Mile High magic strikes again

US Presswire

Demaryius Thomas breaks away for the winning touchdown in overtime.

The Denver Broncos improbable run this season continues thanks to another miracle-like performance from Tim Tebow at Mile High Stadium.

On the first play of overtime, Tebow connected on a game-winning 80-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to give the Broncos a stunning 29-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tebow and Thomas rewrote the record books with that throw. It not only was the longest touchdown pass in NFL playoff overtime history, but with just 11 seconds elapsed at the time of the touchdown, it made the game the shortest overtime contest ever in both the regular season and postseason.

How unprecedented is the Broncos’ success? Consider that Denver:

• was just the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a 2-5 start

• had the second-worst regular season point-differential (-81) of any team to make the postseason in NFL history

• was one of eight teams since the merger to reach the playoffs after losing its final three games, according to Elias

Why the Broncos Won

Tim Tebow stung the Steelers with big passing plays Sunday, completing three throws of more than 50 yards, which was one more than he had in his career entering the day. The Elias Sports Bureau also reports it was the most by any quarterback in a playoff game since the merger. In the last 10 seasons, the Steelers had never allowed more than two passes of 50-plus yards in any game.

Tebow finished the game completing 10-of-21 passes for a career-best 316 yards. His average of 31.6 yards per completion is the highest for any quarterback that completed at least 10 passes in postseason history, according to Elias.

300 Pass Yds, No Int, Rush TD
Playoff Game, Super Bowl Era

He also is the first player to throw for 300 yards while completing 10 passes or fewer in the playoffs during the Super Bowl Era.

Tebow recorded a Total QBR of 97.3, the highest by any quarterback in a playoff game since 2008. This comes after Tebow had the third-lowest Total QBR of any qualified quarterback during the regular season (27.2).

After throwing incompletions on his only two pass attempts in the first quarter, Tebow torched the Steelers secondary with 185 yards on 5-of-9 passing in the second quarter alone. Entering the game, Tebow had thrown for 204 yards in the second quarter during his entire career.

Turning Point

When the ball was snapped on the first play of overtime, Tebow Time started and quickly ended 11 seconds later. Tebow’s game-winning 80-yard pass to Thomas matched the longest touchdown pass thrown in Broncos postseason history. John Elway threw two such scores, one in the 1989 playoffs and one in the 1998 playoffs.

Why the Steelers Lost

Pittsburgh had the league’s top pass defense in the regular season, but by halftime Tebow had already surpassed the Steelers’ average for passing yards allowed per game (171.9).

Steelers Defense
Throws 15+ Yards Downfield

The Steelers fell apart in the second quarter, as they were outscored 20-0.

The only other time since the merger they allowed at least 20 points in any quarter of a playoff game was when they gave up 21 points to the Oakland Raiders in the 1983 Divisional Playoffs.

Stat of the Game

This was the seventh playoff game between the Steelers and Broncos, making it the most frequent AFC playoff matchup. The winner of this matchup has advanced to the Super Bowl in five of the previous six instances and won the Super Bowl three times.

What’s Next

The Broncos will get a chance to avenge their 41-23 Week 15 loss to the New England Patriots next weekend in the Divisional Playoffs. Denver will be trying to win at least two games in the playoffs for the first time since 1998, when they won Super Bowl XXXIII.

The Patriots haven’t won a postseason game since beating the Chargers in the 2007 AFC Conference Championship game. The Patriots are 11-3 all-time at home in the playoffs, but two of the three losses have come in the last two seasons.