There have been three national stories in the NFL. One is Green Bay’s 19-game winning streak that ended in a 19-14 setback at Kansas City this past Sunday, the second being New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees on pace to smash Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage mark.

But the biggest revolves around second-year Denver field general Tim Tebow, who entered the AFC match with New England having piloted the Broncos to a 7-1 record.

Tebow and Denver suffered a 41-23 loss at home, but took a major step in proving he’s an NFL quarterback.

“He answered a lot of questions people had about whether he could throw the ball when he had to,’’ said CBS analyst Phil Simms, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants. “I watched him in warm-ups, and he was throwing the ball really well. I can see that he’s getting better.”

Tebow’s been blasted for having poor throwing mechanics, and some have criticized his Christian faith, which he keeps front and center.

Tebow has completed 48.6 percent of his passes, and has 11 touchdowns with two interceptions.

Against the Patriots, Tebow was 11 of 22 for 194 yards, while his counterpart Tom Brady (23 of 34) finished with 320 yards, and had two scoring passes.

It’s unlikely Tebow will ever be as accurate as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, nor will he resemble Brees, or the injured Peyton Manning, who saw Indianapolis get its first victory after 13 losses.

There have been successful NFL quarterbacks who weren’t artistically sound like Joe Kapp and Billy Kilmer, but each helped his team reach the Super Bowl.

While at the University of Florida, Tebow claimed the Heisman Trophy and was a two-time national champion.

Even so, John Elway, who guided the Broncos to a pair of NFL titles, and is Denver’s vice president in charge of football operations, said he’s not sure about Tebow.

But the Broncos (8-6) are vastly better with Tebow (93 yards on 12 rushes) than with Kyle Orton.

Denver controlled the opening quarter as Tebow had a nine-yard run with 9:49 left, followed by a 32-yard gallop from Lance Ball (64 yards and 11 carries) with 5:01 showing.

After Brady hit Chad Ochocinco with a 33-yard strike and 7:24 remaining in the first quarter, Brady added a one-yard toss to tight end Aaron Hernandez (129 yards and nine catches) with 8:43 left in the second quarter, had a one-yard sneak with 1:12 left, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 21-yard field goal and a 34-yarder, while limiting Denver to Matt Prater’s 26-yard boot with 13:47 left in the second quarter.

The Broncos’ second quarter was a nightmare compared to the opening stanza. In the first 15 minutes, Denver (393 total net yards with three fumbles) had 218 yards, but 32 in the second quarter.

A first-round pick, Tebow, who has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine, had a two-yard plunge with 8:41 left in the fourth quarter that trimmed the New England (11-3) lead to 34-23, but when Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis scored from a yard out with 4:10 left, the Patriots (451 total yards) were in front by 18 points.

Danny Woodhead’s 10-yard bolt with 39 seconds left in the third quarter made it 34-16.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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