Tebow Makes Things Happen

Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow threw for over 300 yards in their win over the Steelers during the AFC Wildcard round. Is he becoming more than just an option quarterback?

Broncos ride Tebow for yet another week

   The thrill of an overtime win for the Broncos, the first playoff win in six years for the franchise and just the second since Super Bowl XXXIII, didn't last too long.

   The reward for the 29-23 win is a trip to New England to face the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC. When the Broncos faced New England on Dec. 18 in Denver, the Patriots pounded them 41-23.

   "We played them a month ago. It didn't go very well," coach John Fox said. "I think it will be a huge test. It is a well-coached great football team, great organization. It will be at their place, so it will be a huge challenge. It is one we look forward to."

   After the Broncos' improbable season, and an improbable wild-card playoff victory against the defending AFC champion Steelers, it's tough to dismiss their chances entirely.

   Quarterback Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Pittsburgh, one of the toughest defenses in the NFL, and seemed impervious to the pressure of his first playoff start. He'll need to have a near-perfect game next week against the Patriots, but he is going up against a porous pass defense. He threw for 194 yards and rushed for 93 more against the Patriots in the first meeting. He'll have to perform without Eric Decker, one of Denver's top receivers who suffered a significant knee injury against the Steelers. Decker will probably miss some time.

   The Broncos' defense needs to find some answers for the Patriots, who were rarely slowed down in Denver. Tom Brady threw for 320 yards and had an easy day. The Broncos focused on taking away Rob Gronkowski, but Aaron Hernandez torched them for 129 yards and a touchdown.

   The Broncos will be significant underdogs, but they're used to that. They used the skepticism as motivation before the win against the Steelers.

   "It's crazy because I was watching NFL Network Friday night and they were at this roundtable," running back Willis McGahee said. "They didn't think we were going to be in the game and Pittsburgh's got this hands down. I just told the guys what people thought of us and that we had to go out and play with a chip on our shoulder."

   TRENDING: The Broncos were conservative in their final regular-season game against the Chiefs, although Tim Tebow's struggles in that game played a part in the play-calling. Against the Steelers, Denver opened things up and it paid off. Demaryius Thomas had 204 yards on four catches, including a great 80-yard touchdown in overtime to beat Pittsburgh. Thomas looks healthy and explosive, and he should be able to use his size advantage against New England's secondary to make some plays downfield.

   LINEUP WATCH: Wide receiver Eddie Royal had a quiet year as a receiver, with just 155 yards and a touchdown. But with Eric Decker likely out for a while, Royal has a chance to be a much bigger part of the offense. He did catch a 30-yard touchdown from Tebow in the Broncos' win over the Steelers. The Broncos don't throw often but like to take shots downfield, so Royal's speed could be an asset against New England.

   --RB Willis McGahee was bottled up against Pittsburgh, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. He has an easier matchup in round two against New England. He had 70 yards on seven carries against the Patriots last month.
   --TE Daniel Fells caught two passes for 57 yards against Pittsburgh, and by default could become a bigger target for the Broncos. With Eric Decker likely out with a knee injury, the Broncos could use more multiple tight end looks, and Fells could play a larger role in the passing game.
   --OT Ryan Harris, signed after guard Chris Kuper suffered a season-ending leg injury, was inactive for the Broncos' first playoff game.
   --FB Spencer Larsen was out against Pittsburgh with a knee injury, and if he can return against the Patriots, that would help Denver's inside running game, which didn't get much going against Pittsburgh. Denver's longest run against the Steelers was 11 yards.
   --LB Von Miller has been struggling ever since having thumb surgery, but he did have a sack and three tackles against the Steelers. The Broncos need him to be effective against Tom Brady, who had way too much time to throw in the first meeting between the teams.

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