Gators in the NFL

The Gators in the NFL this week were highlighted by two solid performances from starting quarterbacks. Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow each made their first start under center this season, with Tebow getting the first start of his career. They weren't the only former Florida players to have success on Sunday.

Tebow got the start after taking all the first team practice reps this week because of a rib injury to Denver starter Kyle Orton. The rib injury didn't improve as Sunday's game drew closer, but reports have surfaced that the Broncos planned to start Tebow even if Orton's ribs improved.

The Broncos lost 39-23 at Oakland, but Tebow proved he belonged. He was 8-for-16, passing for 138 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Tebow also ran the ball eight times for 78 yards and one touchdown.

The play calling was conservative, including multiple 3rd-and-long quarterback draws. Some of those calls came when the Broncos were in field goal range and didn't want to risk being knocked out of it. However, Tebow throwing the ball only 16 times showed the Denver coaching staff was trying to ease him into playing. He is expected to start the final two games of the season, at home against Houston and San Diego.

Jabar Gaffney caught a 32-yard pass from Tebow. Louis Murphy caught a 14-yard pass for the Raiders.

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan raised eyebrows when he announced that Rex Grossman would start over Donovan McNabb. Shanahan made the move because he felt like Grossman gave his team the best chance to win.

After struggling at the start, Grossman settled in and played well. He finished the game going 25-for-43 for 322 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Grossman also lost a fumble. It wasn't a great performance, but it could be a rebound performance that proves Grossman still belongs in the league.

New England tight end Aaron Hernandez continued his big season. He started out by making a big impact on the Patriots offense and becoming one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. During the middle of the season, he wasn't on the field much. Hernandez spent plenty of time on the field Sunday night against Green Bay, and he took advantage of it.

The rookie caught a team-high four passes for 31 yards and two touchdowns, including the score that put the Patriots ahead for good with 7:14 remaining in the game. Hernandez also added a 16-yard rush on a tight end reverse. When he made his mark early in the season, he was catching passes everywhere but inside the red zone. Now he is back to becoming a favorite target of Tom Brady during big moments.

Buffalo wide receiver David Nelson continued his surprising rookie season, this time having success in a familiar place. The Bills beat the Dolphins 17-14 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the same stadium where Nelson caught a fourth quarter jump pass from Tebow to clinch the Gators 2008 national championship. Nelson continued his success in the stadium, making three receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.

In warmups before the game, there were reports of Nelson lining up in the slot and recreating the touchdown he caught from Tebow in the same end zone.

The Cincinnati Bengals won their third game of the season thanks to plenty of production from ex-Gators. Andre Caldwell led the team with four receptions and 89 yards. Carlos Dunlap recorded two sacks, giving him six in the last four games. He has been the Begnals most consistent pass rush threat this season. Reggie Nelson had five tackles, and Keiwan Ratliff had three.

On the opposite sideline, Joe Haden continued his successful rookie season, recording eight tackles. Haden has five interceptions and 16 pass deflections on the season.

Defensive end Alex Brown recorded five tackles for the New Orleans Saints, including two tackles for loss. The Saints lost 30-24 at Baltimore.

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