Shock and Oz

When Brock Osweiler took the field in the fourth quarter against New England, his odds of winning were less than 3 percent

By Dillon Tabish

Not a chance. No way. Not against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Down 21-7 in the fourth quarter of NBC’s primetime showdown on Sunday Night Football, Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos were doomed. The odds were against them. So was Mother Nature, who was spitting flurries of snow atop a frozen field in 24-degree weather.

According to statisticians at ESPN, when the Broncos punted away the football with 14:26 left in the game, the odds of the Patriots winning hit 97.4 percent.

That’s a cold stat to swallow, especially when the favored team is the undefeated, reigning Super Bowl champions led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Another harrowing fact: only one quarterback in recent history had led an NFL team to victory over the Patriots after trailing 14 or more points in the fourth quarter. That QB? Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.

My hopes for our hometown boy dimmed to a glimmer as I watched the game unfold with Myers Reece, a former colleague who worked at the Beacon from 2007-13.

Both he and I have followed Osweiler since the storied days at Flathead High School, when the legend of Oz grew from mythical tales of a gifted prodigy into regular headlines about one of Montana’s all-time great prep quarterbacks.

The list of professional football players from Montana is relatively short. The list of NFL quarterbacks from Montana is almost non-existent.

So when a local athlete does achieve elite status, our state — with barely 1 million residents spread across 147,000 square miles — pays attention. Montana is one big small town after all.

Myers and I have seen Brock consistently succeed since he was a teenager. Even at Arizona State University he stood out like Goliath. But now, abruptly tasked with leading the Broncos as the starting quarterback, the roles have reversed. For the first time in his life, Osweiler is the underdog.

That’s why Sunday was so memorable. I’ll even go so far as to say historic.

What are the chances that Brock and the Broncos would beat the Patriots?

The same odds that a small town like Kalispell — population 20,000 — could produce two professional quarterbacks who played in primetime football games on the same day.

As the Broncos game kicked off Sunday, another Flathead graduate, Mike Reilly, was leading the Edmonton Eskimos to a comeback victory over the Ottawa Redblacks to capture the CFL championship. Reilly, a 2003 Flathead grad and the game’s MVP, rallied his team to triumph in Manitoba, Winnipeg in frigid weather that mirrored the conditions in Denver, conditions that are familiar in Montana.

While Mike hoisted the Grey Cup on national television in Canada, it was Brock’s turn to shine in the spotlight.

In only his second career NFL start, and in front of 74,000 raucous fans and nearly 20 million viewers at home, Oz achieved the improbable and unthinkable. He beat the Patriots. Poised and confident, he defied the odds, in overtime no less.

Now Osweiler is a sudden star, one of the biggest — and tallest — storylines of the NFL season. The league is abuzz and so is Montana, making believers of us all.

As Braves head football coach Kyle Samson said Monday morning, “You couldn’t write a script any better.”

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