The final preseason game, for the most part, is meaningless to most players who will be factors during the 2010 season. The Vikings thought so little of the game that they benched 20 of their 22 starters. But for one player, Thursday's game had much more significance than just about anyone else and the results were far less than anticipated.
Denver first-round draft pick, Tim Tebow, was expected to put in a strong performance, but it was numerous mistakes that he made in the first half that turned a lackluster Vikings performance on offense into the turning point of the game.
The Vikings struggled badly in the first half to get any sort of offense generated, but it was Denver shooting itself in the foot offensively that kept the game from being a lopsided lead for the Broncos and most of the problems were the direct result of Tebow mistakes.
After two drives by the Broncos with Kyle Orton at the wheel, Tebow came in and had a disastrous first play. He fumbled the first snap and inadvertently kicked the ball. It rolled to Erin Henderson, who scooped up the ball in stride and raced 35 yards for a touchdown. At a time when the Vikings were looking for their initial first down of the game, the score was tied 7-7.
"I can't let that happen. I've got to get a hold of it and do something better with it than that," Tebow said.
On his second drive, Tebow got the Broncos moving, but the drive again ended badly. Locked onto his target downfield, Tebow tried to throw a bomb down the seam but was intercepted by Tyrell Johnson, who brought the pick back 41 yards to the Denver 24-yard line. The Vikings would kick a field goal on the first play of the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead while still getting very little in the way of production from the offense.
"You've just got to have a short memory, forget about it and just try to rally the troops and get better from there," Tebow said.
The third and fourth drives for Tebow ended up with the same result, although this time it wasn't Tebow's fault. Starting at his own 20-yard line, Tebow drove Denver to the Vikings 35. On a poorly executed screen pass to rookie tight end Marquez Branson, cornerback DeAndre Wright shot through a gap and jarred the ball loose. Rookie Everson Griffen recovered the ball and killed the drive. On the fourth drive with Tebow at the helm, running back Bruce Hall was hit by Jasper Brinkley and Colt Anderson and fumbled. Henderson recovered it again, setting up the Vikings offense on the Denver 6-yard line, where they would score to take a 17-7 lead.
On his final drive of the half, Tebow drove the Broncos to the Vikings 19-yard line, but Hall was stuffed on a fourth-down run to turn the ball over with a minute to play in the half.
While Denver would rally in the second half, perhaps the most important person in Thursday's game was Tebow. There were high expectations for him coming into the game. As it ended – with four turnovers and turning the ball over on downs on his first five drives – Tebow did little to inspire confidence in his coaching staff and teammates, creating a self-destructive turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turning point: Tebow's turnovers
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