Playoff football, they say, is not a game for the faint of heart - in the stands or on the field. So perhaps it's fitting that this playoff game was won by a player whose faith in himself is apparently boundless, even if he was the only one left that believed.
The Denver Broncos started Tim Tebow at quarterback somewhat reluctantly against the mighty, QB-eating Pittsburgh Steelers tonight. John Fox went so far as to give a ton of practice reps to Brady Quinn and prepare him for regular substitution duties if (read: when) Tebow struggled, according to Pro Football Talk. And for most of the first quarter, this game seemed inevitably and sadly resolved to end in #QuinnTime.
Tebow didn't complete a pass in that first quarter. His Broncos were held to single digits of total offense, as the Steelers dominated everything but the scoreboard, settling for a pair of field goals that served up like an amuse-bouche for a multiple-course meal of whoop-ass.
Tebow and his offensive coordinator saw things differently. They saw a Steelers defense that was totally sucked into the box, and weak on the fringes, particularly deep downfield. They saw a set of rangy Broncos receivers that were capable of running complex routes, and they saw Tebow's natural ability to buy time behind a still-shaky offensive line. They saw a one-score game, where the rest of us saw a blowout in the making.
Two spectacular throws later, the Broncos had taken a 7-6 lead, and suddenly, shockingly, Tim Tebow made everyone believe all over again.
Watch: Tebow's game-winning touchdown pass.
What happened next was almost inconceivable, as the Broncos simply took the game over. They turned the second quarter into their personal playground, running the score up to 20-6. Tebow competed five passes for a mind-boggling 185 yards in the quarter, going after Pittsburgh's best cover corner, Ike Taylor, in the process.
Taylor (@Ike_SwagginU) was gracious in defeat, tweeting after the game:
- "First off congrats too tebow and the broncos"
- "Second I apologize for playing the worst game at the wrong time apologize to my teammates steelernation and family. Luv y'all to def"
The Steelers' defensive captains were stunned. James Farrior said after the game: "Our defense felt like we let the team down. They went out and had a couple of big plays, got the momentum rolling and we never really got it back."
Suddenly, people who simply wanted a good game found themselves in the almost inconceivable position of rooting for the Steelers to make a play.
That they did, though, rallying back from 20-6 and 23-13 deficits to tie the game and send it to overtime, the first ever overtime game under the new NFL postseason rules, which mandate that each team get an offensive possession with two exceptions: if the defense scores, or if the offense scores a touchdown.
It took referee Mike Winter longer to explain the rules than it did for Tebow and Demaryius Thomas to exploit them (and Ike Taylor's aggressive coverage) and end the game. The Broncos sent last year's AFC Champs packing. The inexlicable Broncos move on, while the mighty Steelers go one and done.
Said Tebow afterward: "I think the one of the great things is we're a team that constantly believes."
I think he'll find that there are a lot more believers after today.
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