New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
So it’s true what they were saying about why the Denver Broncos struggled during the last few weeks of December.
God was indeed busy planning His Son’s birthday party.
Apparently, He was also arranging for an earlier than expected vacation for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They certainly need it to heal their wounds, both physical and emotional.
After the Broncos lost their last three games of the regular season over the holidays, God’s full attention was back on another of His favorite sons yesterday.
Tim Tebow, he of the greatly over-hyped (by the media) religious faith, defied belief in defeating the heavily favored defending AFC champions, 29-23, in overtime.
All spiritual joking aside, or perhaps just some of it, there was seemingly a little divine intervention going on in that second quarter of that wild Wild Card matchup at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
During a quarter that had been a disaster all season for Denver, Tebow played like the second coming of John Elway.
No offense intended, but that’s precisely the point. No one expected many points from this no-offense team. Clearly something metaphysical was up.
The Broncos had been averaging two points in the second quarter while yielding 10, the worst such differential for any NFL team in any quarter for over a decade, yet they somehow managed to drop a 20-spot on the league’s “best” defense.
It all seemed so promising after Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won a challenge and the officials overturned a first-down reception early in the second, setting up a third-and-12 from their own 18 for the Broncos, who were trailing 6-0 and had gotten absolutely nowhere in the first quarter.
At that moment, a 16-0 final score and a trip to New England on Saturday seemed like a distinct possibility for the Steelers.
Even the Mayans could not have prophesized what was going to happen next.
Like manna from heaven, two soft Tebow rainbows covering 81 total yards fell directly into the hands of very well-covered receivers, and just like that, Denver had a prayer.
This was a guy who had produced exactly zero touchdowns in his offense’s last 21 drives matched up against the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense — statistically speaking only, of course. The Pittsburgh secondary had not allowed a single 100-yard receiver all season, but in this one quarter alone they allowed Demaryius Thomas to top that mark.
Denver was now up, 7-6, but it might as well have been 77-6. This game was destined to go Tebow’s way. (He did, after all, end up throwing for 316 yards. Or as he might say, 3:16 yards).
That series was the beginning of a recurring nightmare for the 2011 Steelers, who inspired a lot of hope in the Sisters of the Poor throughout the NFL during many a game this season. You never could overestimate the Black-and-Gold’s ability to underestimate inferior opponents.
The very next series, the Steelers inexplicably let Thomas roam through the middle of the field without safety help, allowing him to pick up 58 easy yards, the longest completion of Tebow’s young career.
Ryan Clark, anyone?
Two plays later the middle of the Pittsburgh line parted like the … well, let’s just say Tebow scored to make it 14-6.
The Broncos then had a few more fortunate bounces and tips (near fumbles and near interceptions) go their way en route to a pair of field goals and a 20-6 halftime lead.
At one point, they had outgained the Steelers, 226-3, in the second quarter. The Steelers had not been dominated like that since 143 B.C.
Pittsburgh’s second-half comeback, now an afterthought, merely set the stage for more Tebow magic and a play that left delirious impartial football fans texting “OMT!!” to each other. (Think about it.)
Tebow’s perfect strike to Thomas, running a perfect route, on the first play of overtime was a perfectly fitting end of the game to any unbiased observer.
By all assumptions, the Big Football Fan in the Sky is an unbiased observer.
But today, as the Steelers clean out their lockers, it is not hard to believe that the Broncos were playing with a 12th Man yesterday.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)