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Tebow's 80-Yard Pass Sends Steelers Home


This morning, a lot of NFL football fans are still talking about the first weekend of the playoffs. And what a weekend it was. It looks like Tebow time is back in business. After several weeks of downright awful performances, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow delivered what his fans are calling the latest miracle in his young NFL career. Tebow's 80-yard pass play with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime clinched a stunning playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 29 to 23, last night.

NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman would like to say he called it, but in fact he's one of the many doubters who were darn certain the Steelers and their overpowering defense would write a sad ending to the Tim Tebow story. And, Tom, full disclosure. I'm a Steelers fan. So I'm just going to give the mic to you and not talk about this at all.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, first of all, you're very mean for bringing that up. But, David, in my defense, Tebow had been horrible. I mean, his deficiencies as a passer were exposed over the last three weeks. The Broncos limped into the playoffs with an 8 and 8 record. The Steelers came into the game with several key players injured. But still, as you say, with the number one defense in the league. The AFC defending champions, they're the Steelers, no hope for Denver.

GREENE: Number one defense and number one pass defense. So, how does Tebow connect on that 80-yard touchdown play?

GOLDMAN: OK. Well, we start - we back up. First, former Broncos great quarterback and now team official John Elway challenged Tebow earlier in the week to just pull the trigger, play football, let it fly. Then Tebow's intensity started picking up during practices. The Denver Post reports Tebow was sprinting from station to station during workouts. Most guys walk or jog.

And then, once the game started yesterday, in the second quarter with Pittsburgh leading 6 to nothing, Tebow started pulling that trigger in a big way. He threw a beautiful 51-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas. He followed that up with a pinpoint 30-yard TD pass to Eddie Royal. That changed the whole tone of the game. Tebow was fired up, Denver's defense picked up the intensity, and they went up by a big margin.

GREENE: Well, I was getting pretty excited, because the Steelers came back and tied the score late in the game. And then it goes to overtime. What exactly happened on that first play?

GOLDMAN: Well, all day Pittsburgh's defense had challenged Tebow to throw. They put most of their defenders on the line to guard against the run. And on that first play of overtime, Pittsburgh loaded up on the line again, even though Tebow had shown he could throw the deep pass against them. So, what did he do? He zapped them. He threw a laser about 20 yards that hit Thomas in stride. Thomas outran the Pittsburgh secondary, as you well know, David, the final 60 yards. That was it.

GREENE: Well, I hope I will get over this at some point. In the other NFL playoff games this weekend, it was all home teams winning - the Giants, Saints, Texans and then the Broncos are moving on.

But if you're craving more football, we have college football to talk about. Tonight, the BCS National Championship game - number one, LSU, number two, Alabama, two powerhouses from the Southeastern Conference. It should be quite a game. But this game has its critics. Why?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, there's always anger about the BCS and no playoff. But the great thing in this one is about this being a rematch of a game that, if you like scoring, like most people do, it was a downer. LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime in early November. It was a field goal fest, no touchdowns.

People worry this'll be a big brawling defensive match like the first. And they're probably right. These are the two top defenses in the country. Alabama allows under nine points a game. LSU is right behind, allowing only 10 and a half points a game. LSU's head coach Les Miles promises the game will be big boy football. Fans of that will rejoice. The rest of us will watch reruns of Tebow to Thomas.

GREENE: Thanks. Well, fans of defense get ready for that college game tonight. It's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.


GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.