Broncos upend Steelers in playoffs

DENVER — One of the most storied NFL playoff teams ran into a rejuvenated Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

DENVER — One of the most storied NFL playoff teams ran into a rejuvenated Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

Sorry, Pittsburgh Steelers.

The magic is back.

Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime and the Broncos defeated the stunned Steelers 29-23 in the AFC wild-card game on Sunday.

Wild doesn’t begin to describe it.

The play took 11 seconds and was the quickest 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 Ryan Mundy to the end zone. Tebow, who looked as startled as everyone else, chased down Thomas and knelt on one knee — a gesture known far and wide these days as Tebowing.

Then he pounded a fist in triumph 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 can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I’ve done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans.”

Prodded by John Elway to let the ball fly, Tebow acted as if the last three weeks never happened, lifting the Broncos to their first playoff win in six years.

Behind Tebow’s 316 yards passing, the Broncos (9-8) are heading to New England for a second-round game against the top-seeded Patriots on Saturday night.

And, unlike Elway, who lost his first post-season start — to the Steelers at home in 1984 — Tebow is 1-0 in the playoffs.

“We’re just a fighting team. A lot of resilience,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “In any adverse situation, we’ll find a way to get out of it. Everybody says we backed into the playoffs, we’re in. We did something right along the way. We’re in it. We won a game. Now, we’ve got to go try to win another one.”

The Steelers (12-5) lost despite Ben Roethlisberger rallying injury-depleted Pittsburgh from a two-touchdown halftime deficit with 10 points in the final 10 minutes.

Pittsburgh called tails for the overtime coin toss, and it came up heads.

Tebow, who engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks and three OT wins in the regular season, wasted no time in finding Thomas to end the game. Mundy was playing in place of Ryan Clark, the Steelers’ leading tackler who sat this one out because of a blood condition that’s exacerbated at altitude.

Clark was one of several Steelers sidelined or injured. Pro Bowl centre Maurkice Pouncey was out, replaced by Doug Legursky, who had a bad snap right before halftime that moved Pittsburgh out of field goal range.

Thomas raced down the Broncos sideline, sending the crowd, including Elway, the Broncos executive vice-president, into a frenzy at Sports Authority Field, which was rocking like the old Mile High Stadium back in the 1990s.

And Elway, the architect of so many those magical moments at the old place, jumped for joy on the field like he used to when he was the one throwing the winning pass.

The Patriots walloped the Broncos 41-23 last month, sending Tebow into a funk that included seven turnovers and a 40 per cent completion clip — and prompting Elway to implore him to “pull the trigger” in the playoffs.

Did he ever.

Tebow completed 10-of-21 passes but Thomas hauled in four of them for 204 yards after his top target, Eric Decker, was lost to a left knee injury on the first play of the second quarter when he was hit by linebacker James Harrison.

Tebow also ran 10 times for 50 yards.

“I think we executed a little bit better. We tried to step up,” Tebow said. “We knew it was win or go home. This team wanted to fight. We wanted to play another game.”

These two teams had played the first ever regular season overtime game on Sept. 22, 1974, in Denver. Now, they played the first non-sudden death playoff game in history. The new rules called for both teams to get the ball in the extra period providing there wasn’t a touchdown by either the offence or defence.

Tebow took care of that in a hurry.

Making his first appearance in the playoffs after going 7-4 as Denver’s starter, Tebow outduelled Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner who fell to 10-4 in the playoffs.

The Broncos snapped a three-game losing streak that had many wondering if they were even worthy of their first playoff spot in six 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 20 second-quarter points — they had scored just 13 in the quarter in his 11 starts — but a 20-6 halftime lead didn’t last long.

Receiver Mike Wallace had a one-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 final minute of regulation but the Broncos sacked Roethlisberger three times on that final drive, forcing a fumble the quarterback recovered.

“We were moving it and we had a shot,” Roethlisberger said. “Someone got, it felt like a finger, on the ball and knocked it out. After that, you’re trying to throw a 70-yard Hail Mary and that’s hard.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Innisfail RCMP arrest man following ‘lengthy pursuit’

Innisfail RCMP say a “lengthy pursuit” through a rural area ended with… Continue reading

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan speaks in the Alberta Legislature on Wednesday in this image from his Facebook page.
Red Deer MLA Jason Stephan sounds off on socialism in anti-lockdown speech

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan has applauded his government’s COVID-19 response, saying… Continue reading

(Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)
Mask bylaws not popular in rural areas

Red Deer and Blackfalds bylaws requiring masks in public places kick in on Monday

A GoFundMe campaign to support a Stettler couple following a fire has raised more than $3,000. (Contributed photo)
Family pet dies in Stettler fire

GoFundMe page has raised more than $3K so far

Canadian Olympic gymnast and National Sport School alumni Kyle Shewfelt announces his retirement in Calgary, Thursday, May 21, 2009. Calgary's board of education will close the National Sport School that has produced Olympic and Paralympic champions for 26 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Canada's Erica Wiebe, left, celebrates after defeating Nigeria's Blessing Onyebuchi, right on the ground, to win Gold medal in women's FS 76Kg wrestling at the Commonwealth Games on Gold Coast, Australia, Thursday, April 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah Mitchell (15) is tackled by Coastal Carolina linebacker Enock Makonzo (43) and safety Cameron Mitchell (49) during the first half of an NCAA football game in Lafayette, La., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. It's already been a season to remember but Canadian Enock Makonzo and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will chase two more firsts Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Paul Kieu
Canadian Enock Makonzo, Chanticleers chase Sun Belt East regular-season crown

Canadian Enock Makonzo, Chanticleers chase Sun Belt East regular-season crown

Atlanta United's Mo Adams, right, challenges Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo during first half MLS soccer action in East Hartford, Conn., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo says he finished the season with an injured leg. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jessica Hill
Toronto FC ready to refocus on future as long, hard season comes to an end

Toronto FC ready to refocus on future as long, hard season comes to an end

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speak to the media during a visit to the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Thursday, January 16, 2020. City councillors in Vancouver voted unanimously this week to ask federal officials for an exemption to Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, a decision advocates hope will blaze a trail for the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use in other municipalities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Advocates aim to shape ‘Vancouver model’ for drug decriminalization

Advocates aim to shape ‘Vancouver model’ for drug decriminalization

Senator Murray Sinclair appears before the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Sinclair is planning to leave the Senate early next year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Sen. Murray Sinclair, former head of TRC, set to leave the upper chamber next January

Sen. Murray Sinclair, former head of TRC, set to leave the upper chamber next January

Carolina De La Torre, right, owner of Arepas Ranch in Calgary, poses for a photo with her husband in this undated handout photo. The Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part of Jason Kenney's argument not to lockdown restaurants in the province remembers her encounter with the premier as a lot less dramatic than he suggested. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Carolina De La Torre *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘No crying’: Venezuelan refugee Kenney cited says interaction was less dramatic

‘No crying’: Venezuelan refugee Kenney cited says interaction was less dramatic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question from a reporter during a bi-weekly news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau feels most Canadians could be vaccinated by September 2021

Trudeau feels most Canadians could be vaccinated by September 2021

Most Read