Tim Tebow got himself a new set of followers after throwing a winning touchdown on the first play of overtime, giving the Denver Broncos a 29-23 shocking win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card playoff game, Denver’s first playoff win since 2005.
If that wasn’t enough, he actually finished with 316 yards, getting the whole John 3:16 talk going on. More importantly, it was Tebow’s highest number in passing yards this season, coming at the best moment of all. Truth is, the Broncos played the right kind of football, with a lot of help from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to put Tebow in a position to win his first playoff game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, with the best run defense in the NFL, committed everything they had to stop the run and dare Tebow to win them with his arm. He didn’t throw any pretty passes, but he found Demaryius Thomas four times, for 204 yards and one huge touchdown catch, going 80 yards on the first play of overtime. The Steelers, with all their experience, with the notorious defense, with Ben Roethlisberger all banged up, didn’t have a chance to reply.
The Steelers’ defensive scheme lost them the game. Over committing to the run, leaving Ike Taylor alone and now probably suffering from nightmares with the number 88 coming up in them. The Broncos’ O-line gave Tebow just enough time to run the option, and instead of running, he kept throwing, or at least more than anyone expected him to. He had to finish with the appalling 10-21 pass completion number. Just goes to show numbers aren’t everything.
Ben Roethlisberger was the other side of the coin, the losing and sadder side. A two time Super Bowl champion, Big Ben was too banged up to work his usual post season magic. His elusiveness, ability to keep plays alive with his legs and strong body did show up late in the game, forcing overtime. The Broncos aren’t a good enough team on both ends to completely stop the Steelers from having their way. They just did it for long enough to get the win.
They sacked Roethlisberger five times, twice by Robert Ayers, in a game that looked most of the way like the Steelers’ visit to San Francisco. Not having their best running back completely changed the identity of what worked for the Steelers for so long. Being a run-first team, suddenly overly relying on their quarterback, who got him too many times during the season.
The Steelers didn’t get any sacks, and looked ill-equipped, or under prepared to handle whatever John Fox cooked up for them. Dick LeBeau may be one of the best Defensive Coordinators in NFL history, but botched it up at Mile High. Troy Polamalu was never in the right place in the right time, leaving too much space behind him for the Broncos to make use of with big plays.
The Broncos and Tebow keep surprising us, especially when it felt like he didn’t deserve the hype and actually started losing to make the haters right. Now it’s the Patriots again, the same Patriots who ended Tebow’s magical streak nearing the end of the regular season. They are the better team, and will host Denver. I’m pretty sure the Patriots won’t make the mistake of underestimating the Broncos like the Steelers did.