Well, Tim Tebow has lost two straight. I’m not surprised. There’s a lot he needs to work on, like his accuracy and his ability to read a complicated defense. We all know Denver’s winning streak wasn’t all him anyway. But what surprises me is Denver’s defense. I thought it was a lot better than how it has played the past two weeks. That’s a shocker.
However, Kansas City is still going to have a tough time beating the Broncos in Denver next Sunday. The Chiefs are out of the playoff race and are going in there as a potential spoiler. I know this is a big deal for Kyle Orton. He’s returning to play the team that cut him loose and put him on the streets, so to speak. This is going to be an emotional game and I don’t know him well enough to say how he’s going to respond to all that.
I really don’t know that kid. If he hit my car, I wouldn’t know him. I want to say Orton will play well — he has had two very good games for the Chiefs — but can he control his emotions and play within himself?
The thing about Tebow today was that everything seemed to break down. We all thought the Bills were dead; they’ve been losing so much. But they pressured Tebow, sacked him three times and picked him off four times. Tebow got rattled and made quite a few mistakes. It was a very rough day for him.
Hey, I like his competitiveness and how he fights through things. There’s no doubt his teammates have responded positively to him. But Tebow needs to do a lot more to be successful in this league. Let’s see if he wins in Week 17 and then let’s see how he fares in the playoffs. I want to see what he does next. Right now, he’s struggled big time when he’s down a couple touchdowns. He must learn to overcome that and figure out how to deal with it.
Switching from Tebow, I want to talk about some rookie quarterbacks. I think what Cam Newton has done this season in Carolina is amazing. A lot of people thought I was against him early in the season, but I never saw this coming. I didn’t think he was going to be this polished in the NFL after playing basically one season at Auburn in a non-NFL offense.
But for Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — fans should know I love him —I’m glad his team found a quarterback to bring the franchise back. Newton has definitely won me over. He scored his 14th rushing touchdown today against the Bucs and also broke Peyton Manning’s rookie passing record. He has one game to go and has a shot at 4,000 yards.
Newton also has hit 20 touchdown passes and my guy, Andy Dalton, reached the same total in Cincinnati today. That’s two rookies this season who have passed for 20 touchdowns and only three other quarterbacks in history have done that: Peyton, Charley Conerly and Dan Marino.
The Panthers have a great chance to really build on this season. I mean, they have two talented running backs, Steve Smith, two quality tight ends and an above-average offensive line. The offense is set. Now coach Ron Rivera needs to work on rebuilding that defense, one that was always very good under John Fox.
What Dalton has done in Cincinnati by putting the Bengals in a playoff position is pretty impressive. I mean, that was a quarterback disaster in Cincinnati last season. Carson Palmer didn’t want to be there and neither did his receivers. The morale was horrible, but Dalton, A.J. Green and Marvin Lewis have turned that all around. The Bengals have a great future, I think. So does Carolina.
For me, it’s difficult to put all these passing numbers in perspective because the game has changed so much in the last couple of years. It is such a passing league now and defensive coaches complain that receivers are allowed to run across their zone defenses without even hitting them. There used to be a time when that never happened. Within the rules, defensive backs and linebackers knocked receivers off their routes but now players are running free and quarterbacks are simply hitting them in stride. To me, passing for 4,000 yards isn’t such a big deal.
I’m not saying I’m not impressed, but the game is so different today. Like I’ve said a thousand times this season, the NFL has turned into the old AFL
Finally, the 49ers showed me something going up to Seattle and winning. Pete Carroll’s team had been playing so well and that’s a tough place to play. Now, San Francisco’s defense had to give it up to Marshawn Lynch. He became the first back to score a rushing touchdown against them this season and he also gained 107 yards, ending the 49ers’ streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher at 36 games.
But San Francisco’s defense hung in there and saved the day. Larry Grant stripped the ball from Tarvaris Jackson and the 49ers recovered. That was their 36th turnover of the season. They are plus-26 in turnover differential, which is No. 1 in the league. The 49ers are playing a different style compared to the rest of the league, but it’s working for them and they seem to have secured that No. 2 seed. I don’t see how they can lose to the Rams next weekend.