Denis Poroy, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — It wasn't always pretty and it almost ended in the NFL's first tie since 2008.
Still, there was Tim Tebow, doing enough to help lead the Denver Broncos to a 16-13 win over the staggering San Diego Chargers. After Nick Novak missed a 53-yard field goal, Denver's Matt Prater kicked a 37-yarder with 29 seconds left, making Tebow 5-1 since he was elevated to starting quarterback.
Tebow wasn't watching as Novak lined up to try the 53-yarder.
He was praying, of course.
Did Tebow ask for a miss?
"I might have said that. Or maybe a block. Maybe all of it," the Denver quarterback said with a laugh.
Whatever, it worked.
Novak pushed his kick wide right. Tebow moved the Broncos down the field for the kick that sent the Chargers tumbling to their sixth straight loss.
With that kick, there now hasn't been a tie in the NFL since Cincinnati and Philadelphia ended deadlocked at 13 on Nov. 16, 2008.
"This is a special team, a special team when you have a bunch of guys that when things aren't going good we get closer instead of pulling apart," said Tebow, who grates on some people because he's openly religious. "The No. 1 reason we are like that is because we believe in each other, we believe in the coaching staff."
Coach John Fox believes in his quarterback, even if Hall of Famer John Elway, the Broncos executive VP of football operations, isn't totally sold on his third-down conversions and passing numbers.
"Tim has outstanding ability," Fox said. "He proved it at a high level of college football in the SEC at Florida. (The option is) something that he is comfortable with. I think our team has adapted to it. Right now it's working in the run portion of our offense. We still have some growth to do in the pass portion."
Tebow has been a savior for the Broncos since Fox elevated him to starter in the wake of his performance in a close loss to the Chargers on Oct. 9 in Denver.
The Broncos (6-5) have won four straight to trail Oakland by one game in the AFC West. Additionally, they're 4-0 on the road under Tebow.
Tebow led Denver from its 43 after Novak was wide right on a 53-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 left in overtime. Novak made a 53-yarder in the first quarter, a career-best, and was wide right on a 48-yard try early in the fourth quarter.
Tebow had a 12-yard gain and Willis McGahee ran 24 yards up the middle to set up Prater's winning kick, which was right down the middle. McGahee finished with 117 yards on 23 carries.
Tebow, the talk of the NFL because he runs the read option and often struggles while passing, carried 22 times for 67 yards — the most carries by a quarterback in a game since at 1950, according to STATS LLC.
He also threw for one touchdown and finished with a better rating than Philip Rivers, 95.4 to 77.1. Rivers was pressured all day by Elvis Dumervil, who had two sacks, and rookie Von Miller, who had one.
Novak didn't have an explanation for his OT miss.
"I had a good warmup and hit that ball pretty decent," he said of the 53-yarder he kicked in the first quarter. "When you make the first kick of the game from 53, it gives you a lot of confidence for the next kicks to come."
The Chargers (4-7) are on their longest streak since ending 2001 with nine straight defeats and are last in the division, three games behind Oakland with five to play.
"There's nothing I can say to make it sound good," Rivers said. "It's about as rough as it gets."
San Diego's Ryan Mathews, who was having the best game of his two-year career, was on the sideline for the crucial possession when Novak missed. Fullback Mike Tolbert was thrown for a 4-yard loss the play before Novak missed.
Turner didn't have an explanation for what happened.
"He came out and I don't know why he came out," Turner said. "We're in the middle of the drive. I assumed when he came out that he came out for a play and then he didn't go back in."
Mathews ran 22 times for a career-high 137 yards.
Tebow had two nice completions in leading the Broncos to the tying score, Prater's 24-yard field goal with 1:34 to go in regulation.
Rivers was 19 of 36 for 188 yards. Tebow was 9 of 18 for 143 yards.
The Chargers took a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Rivers hit Antonio Gates on a 6-yard scoring pass in the back of the end zone to cap a 15-play, 91-yard drive.
Tebow threw an 18-yard TD pass to Eric Decker just before halftime to pull to 10-7.
Novak kicked a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Denver had a long drive later in the quarter before Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull to 13-10.
Notes: It was Mathews' third career 100-yard game, all against Denver. ... Broncos CB Cassius Vaughn injured an ankle in the first quarter and didn't return. ... Injured Chargers were LG Brandyn Dombrowski (foot), TE Kory Sperry (ribs), LB Na'il Diggs (chest) and Corey Liuget (tibia).
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