Tebow saves job, then game
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Well, gag those obnoxious Steelers fans with a Terrible Towel.
Tim Tebow and the Broncos shocked the Steelers with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to earn a 29-23 victory in the NFL playoffs.
After winning the coin toss to begin the extra period, Tebow came out throwing, hitting Thomas over the middle in full stride at the Denver 38. With one beautiful stiff arm to cornerback Ike Taylor, Thomas was off to the races, with nothing except the end zone and jubilation ahead of him.
Broncos executive John Elway jumped for joy on the sideline. Tebow did a lap around the field, slapping hands with spectators. The crowd chanted: "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!"
Next up for the Broncos: A chance to cause (former Broncos coach) Josh McDaniels and New England some serious wicked pain.
How did this happen?
After such a slow start that Denver coach John Fox had to seriously consider removing Tebow in favor of backup Brady Quinn at quarterback, the Broncos magically transformed from a team that appeared to have no business in the Super Bowl tournament to a world-beater in the second quarter.
A 17-point barrage by Denver in the span of 5 minutes, 58 seconds began with a beautiful 30-yard touchdown strike to Eddie Royal early in the quarter.
It was the biggest, most important throw of Tebow's young NFL career. Why? His job security appeared to be in immediate jeopardy. As a bad first period came to the end, Quinn was seen warming up on the Denver sideline.
OK, riddle me this: The Broncos scored 33 points in second quarter all season long. They scored 20 in the second period against Troy Polamalu and the gang. Weren't the Steelers supposed to have the nastiest defense in the league?
But a team with a championship pedigree has too much confidence in the bank to panic. A bad ruling by the referees on a fumbled lateral gave the Steelers life in the third quarter. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger exploited the mistake.
With Fox worrying a little too much about milking the clock rather than putting away the Steelers, the visitors came roaring back, aided by a costly Willis McGahee fumble. A 31-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to third-string receiver Jerricho Cotchery tied the score, 23-23, with 3:56 remaining in regulation. It required strong defensive plays from Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil and cornerback Champ Bailey to coax the game to overtime, the first played in the league under new rules for the playoffs.
The thing about Steelers fans is: They're everywhere. At least the ones smart enough to move away from the Rust Belt.
On an early afternoon walk from a light-rail stop to the stadium, fans wearing Steelers attire were shouting smack. One woman claimed Pittsburgh was already counting on playing against Tom Brady and New England in the second round of the playoffs. A man wearing a black loop earring warned Broncomaniacs that linebacker James "Harrison isn't going to put a pillow under Tebow's head before sacking him!"
But in the clutch, Tebow came up bigger than Big Ben.
Choke on that reality, Steelers fans.
First Published January 9, 2012 12:03 am