Not even a desperation Hail Mary pass from Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow in the third quarter of Saturday’s NFL playoff game between Denver and New England would have made any difference. The game’s outcome had been decided by halftime.
In one of the most lopsided AFC Divisional playoff games in recent memory, the Patriots, led by Tom Brady’s precise passing, silenced Tebow-mania by building an insurmountable 35-7 lead at intermission. In fact, Brady had more touchdown passes (five) in the first 30 minutes than Tebow had completions (three). When No. 12 finished his aerial onslaught – 26-for-34, 363 yards and six touchdowns – in front of 70,000 fever-pitched fans in Foxborough, the Broncos were busted, 45-10. And in the end, it wasn’t Brady who had nothing left in the tank; it was Tebow.
The second-year signal-caller from Florida, the God-fearing field general who directed a number of miraculous comebacks for Denver this season, played his worst when it mattered most. Coming off last week’s thrilling, 29-23, overtime victory against Pittsburgh, Tebow and the Broncos more closely resembled “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” In a game billed to be the most widely watched of the playoffs – save the Super Bowl – the result certainly did not resemble the journey. Except for their uniforms, the AFC West Division Champion Broncos were barely recognizable.
After throwing for a career best 316 yards last week against the Steelers in a wild AFC Wild-Card battle, Tebow laid a Gator-sized egg yesterday. The former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion picked the wrong day to turn in a bad performance. He completed just nine of 26 pass attempts for 136 yards – 34.6% completion rate, tied for the fourth worst postseason performance in the past 30 years – and got sacked five times. His rushing stats were no better: 13 yards on five carries and a fumble.
“Any time you’re getting beat like that, it doesn’t change how you fight,” an unbowed Tebow said during the post-game press conference. “It didn’t matter whether it was the first play or the last play or whether we were down by 42. I wanted to be the same player.”
Brady, on the other hand, turned in an evening for the ages. His six touchdown passes tied the NFL record for a playoff game shared by former 49er Steve Young (Super Bowl XXIX, 1995) and ex-Raider Darryl Lamonica (AFL playoffs, 1969). Three of Brady’s TD tosses went to massive tight end Rob Gronkowski, who tied the NFL record for touchdown receptions in a playoff game. Without a postseason win since 2007, Brady and his teammates showed up in full force. With his front line ready to move mountains, he seemed to have all day to find his targets.
“We came in and started fast and it was a big win for us,” said the two-time Super Bowl MVP. “Hopefully next week [in the AFC title game] we can go out and play even better.”
Still licking his wounds, Tebow was asked to sum up his second year in the NFL.
“A lot of ups and downs,” he said. “Overall, it’s been a very special opportunity for me, something I’m really thankful for. There are a lot of things we’re proud of. Obviously, it’s hard to see them all right now.”
Amen to that, Tim.
Terry Melia is the former longtime Public Relations Manager for the Upper Deck Company and a freelance writer living in San Diego. His prose will be filling this Blog as often as he can spin them.