PAT GRAHAM,AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — Tim Tebow was sacked seven times by the Detroit Lions. Now, he might get sacked by his coach.
A week after salvaging 55 minutes of ineptitude with a miracle comeback in Miami, the Denver Broncos quarterback was good for the first 5 minutes Sunday and then awful the rest of the way in a 45-10 loss to the Lions.
Tebow was off the mark most of the game under relentless pressure by the Lions (6-2), who turned his two turnovers into touchdowns as they snapped a two-game skid and headed into their bye week on a high note.
After the game, Broncos coach John Fox didn’t exactly give his quarterback a vote of confidence. Fox said he wanted to evaluate this game before deciding who will be under center when the Broncos (2-5) visit Oakland next Sunday.
It won’t be any prettier watching the footage of this one.
Tebow struggled to get the offense into any sort of rhythm, completing just 18 of 39 passes for 172 yards and one score, and most of that yardage came with the outcome long decided. He had happy feet in the pocket — more to do with the Lions’ pressure — and his long, looping throwing motion gave defensive end Cliff Avril enough time to race in, strip the ball and then scoop it up for a 24-yard TD in the third quarter.
Later, cornerback Chris Houston stepped in front of a Tebow pass for the fourth 100-yard interception return in team history.
“Just got to improve and get better and come out with a little bit more juice,” Tebow said.
Whether that’s with Tebow running the show will be a highly discussed and debated topic this week on call-in radio shows. Tebow is keeping out of the fray.
“I’m just going to get up early and go to work and try to get better tomorrow and consistently improve and be the best person-slash-quarterback for this organization,” Tebow said.
He still has the backing of his teammates, who remember the comeback he orchestrated last weekend in Miami more than his lackluster performance against Detroit.
“Natural born leader. He’s already proven that,” rookie linebacker Von Miller said. “He’s a great guy with great character. I feel like he can get it done. I’m a believer until the end.”
As Tebow struggled, Matthew Stafford picked apart the Broncos secondary, showing hardly any ill effects of an ankle he tweaked the week before against Atlanta. Stafford was on target all day, completing 21 of 30 passes for 267 yards and three TDs.
“Feels good now,” Stafford said. “Feels way better after a win.”
His jersey definitely had a lot fewer grass stains than the one belonging to Tebow. Stafford was hardly hit while Tebow was hounded at every opportunity. With a front four featuring standout Ndamukong Suh, Tebow had little time to look for his targets.
That was all part of Detroit’s game plan — make him beat the Lions with his arm.
“He’s an athlete. He’s no Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or nothing like that. Or Michael Vick or nothing like that,” Houston said. “He’s got a long ways to go as far as being a quarterback, but he’s a hard worker.
“We sent the rush and we were out there on an island most of the time and the D-line just got to him, got a lot of sacks and made him throw the ball up.”
Houston was definitely one of the benefactors. He just missed an interception on an earlier play and when the Broncos came back with a similar route, he was ready. Houston jumped in front of the pass and was off to the races.
Given time and patience, Houston believes Tebow can perform at this level.
“He’s going to continue to get better in this league,” Houston said.
The Broncos started off well in this game by disguising their offensive looks. With Tebow under center, then in shotgun formation, with three backs in the backfield, then none, the Broncos drove down the field on their first drive.
And they looked to have scored on a catch by Eric Decker in the corner of the end zone, only to have the officials rule the catch incomplete and replay validate the call. Denver was forced to settle for a field goal.
From there, the offense went stagnant as Denver gained just 32 yards on its next 22 snaps before going into the locker room trailing 24-3.
“We just basically got whipped,” Fox said. “We got outcoached and outplayed, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. I think that’s very evident.”
Last weekend, Tebow inadvertently inspired a phenomenon when he took a knee on the field after a dramatic 18-15 overtime win against the Dolphins and prayed amid all the players celebrating. It became known as “Tebowing,” and fans all around the country have been posting snapshots online of themselves striking a similar Tebow pose to a website.
Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch got into the act after sacking Tebow, imitating a prayerful pose near Tebow in the first half.
Tight end Tony Scheffler performed a scaled-down version of the Tebow impersonation after catching a 1-yard TD pass against his former team in the second quarter.
Champ Bailey wasn’t offended by the behavior, saying that only by stopping teams can that type of celebration be prevented.
“Plain and simple,” Bailey said. “You don’t want them celebrating on your field — stop ’em. Period.”
Notes: Broncos S Quinton Carter (concussion), RT Orlando Franklin (groin), TE Virgil Green (neck) and DB Cassius Vaughn (hamstring) were injured. … Lions WR Calvin Johnson hauled in a 56-yard TD pass to join Randy Moss as the only wide receivers since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to catch 11 TD passes in his team’s first eight games.
AP Pro Football writer Arnie Stapleton contributed.
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