He can’t throw.
He can’t outrun NFL linebackers.
He can’t read complex defense schemes.
He can’t smile that much, he’ll start to wrinkle.
He can't love Jesus that much.
Whatever the doubters and naysayers griped about Tim Tebow all season, it clearly never sunk into the kid’s head. Whether it was during the Broncos’ mid-season six game winning streak or the team’s late season three-game skid, he never wavered or melted under the furnace of scrutiny he faced. He was too busy believing in himself, believing in his team. More importantly than anything else, he certainly did not seem to care that nobody else did.
Sure, it sounds trite and undoubtedly Hollywood is already talking to Sean Austin about filming “Rudy 2: Tebow Time”. But for all the hype and hoopla, theology and virginity, the fact is this: Tim Tebow is moving on in the playoffs after winning his first career postseason start by dismantling the NFL’s top ranked defense.
There were many connoisseurs of the game who believed they saw right through the Broncos and their midseason magic this year. Sure they won six straight games, but none of those victories came against a playoff team. None game against a team who finished above .500 for that matter. Led by Tebow’s unconventional style, the Broncos only managed to score more than 17 points once during that span. It was all smoke and mirrors and any credit that was due should be placed squarely on the defense, not Tebow, they argued. The 0-3 finish to the season only validated what most thought: Tim Tebow was not for real.
But yesterday’s performance changed everything: perception, reality and expectation.
The perception that Tim Tebow is a good football player but a poor quarterback is now shattered. He threw for 316 yards against the NFL’s most elite defense. He threw five passes of 30 yards or more after the Steelers had only allowed seven such passes all year. So what if the Steelers were without Ryan Clark for the game. Tebow lost his leading receiver, Eric Decker, to a knee injury in the first half. He may not be Drew Brees in terms of accuracy, but Tebow sure seemed to put it right between the numbers on the majority of his throws against Pittsburgh.
The reality is now defenses must consider Tebow a true duel-threat. The Steelers put nine in the box and got burned. We already know that playing a deep-cover two against Tebow gives him the green-light to channel his inner fullback and pick up tough yards on the ground. The reality is that now when Tebow breaks contain, he is not assured to tuck it and run. On multiple occasions yesterday after scrambling, Tebow kept his eyes down the field and completed throws on the run. That was not something he could do just a few weeks ago. Remember in Happy Gilmore when Adam Sandler drains a 15-footer, looks up at Shooter McGavin and says, “uh-oh. Happy learned how to putt.” It’s like that.
The expectations for Tebow have changed too. Now we know he can do it. Sunday’s game was no fluke. It came against a defense, banged up or not, that has played in three Super Bowls and won two of them. Next week the Broncos go from the best to the one of the worst as the Patriots had the NFL’s 31st ranked pass defense and were third worst in the league in total defense during the regular season. Tebow must be salivating. Demaryius Thomas is a huge weapon at 6’3” and is proving to be worthy of being a first round pick in 2010. It may not be Stafford to Johnson, but Tebow to Thomas will give any right-thinking Patriots fan nightmares all week. While New England will undoubtedly be double-digit favorites, and the Pats did destroy the Broncos by 18 when they played four weeks ago, my advice would be: take Tebow, take the points.
For the better part of the season John Elway was constantly asked whether or not Tebow was the future of the franchise. Just as he was with defenders during his Hall of Fame career, Elway was elusive, never giving a straight answer. Early last week there reports out of Denver that backup Brady Quinn was taking snaps in practice and could see time on third down against the Steelers if Tebow struggled. Once against, the deck was stacked against the Heisman winner. As usual, it did not matter. Merely a few days later, Tim Tebow has done something stalwarts Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers could not: win his first career playoff game.
If there is indeed a divine spirit playing 12th man for the Broncos this year, he just guaranteed Tim Tebow will be the starting quarterback in Denver when they kick of their 2012 season. The only question that remains is if Tebow will have to take off his new Super Bowl ring before going under center for the season’s first snap.