NFL Nation: 2012 WC Rapid-Reaction-Steelers-Broncos


DENVER -- A look at the best game of the wild-card weekend.

What it means: The Denver Broncos are moving on. Wow. Just wow. After being terrible on offense in the past 11 quarters, Denver ended a three-game losing streak in stunning fashion on an 80-yard pass play from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas on the first offensive play of overtime. Denver, 9-8, is 4-0 in overtime this season.

Tebow time: Tebow played great after being terrible for the past two games. With rumors persisting he’d be replaced by Brady Quinn, Tebow came out slinging just as Denver football leader John Elway asked him to do. Tebow Time lives another week.

Defense stands tall: Much credit goes to Denver’s defense. It harassed Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger all game long and stood up. This major upset was a total team win.

Great moment: Nearly every Denver player came back onto the field to celebrate with the home fans. It was just Denver’s fourth win in nine home games this season. Tebow took a victory lap and slapped hands with fans as the crowd chanted his name.

What’s next: Denver plays at No. 1 seed New England on Saturday night. New England beat Denver 41-23 in Denver in Week 15. By the way, it will be the first game back in New England for Josh McDaniels. He was fired by Denver in 2010.

DENVER -- My immediate thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss at the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The heavily favored Steelers made a surprising early exit from the playoffs against a team that didn't have a winning record. The first game under the new overtime rules ended after one play -- an 80-yard touchdown pass by Tim Tebow. Pittsburgh had won six of its final seven games. The AFC North, which entered the playoffs with three teams, is now down to one (the Ravens).

Quick finish: It took only one play in overtime for this game to be decided. Cornerback Ike Taylor got beat on a short pass and couldn't pull down Demaryius Thomas on the game-winning 80-yard touchdown. It finished one of the worst games all season for Pittsburgh's pass defense.

Costly turnover: The Steelers came back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery with 3:48 left in the fourth quarter. This came after Ryan Mundy stripped Denver running back Willis McGahee when the Broncos had just driven into Pittsburgh territory.

Crazy quarter: The Steelers had a streak of nine straight quarters without allowing a touchdown before Tebow erupted in the second quarter. Tebow threw a 30-yard touchdown and ran 8 yards for another. The 20 points allowed by the Steelers in the second quarter were the second-most they have allowed in any quarter in a playoff game since the merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Painful game: The Steelers entered the game without their leading rusher (Rashard Mendenhall) and leading tackler (Ryan Clark). It only got worse for Pittsburgh when two starting defensive linemen (Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton) and left tackle Max Starks left the game with injuries. The Steelers were down to three healthy defensive linemen for most of the game.

Falling short early: The Steelers moved the ball in the first quarter but had to settle for two field goals to go up 6-0. The first drive ended when the Steelers made a surprising wide receiver screen to the outside on third-and-7. The second one stopped when Antonio Brown couldn't break free after a lot of contact with a Broncos defender.

What's next: The Steelers head to an offseason in which they will face questions about their offensive line, injured starting running back and aging defense.

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