|image via bleacherreport.com|
The 2011 NFL Playoffs kicked off with its Wild Card matchups in both NFC and AFC conferences last weekend.
Saturday's action included victories by the Houston Texans, who captured their franchise's first ever playoff victory by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10; and the New Orleans Saints took out the Detroit Lions 45-28.
Sunday's early game saw the New York Giants beat down the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 to advance to the divisional semi-final against the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
But so far, the real thriller of the tournament was Sunday's other AFC Wild Card game, which saw QB Tim Tebow and the surprising Denver Broncos shock the perrenial powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers in a thrilling 29-23 overtime victory.
Once again,"Tebowmania" continues its wild run, as the quarterback put up unimpressive numbers, yet willed his team to another big victory. The win not only advances the Broncos to the next round - they'll now travel to New England to face the Patriots, but it also continues the buzz and hysteria surrounding Tebow, who has become this sort of cultural phenomenon.
From a football standpoint, Tebow's style of play is almost painful to watch: his unorthodox throwing motion (which for some reason looks even worse because he's a left-hander), and the constant "option-style" running plays that make the Broncos offense look fit for a Pop Warner league.
But at the end of the day, Tebow continues to do one thing: Win football games.
Despite completing only 10 of 21 passes in Sunday's victory, the average gain on those passes was a whopping 31.6 yards! And we all saw what happened on the most important Tebow passing play of the game: a slant pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime for an 80 yard touchdown which gave Denver the victory, and left the Steelers scratching their heads wondering 'what the fuck just happen'd yo?'
I recently had a post-game "debriefing" chat with P&B associate, The Hustler, who shared with me some key factors of the game:
#1- How confused the Steeler defense looked as a result of the Tebow-led Bronco offense:
There were times when Pittsburgh's all-pro linebacker James Harrison was completely faked out of his cleats as he fell hook, line, and sinker on faked handoffs and counter plays. Watching a pro-bowler like Harrison get owned by Tebow was very thrilling to watch.
#2 - Familiarity with Denver's offensive style helps with preparation:
The Hustler made an interesting point regarding how preparation plays a key part in a team's effort to stop St. Timothy. He pointed to AFC divisional rivals such as the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Broncos 7-3 in Week 17 of the regular season. KC played Denver twice in the regular season, and since they play in the same division, the Chiefs would have studied hours of game film to devise a plan to stop Tebow. Pittsburgh undoubtedly prepared for the game, but the lack of familiarity with Tebow's style unhinged their gameplan, and this was clearly seen throughout the game.
So a couple of questions remain as the Broncos get ready to face the AFC's top seed New England on Saturday:
Can Denver avenge the crushing 41-23 loss handed to them by the Pats in Week 15 and advance to the AFC Championship game?
And can Tebowmania continue running wild, sweeping the nation up in its fervor and prolonging it's improbable run of success?
On paper, I would say...no.
But this is why they play the games in the first place.