A renewed Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime and the Broncos defeated the stunned Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in the AFC wild-card game on Sun. Odds
Wild doesn’t start to describe it. The play took 11 seconds and was the swiftest ending to an overtime in NFL history.
Thomas hauled in a high play-action pass at the Denver 38, stiff-armed Ike Taylor and then outraced backup safety Ryan Mundy to the end section. Scores
“I was just saying, ‘Man trust your speed. Trust your speed. Don’t cut back. Don’t cut back. ‘ And he kept it straight. He outran the guy,” said Willis McGahee, whose Quarter Four fumble helped Pittsburgh tie it.
“I was like, ‘Oh my Lord, is he still running? ‘ Please just go. Please. Please.”
Tebow, who had done almost nothing in the 2nd half after a 20-point explosion in quarter two, looked as frightened as everyone else. He chased down Thomas and knelt on one knee — Tebowing as it’s known — in the end sector while the gang was going mad. Then he pounded a fist in victory and took a victory lap.
“When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, ‘Thank you, Lord, ‘” Tebow said. “Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him — like I am able to catch up to D.T.! Then I just leaped into the stands, first time I have done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my squad and the fans.”
Behind Tebow’s season-high 316 yards passing, the Broncos ( 9-8 ) are heading to New england for a second-round game against the top-seeded Patriots ( 13-3 ) on Saturday night.
The Patriots belted the Broncos 41-23 last month, sending Tebow into a funk that incorporated seven turnovers and a Forty % completion clip — and prompting Elway to implore him to “pull the trigger” in the playoffs. Did he ever.
And unlike Elway, who lost his first postseason start — to the Steelers at home in 1984 — Tebow is 1-0 in the playoffs.
“We’re merely a fighting team. A lot of resilience,” cornerback Champ Bailey related. “In any negative situation, we’ll find some way to get out of it. Everybody says we backed into the playoffs, we’re in. We did something right on the way. We’re in it. We won a game. Now, we’ve got to go attempt to win another one.”
The Steelers ( 12-5 ) lost regardless of Ben Roethlisberger rallying injury-depleted Pittsburgh from a two-touchdown halftime deficit with 10 points in the last Ten minutes.
Pittsburgh called tails for the overtime coin toss, and it came up heads.
Tebow, who built 5 Quarter 4 comebacks and three OT wins in the regular season, wasted no time finding Thomas over the middle with just his second pass on first down all night — and his first completion.
Thomas also had receptions of 51 and 58 yards to line up second-quarter touchdowns after Tebow lost his top target, Eric Decker, to a gravely hurt left knee, in the 1st half.
“They were the No. 1 defense and we are the No. 1 offense running the ball,” Thomas said. “So, I feel a bit like they needed to make a statement and stop the run. I don’t know if they forgot about the passing game. The last few games that we had, we weren’t passing the ball that great.”
So, Elway’s censure.
Tebow’s passer rating of 125.6 was the highest in Broncos postseason history.
Mundy was playing in the place of Ryan Clark, the Steelers ‘ leading tackler who sat this one out because of a blood condition that’s worsened at altitude.
On the first snap of overtime, Thomas pulled in Tebow’s high pass and raced down the Broncos sideline, sending the bunch, including Elway, the Broncos executive vice chairman, into a fever at Sports Authority Field, which was rocking like the old Mile High Stadium back in the 1990s.
McGahee sold the play-action well, drawing safety Troy Polamalu and others up to the line to defend the run and leaving Thomas with room on the crossing pattern to grab the pass and switch on the jets for the 80-yard score, Tebow’s longest pass play as a pro.
Hines Ward called this defeat “just as displeasing” as last year’s loss to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
Tebow completed Ten of 21 passes and Thomas dragged in four of them for 204 yards after Decker was wounded on a success by linebacker James Harrison.
Thomas, who missed coaching camp while recovering from a torn Achilles and the start of the season while coping with a broke finger, has be bullish of late, averaging 109 yards during the last six games.
But the Broncos ‘ top pick in 2010 — taken three slots ahead of Tebow in the 1st round — hadn’t had done this kind of thing.
These 2 teams had played the 1st ever regular season overtime game on Sept. 22, 1974, in Denver. Now, they played the 1st non-sudden death playoff game in history. The new rules called for both groups to get the ball in the additional period providing there wasn’t a touchdown by either the offense or defense.
Tebow took care of that in a hurry.
Making his first appearance in the playoffs after going 7-4 as Denver’s starter, Tebow outplayed Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner playing on a bad ankle, who fell to 10-4 in the playoffs.
Roethlisberger was Twenty-two for 40 for 289 yards with one TD, one interception and five sacks. Tebow wasn’t taken down once by the league’s top defense.
The Broncos snapped a three-game losing streak that had many people questioning if they were even worthy of their first playoff in 6 seasons, and it kept the Steelers from their 34th playoff win, which would have broken a tie with the Cowboys for the most ever.
Tebow led Denver to Twenty second-quarter points — they had scored just Thirteen in the quarter in his 11 starts — but a 20-6 halftime lead did not last that long.
Receiver Mike Wallace had a 1-yard TD run, Shaun Suisham kicked a short field goal and Jerricho Cotchery grabbed a 31-yard TD pass with 3:48 left in regulation to tie it.
The Steelers were nearing field goal range in the last minute of regulation but the Broncos sacked Roethlisberger 3 times on that final drive, forcing a fumble that Roethlisberger recovered.
Roethlisberger never got the ball back as Tebow added to his growing list of impossible victories in the blink of an eye and a flick of the wrist.