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(Sunday, December 4th)
Final Score: Denver 35, Minnesota 32
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - For the second consecutive week, a Matt Prater field goal delivered a victory.
And thanks to Tim Tebow, the Broncos keep rolling out inexplicable victories.
Prater kicked a 46-yard field goal to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, then booted a 23-yarder with time expiring to give Denver a 35-32 win against the Vikings.
Last week, Prater kicked a field goal in overtime to give Denver a 16-13 victory over the Chargers in San Diego. But before that kick, Tebow led several drives to help deliver the victory, and the same was true Sunday.
Tebow threw two third-quarter touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas, ran for a game- tying two-point conversion in the fourth, and helped put Denver in position for Prater's game-tying field goal with 1:33 left in the game.
A turnover led to Prater's game-winner, and the result was another victory for the Broncos (7-5), who have won six of seven since Tebow took over as starting quarterback and are tied with Oakland for the AFC West lead. Five of those victories have come by seven points or fewer.
It began with his first start of the season, against Miami on October 23, when he passed for two touchdowns in the final three minutes, and tied the game with a two-point conversion before Prater won it in overtime with a 52-yard kick.
Denver was blown out by Detroit the next week, but since then the Broncos have rattled off five in a row. They beat the Raiders by 14, then squeaked by the Chiefs thanks to a fourth-quarter TD pass by Tebow. It was just his second completion of the game.
The following week, Tebow ran for a touchdown in the final minute to propel Denver to a 17-13 victory over the Jets.
Each win adds to the idea that Tebow possesses some kind of winning touch. In reality, he's struggled at times, but the Denver defense has kept games close, while Tebow and Prater have come up big in some key moments. Whether or not that's a permanent formula for the Broncos, it's made for exciting football.
"I don't necessarily think for us it matters too much how we get the W or who makes the plays," Tebow said. "It's a complete team effort. It's defense, offense, special teams. We know throughout a game, all three of them have to step up at a certain point."
Sunday's game was different only in that the Vikings' offense had success against the Denver defense.
Christian Ponder set a Vikings rookie record by throwing for 381 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions -- one of which was returned for a score.
Two of Ponder's TD throws were long completions to Percy Harvin, who finished with eight receptions for 156 yards. With running back Adrian Peterson still out with an ankle sprain, Toby Gerhart rushed for 91 yards.
However, the Vikings (2-10) couldn't hold off the Broncos and lost a fourth consecutive game.
"It is tough," Ponder said. "We, as a team, played really well, and when it's solely your job of costing the game, it's not fun."
Minnesota carried a 15-7 lead into halftime, but Tebow completed two touchdown passes to Thomas in the third quarter to keep the Broncos close.
On the opening possession of the half, he found Thomas wide-open in the left side of the end zone for a 21-yard score.
With just more than three minutes left in the third, Ponder connected with Harvin along the left sideline and the receiver sprinted into the end zone for a 52-yard score, giving the Vikings a 22-14 lead.
But Quan Cosby returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards, setting up Tebow's 41- yard pass to Thomas. Tebow scrambled to his left and initially tucked the ball, but pulled it back out and found his receiver on the run.
That sequence repeated early in the fourth quarter, when Harvin ran into the end zone on a 48-yard TD catch and the Broncos followed with a short scoring drive. Tebow's 42-yard toss to Thomas set up Willis McGahee's 24-yard TD run.
Tebow plowed into the end zone for the two-point conversion, making it 29-29 with 8:52 to play.
The Vikings used nearly six minutes during their next drive but had to settle for a 39-yard kick by Ryan Longwell. The Broncos also stalled on the subsequent drive, when they moved to the Minnesota 28 before two McGahee runs resulted in zero yards, and Tebow's 3rd-and-10 pass was incomplete.
But as he's done all season, Prater picked up the Broncos with a big kick, hitting the 46-yard try with 1:33 remaining.
Prater got the chance to kick the game-winner thanks to Andre Goodman, who picked off Ponder on the next play from scrimmage and returned it 20 yards to the Vikings' 15.
The Broncos opted to put the ball in the hands of Lance Ball, who ran four consecutive times for 12 yards. Tebow lost two yards on 3rd-and-goal, but Denver used a timeout with two seconds left, which ticked off the clock as Prater's winning kick sailed through the uprights.
Minnesota had the edge in the first half, scoring on a safety just more than two minutes into the game. The Vikings used good punt return coverage to pin the Broncos at the one, and Jared Allen came around the edge to tackle McGahee in the end zone.
Turnovers on their next two possessions hurt the Vikings. Ponder fumbled the ball away before he was picked off by linebacker Mario Haggan, who started in place of injured rookie standout Von Miller.
Haggan dropped back into coverage and stepped into the path of a pass intended for Devin Aromashodu. He grabbed the ball and quickly sprinted the 16 yards into the end zone with 5:42 left in the first quarter.
Longwell's 40-yard field goal a few minutes later pulled the Vikings within 7-5, and they carried a 15-7 lead into halftime after a strong second quarter, most of which they consumed with a long touchdown drive.
The 12-play, 96-yard drive lasted nearly six minutes and ended with a good catch by tight end Kyle Rudolph. He was covered closely by safety Quinton Carter but, at 6-foot-6, had a height advantage of five inches. Rudolph used it to grab the ball above Carter's helmet, then held on to complete the 19- yard catch.
In the final minute of the half, Allen sacked Tebow and forced a fumble, which he recovered at the Denver 22. The Vikings progressed to the Denver six, but were forced to settle for a 25-yarder by Longwell because of the clock.
Thomas finished with four catches for 144 yards...Tebow completed 10-of-15 passes for 202 yards...Gerhart also caught eight passes for 42 yards...The Vikings totaled 27 first downs, compared to 13 for the Broncos. They also out- gained the Broncos 489-336.
12/04 19:02:22 ET
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