- Associated Press - Monday, December 19, 2011

Midway through a not-so-funny “Saturday Night Live” sketch, an actor playing Jesus was in the locker room discussing Denver’s winning streak with what was supposed to be Tim Tebow and his teammates.

After taking credit for helping the Broncos win six in a row, he was told the New England Patriots were coming to town next.

“Oh, boy. Really? Wow. Did not know that,” he said. “That’s gonna to be a tough one.”

It was, though it’s hard to blame Tebow for the loss Sunday that derailed _ at least temporarily _ the cultural phenomenon that was sweeping the country. Without Tom Brady running the New England offense with his usual cool efficiency, this game might have ended like the past half dozen, with Tebow scrambling and throwing his way to yet another fourth-quarter miracle win.

Coming back is one thing. Coming back against a quarterback that knows a little something about fourth-quarter dramatics himself is quite another.

The Patriots weren’t going to make the kind of mistakes that doomed other teams against Tebow in the fourth quarter. Bill Belichick wasn’t going to order Brady to hand the ball off to protect a lead only to have the strategy backfire.

The better quarterback played like the great quarterback he is. The better team won, just like they were supposed to.

There would be no Tebowtime this time.

There was, however, something about the way Tebow and the Denver offense played that _ along with an Oakland Raiders loss _ had to make the Broncos and their fans feel pretty good about themselves.

It sure didn’t get the relentlessly upbeat Tebow down _ as if that was possible.

“There’s a lot of great things we can take out of this game,” Tebow said. “Every time there’s a setback there’s more of an opportunity for a new step up.”

Cliches, yes, but you get the idea Tebow believes them. And no one should question a quarterback who believes as much as he does.

The argument could actually be made that Tebow had one of his better games in what ended up a 41-23 blowout. He surely had one of his best first quarters, leading Denver to a 16-7 lead before Brady took over in a game that clinched the AFC East for the Patriots.

No, the statistics weren’t spectacular, though with Tebow they never are. But there were further signs of progress, and more indications that Tebow will grow into a quarterback that Denver boss John Elway can learn to love.

Most everyone else seems to love him already. The “Saturday Night Live” sketch capped a week where it was hard to go anywhere without being reminded that we are witnessing one of the most fascinating players in one of the most enthralling runs in all of sports.

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