The astounding story of Tim Tebow added another chapter Sunday as the controversial quarterback led his Denver Broncos to a stunning 29-23 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL wildcard playoff game.
On the first play from scrimmage in overtime, Tebow heaved a pass 18 yards to receiver Demaryius Thomas, who stiff-armed Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and sprinted down the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown.
The Broncos led 20-6 at halftime, but the Steelers - led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 289 yards passing - clawed their way back to tie the game at 23 with time running down in regulation. Neither team could get close enough for a winning field goal, and the contest moved into overtime.
The league instituted complicated new overtime rules for the playoffs, but the rule differences never came into play as Tebow and Thomas wrapped it up in 11 seconds - the shortest overtime in NFL history. The referee's explanation of the rules before the coin toss actually took up more time than the extra period.
Tebow has been criticized since his college days at the University of Florida for his awkward throwing motion and his overt Christian faith - including his practice of bowing in prayer after touchdowns. But Denver fans, and eventually the Broncos front office, embraced him this season as he led a series of late-game comebacks.
On Sunday he threw for 316 yards (which some people noted might be punctuated 3:16, for the cornerstone verse from the Gospel of John); 204 of those yards were throws to Thomas.
At the postgame news conference, Tebow acknowledged that football success is great but tried to put it in perspective.
"Football is amazing. We love it. We're so passionate about it as you could see right there (on the final play)," he said, according to video on NFL.com. "But the real win, at least I would say today, is being able to comfort a girl who's been through 73 surgeries before the game, and get a chance to go hang out with her now. That's the biggest win of the day. So they're both exciting, but that's what I'm even more proud of."
Tebow Time now moves on to New England, where the Broncos will face Tom Brady and the top-seeded Patriots on Saturday.