A rejuvenated quarterback connects on 80-yard pass to complete a 11-second play, the quickest ending to an overtime in NFL history.
Tim Tebow touches down to lead Denver Broncos in AFC wild-card thriller
DENVER // "Pull the trigger," John Elway told his Denver Broncos star, Tim Tebow, trying to shake the quarterback from a three-game funk.
Tebow went one better - he pulled off an upset.
A rejuvenated Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime and the Broncos defeated the stunned Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in the AFC wild-card game.
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 backup safety Ryan Mundy to the end zone.
"I was just saying, 'Man trust your speed. Trust your speed. Don't cut back. Don't cut back.' And he kept it straight. He outran the guy," said Willis McGahee, whose fourth-quarter fumble helped Pittsburgh tie it.
Tebow, who looked as startled as everyone else, chased down Thomas and knelt on one knee - Tebowing as it's known - in the end zone. 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 DT [Thomas]! 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."
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.
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.
Tebow, who engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks and three OT wins in the regular season, wasted no time finding Thomas to end the game.
"They were the No. 1 defense and we are the No. 1 offense running the ball," Thomas said. "So, I feel like they wanted to make a statement and stop the run. I don't know if they forgot about the passing game. The last couple of games that we had, we were not passing the ball that great."
Thus, Elway's admonition.
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, celebrated on the field like he used to when he was the one engineering the triumphs.
The Patriots walloped the Broncos 41-23 last month, sending Tebow into a funk that included seven turnovers and a 40 percent completion clip - and prompting Elway to implore him to "pull the trigger" in the play-offs.
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 threw two TD passes and also ran 10 times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
"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."