Tim Tebow's status under center for next weekend's game might be as shaky as one of his passes.
The Denver Broncos quarterback was erratic and off-target all afternoon in a 45-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Tebow had the football stripped from his left hand and scooped up for a TD, threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a score, and was sacked seven times.
It was a forgettable performance a week after Tebow rallied the Broncos (2-5) from a 15-0 deficit in the final minutes in Miami for an improbable 18-15 overtime win.
Even in that game, Tebow struggled for the first 55 minutes before catching fire at the end. But he couldn't carry the momentum over to the field against the Lions (6-2).
''It's disappointing,'' said Tebow, who completed 18 of 39 passes for 172 yards and one score. ''We need to get a lot better.''
Whether that's with Tebow in charge remains to be seen.
After the contest, Broncos coach John Fox hardly gave his quarterback a ringing endorsement. Asked who he might start under center next Sunday in Oakland, Fox simply answered, ''It's too early to say.''
''I haven't even had a shower yet, let alone look at the tape,'' Fox said. ''We've definitely got to get better.''
The Broncos started off well, too, 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 officials rule the pass incomplete and replay validate the call. Denver settled 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 weren't able to really get that first, first down to get us going in drives,'' Tebow said. ''So we've got to put ourselves in better situations and find ways to convert.''
Tebow wasn't concerned with his status as the starter next Sunday as much as fixing the offense. The Broncos had only eight first downs through the opening three quarters, before padding their stats in the final 15 minutes with the game out of reach.
''I'm just going to get up early and go to work and try to get better tomorrow,'' Tebow said. ''Consistently improve and be the best person-slash-quarterback for this organization and continue to improve.''
Despite the rocky performance, Tebow's teammates haven't lost faith in him.
''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 secondary, hardly showing 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.
''He's a great quarterback,'' Miller said. ''You couldn't even tell he was hurt. Made some incredible throws. That's Matthew Stafford for you.''
The Lions' defense hounded Tebow at every opportunity. With a front four featuring standout Ndamukong Suh, Tebow had little time to look for his targets down field.
And when he hesitated even the slightest, the Lions were all over him. Like in the third quarter, when Tebow drifted back and set up to heave the ball. But his long, looping throwing motion gave defensive end Cliff Avril just enough time to race in, strip the ball and then scoop it up for a 24-yard TD.
Later, cornerback Chris Houston stepped in front of a pass and returned the pick 100 yards.
''At the end of the day, there was some good and some bad like always and with our whole team,'' Fox said. ''Tim's a heck of a football player. He's got high football character. He's a work in progress. He's a young player.''
Not to mention a QB with his own national craze. Tebow inadvertently inspired a phenomenon last weekend when he took a knee on the field after the comeback win against the Dolphins and prayed amid the chaos. It became known as ''Tebowing,'' and fans all around the country have been sending in snapshots to a website of themselves striking a similar Tebow pose.
Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch celebrated his sack of Tebow by joining the ''Tebowing'' craze, 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.
Offensive? Not to Champ Bailey.
''Stop 'em. Plain and simple,'' Bailey said. ''People get so sensitive, 'They shouldn't run up the score ...' Stop 'em. Plain and simple. You don't want them celebrating on your field - stop 'em. Period. That doesn't bother me.''
Notes: Broncos S Quinton Carter (concussion), RT Orlando Franklin (groin), TE Virgil Green (neck) and DB Cassius Vaughn (hamstring) were injured.