Tebow and Broncos fall, but reach playoffs

DENVER -- Tim Tebow has always done things the unorthodox way. Making the playoffs was no different.

He fell short in his latest comeback bid, yet his Denver Broncos are still going to the playoffs.

Kyle Orton got his revenge in leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 7-3 win over Denver on Sunday, but it’s the Broncos who clinched the AFC West and are headed to the postseason.

After congratulating their former starting quarterback, the Broncos celebrated the end to their six-year playoff drought once San Diego beat Oakland 38-26 later Sunday.

Losers of their last three games, the Broncos finished 8-8, same as the Raiders. They won their first division title since 2005 on a tiebreaker.

So, everybody at Mile High got what they wanted even though Tebow couldn’t beat the guy he failed to beat out in training camp.

Tebow, though, got the last laugh.

Orton, who also handed Green Bay its only loss, went 2-1 in Kansas City. His steady play likely raised his stock as he prepares to enter free agency. And he might have secured interim coach Romeo Crennel’s future.

Best of all, he beat the team that benched him after he finally caved under the weight of Tebowmania and the Broncos stumbled to a 1-4 start.

The Broncos revamped their offense to fit Tebow’s unorthodox skill set and surged to the top of their division. They released Orton in the midst of a 7-1 run that included a series of fourth-quarter comebacks that captivated the football world.

Never before in the four-plus decades since the AFL-NFL merger has a starting quarterback returned to start a game in the same season against his former team.

Orton didn’t do much but he didn’t have to. The game’s only touchdown came on Dexter McCluster’s 21-yard scamper with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.

Orton’s 18-yard completion to Jonathan Baldwin on third-and-9 from his own 12 with five minutes left in the game was as big a play as he had all afternoon as this was a battle of field position and the Punting Colquitt Bros. more than anything else.

The Broncos got the ball back at their own 20 with 3:59 left.

Tebow time? Not this time.