Tebow's play has Broncos thinking Super Bowl

Tebow's play has Broncos thinking Super Bowl

Published Jan. 10, 2012 11:18 p.m. ET

DENVER — With less than four minutes left in a home game Monday, the Denver Nuggets were getting drilled by 18 points by the New Orleans Hornets. Suddenly, the crowd erupted in excitement.

Rocky, the team's mountain lion mascot, had donned a Tim Tebow jersey when he strode onto the floor during a timeout to shoot halfcourt over-the-head shots.

Anything that is Tebow-related these days in Denver gets fans to go bonkers. And if only Tebow could have suited up for the Nuggets in their eventual 94-81 loss to the Hornets.

"I wish we had Tebow tonight," Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri quipped after the game. "He would have saved us tonight."

Tebow, though, is busy these days saving the Broncos. His latest rescue was last Sunday, when he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to give Denver a stunning 29-23 win over Pittsburgh in an AFC wild-card game.

Tebowmania was soaring when the Broncos had a six-game regular-season winning streak and then waned a bit when Denver lost its last three games to end the season. But now that the second-year quarterback from Florida is back to his ways of making Errol Flynn-like rescues, some Broncos are talking about, yes, winning the Super Bowl.

"To see Tim and Demaryius connect on a play like that, it gives our team a lot of encouragement to go out there and, let's take it all the way, let's get to the Super Bowl," tight end Virgil Green said of Tebow's theatrics making the Broncos believe that can happen. "If our offense can play like that, our defense is lights out, special teams is playing great, I think the Super Bowl is something that's not something that's a dream. It's something that can actually happen.

"I just know that everybody on this team has bought in. (Going to the Super Bowl) wouldn't shock me. If this was six, seven weeks ago, I'd be like, 'Wow.' Now, it's like, (Tebow has) been doing that all year (winning in dramatic fashion). It's something that has been happening on a consistent basis. . . . If we're going to get there (to the Super Bowl), we might as well win it."

Wait a minute. These Broncos went just 8-8 during the regular season. And now, to get to the AFC Championship, they have to win Saturday at New England, which is a 14-point favorite and won 41-23 at Denver less than a month ago.

So what. Tebow has won whenever it counts this season for the Broncos. And even when he didn't win when it supposedly counted, a 7-3 loss to Kansas City in the regular-season finale, Oakland kicked away its final game to give Denver the AFC title.

"Everybody on the team shares that attitude," Orlando Franklin, a rookie tackle from the University of Miami, said when told of what Green said about the Super Bowl.

But not everybody is talking about it. After Tebow said he's trying this season to "just live out my dream,'' he was asked if that dream includes the Super Bowl.

"No, it's definitely not Super Bowl or bust," Tebow said. "That's what I'm talking about, enjoying the journey. You have to just have fun every day, and that was a lot of fun on Sunday. But enjoy it and enjoy the blessings that we have and not just look forward to the destination. But I'm having fun every day, and, whatever happens, I'll definitely count this season as a blessing and I'm thankful for the opportunity.”

It sure was fun last Sunday. Tebow, who has been inconsistent throwing the ball all season, unleashed a downfield passing game, breaking John Elway's team playoff record with 316 yards. Tebow completed 10 of 21 passes for two touchdowns, the second one taking just 11 seconds to make it the shortest overtime in NFL history.

So what can Tebow do for an encore?

"Every week is a new week," Tebow said. "You can't focus on the past whether it was good, whether it was bad. I think each week you learn from it, but each week is a new week. It's a new game, new stadium."

And a new chapter in Tebow's stunning season.

But even if this one doesn't go well, Tebow already has done enough to captivate a nation. Even after the Broncos had staggered in with three straight losses, last Sunday's game had a staggering 25.9 overnight rating, the best ever for a wild-card game.

Tebow has been big news since winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2007 and then leading the Florida Gators to the national title as a junior in 2008. His outward display of his Christian beliefs has made him controversial. But there's no doubting his overall popularity, which continues to increase.

"With the whole Tebowing going on, that's been the craziest thing I've seen," said Broncos linebacker Joe Mays. "And the fact that he now has a word in the dictionary, I think that's crazy. But, hey, what can you say? Tebow's a great player."

To get the precise definition of Tebowing, go to www.tebowing.com, and it reads: "(vb) to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different." While you're on the site, you can check out photos of Tebowing on Sydney Harbour Bridge and in front of a lion in Africa and buy a Tebowing T-shirt for $16.99.

As for the standard Tebow apparel, it's a No. 15 jersey. They're now seen all over the country in orange, whether it's the Broncos' variety or a more faded one in the Gators' shade.

"Just away games, they seem like home games," Denver wide receiver Eddie Royal said of what Tebowmania has been like. "I remember the (Oct. 23) Miami game. After that one, you had a crowd of people out there chanting his name by the bus. That was kind of cool."

That was Tebow's first start this season and his first dramatic comeback, one in which he led the Broncos back from a 15-0 deficit with less three minutes left to an 18-15 overtime win. Yes, that game was in the state where Tebow made his name in college, but Denver players say it hasn't been much different at other road games.

"Yeah, man," Mays said of expecting Tebow's presence to be quite evident at New England. "You see 15 jerseys all over the place."

Stay tuned to see if they'll be on display Feb. 5 at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson