After giving Game Balls to Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow and Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas on Sunday for their standout play in the Wildcard upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Overtime, I told you that I wasn't finished with the accolades. Head coach John Fox beat me to it saying "everybody that was here tonight, gets a Game Ball", so that just leaves me Tossing Horseshoes. A Leaner is still worth one point, right?
Besides Tebow and Thomas, Wide Receiver Eddie Royal had a hand in the outcome of Sunday's contest, scoring the first Denver points in the game. In the 2nd Quarter, the Broncos drove down to the Steeler 30-yard line. On a 2nd and 9 play, Tim Tebow took the snap out of the Shotgun and fired a pass deep right to Royal for a Touchdown to take the lead 7-6. The Broncos piled on another 13 points to take a 20-6 margin into the locker room at the half. Eddie finished the day with 3 catches for 49 yards and the touchdowns. He also returned 3 punts for a 9-yard average.
Tight End Daniel Fells had two catches for 57 yards on Sunday. Right now you're probably saying, "yeah KK, big deal." Well, they both went for 1st downs and they were the only times he was targeted. With the issues surrounding the Broncos passing Offense in 2011, that is a small victory in itself. Daniel made a 17-yard catch in the 4th Quarter for a first down on a clock eating, but wasted drive. The other catch occurred in the 2nd Quarter with 4:31 left. Tim Tebow launched a perfect pass deep over the middle to Fells for 40 yards. That led to Matt Prater's 28 yard field goal with a minute left in the opening half.
If anyone deserves a Game Ball on Defense, it has to be Defensive End Elvis Dumervil. Doom had 2 Tackles, one Sack, one Tackle For a Loss and a Forced Fumble that helped the Broncos Defense prevent the Steelers from kicking the game winner. In the 4th Quarter, the Steelers were at the Denver 45 yard line and driving for the win. Ben Roethlisberger took the snap from the shotgun on 1st and 10 with 29 seconds remaining in a 23-23 Tie game. Elvis Sacked the Pittsburgh Quarterback for an 11-yard loss and Forcing a Fumble, which Big Ben was able to cover up. Three plays later, Robert Ayers got his second Sack of the game to force Overtime. Eleven seconds after that, the Broncos grabbed the quickest Overtime victory in NFL playoff history.
Defensive End Robert Ayers had arguably one of his best games this season, with 3 Tackles (2 for a Loss), 2 Sacks and 3 Quarterback Hits. He had 3 Sacks for the regular season, doubling up from the previous year. So to get 2 in the playoffs is a statement, especially for a guy that whose primary role is to set the edge and stop the run. Robert's 2nd Sack was good for 15 yards and forced the Overtime. Way to show up for the big game Mr. Ayers!
Safety Quinton Carter had the most memorable game of his Rookie campaign with 5 Tackles, one Pass Break Up and his first career Interception. Not to mention the valuable postseason playing time not many 1st year players get to experience. The Interception came in the 2nd Quarter on a 3rd and 13 with the Steelers on their own 14 yard line. Pittsburgh Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a shotgun snap and intended to pass to Tight End Heath Miller, but Carter caught it in the bread basket and returned the ball 9 yards to the 18. The Broncos stalled at the 2 yard line and had to settle for a Matt Prater 20-yard Field Goal, but that extended Denver's lead to 17-6 and kept the momentum in their favor.
Honorable Mentions go out to Safety David Bruton, who became the 11th player to lead the Broncos with 8 Tackles and one Pass Break Up---Cornerback Champ Bailey, who had 3 Tackles and 3 Pass Break Ups covering Mike Wallace most of the afternoon, including a critical break up in the End Zone that he should have picked----Linebacker Von Miller, who contributed 3 Tackles (2 For a Loss), a Sack and a Quarterback Hit, all with a cast protecting a broken right thumb---and Defensive Tackle Broderick Bunkley, who has shown to be the Broncos best
Free Agent pickup Trade acquisition on Defense with 43 Tackles this year. Bunkley had 2 Tackles (one For a Loss), a 6 yard Sack in the 4th Quarter and one Quarterback Hit in Sunday's game.
This one is simple. Kicker Matt Prater and Punter Britton Colquitt. Matthew Willis made the only other plays on Special Teams for the Broncos, with a 19-yard Kick Return and downing a punt Inside the 20, but it was Denver's two Kickers that did not allow the Pittsburgh a single return, effectively taking out the 8th ranked Kick Return and 13th ranked Punt Return Units for 60 minutes. Britton Colquitt punted 4 times and Steelers return man Antonio Brown to signal for a Fair Catch three times. Matthew Willis downed the other punt at the 12-yard line. Colquitt's longest punt of the afternoon was a 50-yarder on his second punt of the 1st Quarter. Britton finished with a gross and Net average of 41 yards. Matt Prater Kicked off 6 times, resulting in 6 touchbacks. He added Field Goals of 20, 28 and 35 yards as well as 2 Extra Points. The Denver Special Teams Unit has struggled recently, but they were excellent when it mattered most.
All in all, it was a great team win. Great for the franchise, the city of Denver and most of all, the fans in Broncos Country. I'd like to see an encore performance this Saturday afternoon.