Gary Wiepert, Associated Press
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tim Tebow picked a terrible time to run out of fourth-quarter comebacks.
Rather than inspiring the Denver Broncos to another dramatic rally, the quarterback sealed the most dreadful performance of his two-year career by throwing four interceptions — all in the second half and two returned for touchdowns 18 seconds apart — in a 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
It happened as the Broncos (8-7) had a chance to inch closer to clinching their first playoff berth in six years, and against a Bills team that was coming off seven straight losses and had little to play for.
"My confidence is just fine," Tebow said. "I have to do a better job of not giving them opportunities. I tried to make something happen, and I tried to force it."
Denver coach John Fox hasn't lost faith in Tebow.
"I just think a couple of misreads," Fox said.
And no, he gave no thought of pulling Tebow at any point during a second half in which four of the Broncos' final six possessions ended with interceptions.
On the bright side, Denver's not done yet, despite falling into a tie with Oakland atop the AFC West. Denver closes its season by hosting the Kansas City Chiefs next week, and still holds the tiebreaker edge over the Raiders.
"Everything is still on the table," Tebow said. "We have to go and execute and play a little better. Hopefully, we can get in the tournament."
Tebow finished 13 of 30 for 185 yards with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells. He added 34 yards rushing, and scored on a 1-yard plunge.
That wasn't nearly good enough for a player who entered the game best known for engineering five fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
The Bills (6-9) made sure he never got in position for a sixth in coming away with a win in their home finale.
Safety Jairus Byrd and linebacker Spencer Johnson scored on interception returns 18 seconds apart midway through the fourth quarter. C.J. Spiller rushed for a career-best 111 yards and a touchdown, and Leodis McKelvin scored on an 80-yard punt return.
"It's special," Johnson said. "We had a monkey on our back for a long time."
Added safety George Wilson: "It's a great reward for the resilience, commitment and dedication."
The Bills' four interceptions were two more than they managed in their previous seven games. They have returned five interceptions for touchdowns to set a single-season franchise record.
If the game wasn't over with 8:03 left when Byrd jumped in front of Tebow's pass intended for Eric Decker up the left hash mark and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, then it certainly was decided on the Broncos' next play from scrimmage.
Tebow was flushed from the pocket and was scrambling to his left when linebacker Chris Kelsay dived from behind and batted the ball out of the quarterback's hand. The ball flew into the air and landed in the hands of Johnson, who ran it in from 17 yards.
Kelsay, the longest-serving member of the defense, had two sacks and led the team with nine tackles.
"We've lost seven games in a row. It wears on you," Kelsay said. "We got rewarded. We came together and we executed."
After weeks of assertive defense, the Broncos gave up 40 points for a second straight game — though Tebow's giveaways certainly didn't help. And yet Denver allowed 160 yards rushing and 351 yards in all to a banged-up Bills offense that was averaging 14.2 points and 314.7 yards during its seven-game skid.
- Dick Harmon: BYU's Harvey Unga to assist...
- Copper Hills lives up to expectations with...
- Cold-shooting BYU loses stunner to Pacific,...
- Live stream: High school drill team state...
- Hood, Hayward help Jazz eclipse Suns for...
- 'Heart-to-heart' talk between Krystkowiak and...
- Utah gymnastics: Red Rocks edged out at UCLA...
- Dick Harmon: BYU's Sitake hired assistant...
- Utes drop heartbreaker at Oregon State,... 100
- Morning links: Grading the BYU, Utah... 83
- Cold-shooting BYU loses stunner to... 58
- BYU football: 2016 recruiting class... 42
- College football signing day central:... 34
- 5-star LDS linebacker prospect Mique... 33
- Dick Harmon: BYU's Sitake hired... 30
- Brad Rock: Recruiting day puts Utes in... 29