DENVER — Tebow Time met overtime. And just like the other obstacles that have stood in Tim Tebow's way this season, overtime and the heavily favored Steelers had no chance.
Tebow, the former Florida standout whose stature as a football and social phenomenon was built on the foundation of fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL, completed a 20-yard pass that Demaryius Thomas turned into an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime Sunday, giving the Broncos a 29-23 upset of the Steelers in their AFC wild-card game.
It was the first overtime game since the NFL set rules that would allow overtime in a playoff game to end with just one team possessing the ball only if a touchdown was scored on the first possession.
It was the longest TD pass in NFL overtime history, and with just 11 seconds elapsed, it was the shortest overtime in history, regular season or postseason.
Tebow, told last week by Broncos executive and icon John Elway that he needed to "pull the trigger," now leads the Broncos against the top-seeded Patriots. After New England beat the Broncos last month, quarterback Tom Brady told Tebow the teams would meet again.
"He might have said something like that," Tebow said, smiling. "I guess he's a prophet."
Tebow might have been goofing on his public proclamations of Christian faith. But nobody is laughing off the second-year QB after he threw for 316 yards, on 10 completions, against the league's top-ranked defense.
Tebow, whose passer rating of 125.6 was the highest in Broncos postseason history, completed three of more than 50 yards (he had two in his career going in). It was the most in a playoff game since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Until now, Tebow's success has been an amalgam of fluky plays, great timing and good luck. Despite rallying to win five games after he was named the starter, he had been particularly poor during a three-game losing streak to end the regular season.
On Sunday, Tebow was not sacked, threw no interceptions and took advantage of a defense that dared him to pass.
It was on that kind of play that the winner came. Tebow waited for Thomas to slip behind blitzing safeties, then threaded the ball to Thomas.
"First of all, thank you, Lord," Tebow said he thought as he watched Thomas run. "Then, I was running after him, like I could catch D.T. Then I jumped in the stands, the first time I'd do that. That was fun."
Thomas' description: "I was open, and I just had to take it to the house."
Tebow completed the celebration with a victory lap. He acknowledged that he should have been more assertive in earlier games and that he was determined to play fast and aggressive in the playoffs.
"There's been a lot of critique of him. He stepped up," Broncos coach John Fox said.
In the first quarter, the Broncos had 8 yards of offense. But the Steelers struggled, too, short-circuiting drives with three dropped passes, settling for two field goals.
"He showed he's a quarterback in the NFL, case closed," Broncos running back Willis McGahee said of Tebow. "They say he couldn't throw. They said we wouldn't be able to run the ball on them. We did that. I wonder what they're going to say next week."
But will the Tebow questions really end?
"No," Fox said. "You never quiet the questions."