By Woody Paige
The Denver Post
January 9, 2012
Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos makes a pass reception and fights off Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers to go 80 yards for the game winning touchdown on the first play of overtime at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 29-23 in their AFC Wild Card Playoff game. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
And it came to pass ...
The Broncos played that Old-Time Rock 'n' Roll on Sunday night to jolt the Steelers, shock the NFL, stun the disbelievers and stagger the whole wide world of sports. The Broncos won in 11 seconds of the sudden-life extra period when Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas, the franchise's two first-round draft choices in 2010, combined for a death-strike touchdown.
Who's your quarterback, Denver?
Timmy Tremendous threw for a career-best 316 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions), and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown to lead the Broncos to their first playoff victory in six years. For all the nay-sayers and horse whisperers, Tebow will be the Broncos' quarterback next weekend, next season and probably next decade.
John Elway — who once had his own incredible victory in overtime ("The Drive") — was running around the field afterward Sunday as if he were still the quarterback. He told me last week that Tebow needed to "pull the trigger" against the Steelers.
When I asked for his evaluation of Tebow, Elway replied, "He pulled it."
And the Broncos pulled it off, with just 10 pass completions against the No. 1 defense in the league. But five of those completions were for 51, 30, 58, 40 and, finally, the 80-yard connection with Thomas for the winner.
Thomas finished with 204 yards receiving.
And get this! Thomas and Tebow will play Saturday night against ... guess who? Josh McDaniels, who drafted them, has rejoined the Patriots as an assistant coach. The Broncos' pair in the paradox.
The Steelers, as every other team, dared Tebow to throw. Early, they sent seven, eight, nine to the line — everybody except Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and 15 ironworkers.
Tebow made play-action fakes, stood in the pocket — yes, a pocket passer — and handled the rush, the pressure, the blitz and his most critical moments in pro football with the confidence and ease of a diamond cutter. The Broncos, who hadn't dripped a drop in the second quarter this season, scored 20 points for a 14-point advantage at halftime. Denver spent most of the second half hanging on the precipice as big, brash, bold Ben Roethlisberger brought the Steelers back. The Broncos' defense — behind Doom & Gloom (Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller) & Bailey (Champ) — had frustrated the Steelers most of the sunny-side-up afternoon. But they finally bent, and the Steelers tied the game at 23.
Then, the Steelers were moving in position to win. But after reaching the Broncos' 45 with 29 seconds left, Roethlisberger was sacked and forced to fumble by Elvis. That play forced a fourth overtime for the Broncos this season. They won the first three.
It took referee Ron Winter longer to explain the new playoff overtime rules than it did to play the overtime. For the first time, if the team that receives the kickoff scores by a field goal and not a touchdown, the other team gets a possession.
The shortest overtime game in NFL history was 16 seconds, on a Bears kickoff return in a 1980 regular-season game.
The Broncos won the toss and elected to win. They set up at their 20.
The first-down call by offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was a repeat of a Tebow-Thomas play the Broncos used in the second half to gain 51. The Steelers brought their safeties and put cornerback Ike Taylor in man-to-man coverage against Thomas on the right side.
Thomas beat Taylor; Tebow threw over Taylor, who had no help and no chance. Thomas escaped and raced to the end zone and the South Stands beyond.
Quicker than you can say "Rocky Mountain Way," it was over, and Broncos boosters among the 75,965 (why did the other 312 stay away?) erupted, and the several thousand Steelers supporters slinked out.
Tebow jumped into the fanatics.
"First time I've done it; that was fun," he said.
Thomas stood in front of the west stands and bowed to the crowd.
Tebow said he "tried to go out there and play hard, play fast and be aggressive and trust my teammates and trust the line, trust the receivers and give them opportunities, and they make me look a lot better than I really am."
Not really. Tebow played his best game with the Broncos.
In the 1977 season, the Broncos beat the Steelers in the first playoff game in Denver. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw said then: "Tell them to enjoy it. It won't ever be like this again."
He was wrong. It was like that again Sunday.
In a season of marvels and miracles, the Magical Mystery Tour of the Broncos goes on.
And Tim Tebow caused time to stand still.
In a year in which the Broncos ran, it came to pass.
Woody Paige: 303-954-1095 or firstname.lastname@example.org