdowns he throws. I'm going to ride him to the end. I hope he shut up a bunch of his critics today."
The debate across the NFL is: can the option keep working?
"I want to run whatever's going to work," Tebow said.
Before Denver's unorthodox option offense prevailed again, it appeared the Jets were going to win this one thanks to an oddball touchdown — left guard Matt Slauson's fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Slauson recovered rookie running back Bilal Powell's fumble at the 1 and dived across the goal line early in the third quarter to give New York a 10-3 lead. No Jets offensive lineman had scored on a fumble recovery since guard Randy Rasmussen smothered running back Cliff McClain's fumble in the end zone against Miami in 1972.
Denver tied it at 10 when Andre' Goodman stepped in front of Plaxico Burress and picked off Mark Sanchez's ill-advised pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
It was the third pick-six Sanchez and thrown this year, and the Jets followed that with their fourth lost fumble on special teams when Joe McKnight coughed it up on the kickoff return at his 41. Cassius Vaughn recovered for Denver, but the Broncos couldn't capitalize this time, going three and out.
McKnight and Powell shared snaps after New York's backfield took another hit when starting running back Shonn Greene went down in the first half with a rib injury. They were already without LaDainian Tomlinson (knee), so Powell was activated for the first time all season.
Greene was hurt with 3:24 left in the first quarter after catching a 4-yard screen pass from Sanchez.
The Broncos turned to the option scheme that he perfected at Florida and made him one of the best combination quarterbacks in NCAA history, but the Jets throttled Tebow for 54 minutes.
They stacked the box and stopped the run, and then defended the pass well, too — until Denver's final drive, when Tebow took over.
After losing four of their first five under Orton, the Broncos are .500 and a-half game behind Oakland in the AFC West.
There's times it's not pretty with Tebow, but it's effective.
"Would I have drafted him? Yes, I would have drafted him," Broncos boss John Elway said on the NFL Network before kickoff. "Now, if you ask me if I would have drafted him in the first round, I don't know because I wasn't in those draft meetings."
Either way, Tebow's their man and the Broncos have customized their offense to fit his unique skill set.
The Broncos caught the Jets by surprise on the first play of the game — a pass from Tebow down the sideline that Demaryius Thomas hauled in for a 28-yard gain.
From there, it was a mix of conventional runs up the middle by Willis McGahee and a variety of read-option plays that the Broncos have used in tailoring their offense to their unorthodox quarterback.
On Denver's third snap,Tebow put the ball in McGahee's belly and as soon as he let go, linebacker Jamaal Westerman bulldozed Tebow.
By the time the Broncos gave the ball over on downs at the Jets 21, Tebow had three completions, one more than he had all of last week in a 17-10 win at Kansas City.
After T.J. Conley shanked a punt, Denver got the ball at the Jets 34 and Matt Prater's short field goal put the Broncos on the board. The Jets tied it on Folk's chip-shot field goal after McGahee coughed up the ball at the Broncos' 35 and linebacker Bart Scott recovered.
Folk's 61-yard attempt as the first half expired came up way short.
McGahee returned to the Broncos backfield after pulling his left hamstring Sunday at Kansas City and was limited in practice. McGahee, the team's leading rusher, split time with Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson, who was promoted from the practice squad this week to replace Knowshon Moreno after the former first-round pick tore his right ACL against the Chiefs.2 comments on this story
The Broncos' ground game kept one of the Jets' top playmakers, Darrelle Revis, on the outside peering in. The Jets had a short week to devise a game plan to contain an offense that's rarely run on this level. It was a stark contrast to the spread offense the Jets encountered in a 37-16 loss last weekend to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Notes: In addition to missing Tomlinson, New York also played without Brodney Pool (sprained left knee), wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (left knee), and tight end Shawn Nelson (illness). ... Broncos WR Eric Decker's girlfriend, country singer Jessie James, performed at halftime.