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Another Victory Keeps Tebow In The Spotlight

Even GOP Candidates Court Broncos' QB, But He Says He's Declined The Offers
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Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos rushes for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 29-23 in overtime. (credit: CBS)

Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos rushes for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 29-23 in overtime. (credit: CBS)

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On his confidence after a good game last week
"We were able to do some good things and in the passing game had some big plays, and I think we had a lot of confidence going in. We just needed to get a little momentum and get things going. [WR Demaryius Thomas] DT really stepped up, and [TE Daniel] Fells really had a huge game, [WR] Eddie [Royal] had a huge game. A lot of guys really stepped up. Unfortunately [WR Eric Decker] Deck got hurt, but a lot of guys really stepped up. They made me look a lot better than I really am, so it was good."
On a balanced offense
"Anytime you can really have great balance, I definitely think it makes it harder to defend. It keeps defenses off balance and keeps them guessing a little bit. That's definitely our goal."
On the carry-over effect after having a great game
"Every week is a new week. 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. We can't be thinking about last week when we're in Foxboro. We have to be focused on the Patriots and what they're doing."
On his life since Sunday
"To be honest, I haven't really done too much. I've either been at my house or been here, and that's pretty much how it's been for me most of the season. But I enjoy both those places."
On Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels
"He's a very good coach, and I wish him nothing but the best. I'm very thankful for him having the confidence in drafting me, but I'm very excited about the coaches we have here - [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Mike] McCoy, [Quarterbacks] Coach [Adam] Gase, [Head] Coach [John] Fox - and those coaches have done a great job. I've very thankful for playing for those coaches. I'm looking forward to playing a great team in New England. It will be a very exciting game."
On what he improved on Sunday
"Hopefully I'm improving every week. That's my goal. Every week I think you do some things better, some things maybe not as good, and I think we were able to hit our shots when we took them on Sunday. I felt like I was able to manage the game pretty well for the most part. When it wasn't there, maybe get a few first downs scrambling, but I know there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. We got right back in here and started watching it, and we know we have to get better every week if we want to get another win."
On pulling the trigger
"I feel comfortable with whatever they want me to do. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it with all my heart and try to do it to the best of my ability."
On playing more aggressively
"Yes. I think I did play pretty aggressive in the game. We were playing a very good team, a very good defense. I think you have to be willing to take some chances to make some big plays against them because they have so many big playmakers, so many good guys that are rushing to get to the quarterback. Our offensive line did a great job, and our receivers stepped up and made huge plays."
On the Patriots defense
"(New England Head Coach Bill Belichick) is a great head coach. They have a great scheme, a lot of great players. They do a lot of different things. I think we have to be prepared. We will have a great game plan, but we have to be prepared for a lot of different looks and also do a great job on the sideline of adjusting to what they're doing and making our corrections on certain things and having great communication on the side line as well. They do a great job. He's confused a lot of great quarterbacks and stopped a lot of good offenses, so we'll have to be prepared for a very good scheme and a very good defense."
On playing against Josh McDaniels
"It will be fun. It will be exciting, not just because of that, but because we're playing the New England Patriots. We get a chance to play Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Foxboro. It's another round in the playoffs, and that's exciting. Congratulations to him for getting that position, but, honestly, we're not thinking about it. We're focused on playing a very good New England Patriots team. The rest is the rest."
On the last meeting
"You definitely can find some positive things in that. We drove the ball really well for most of the game. We had three turnovers where we dropped the ball on the ground, and we felt like we gave them - I don't know how many points they got off of that - 13, 17 points, whatever they got off it. That gave them the upper hand, but I think if we can limit turnovers, play a very sound game and execute, I think we'll have a chance."
On the offense without WR Eric Decker
"Eric is a great player. He's been huge for us all year, but we have a lot of guys that really stepped up in the game and a lot of guys that played well today in practice. I'm proud of them and [WR] Matt Willis, [WR] Eddie Royal, DT [WR Demaryius Thomas] and those guys will step up. They'll do their job. I'm really proud of them."
On the attention surrounding him
"I'm not sure. I haven't really paid attention to too much outside this building or games. I just pretty much try to be focused. That's pretty much it."
On where this season's story is
"I guess the next chapter. None of us exactly know, but it's a fun journey. It's exciting every week trying to learn and get better, and not just looking forward to the destination but enjoying the journey and have fun every day. That's what I'm trying to do and really just live out my dream as well as get better and try to get better at the game that I'm playing."
On proving critics wrong
"It was a big win for us. It was very exciting because we were able to beat a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team, at home, in front of our fans. That memory will definitely be very special to me and to many of my teammates and coaches. That definitely means a lot. It's one game. It's a playoff game, so it's big. But I'm not going to look too much into it. It's just one game. We have another big one this week."
On the Patriots defensive scheme
"They do a lot of different things. You have to be prepared for that, and they do them well. They're very smart, instinctive players that are coached up very well. I think, for us, it's just executing, holding onto the ball, not turning it over and being sound in what we do and finding a way to get some big plays. If we do that, hopefully we can control the ball and keep it out of Brady's hands."
©2012 Denver Broncos Football Club. All rights reserved.

DENVER (AP) – He kneels in prayer at times when many players would be pounding their chest, and is winning with a style the experts insist cannot work for long.

Tim Tebow‘s formula for success and fame is not typical for the NFL. So, is it a football miracle? Or the perfect blend of luck, timing and big plays? That’s the debate that makes the tale of the Denver Broncos quarterback one of the most compelling stories in America these days.

Hardly anyone stands on neutral ground when it comes to the purveyor of this unorthodox mix of throwing mechanics, big-time sports and devout religion, a 24-year-old Christian who is the subject of comedy skits on Saturday nights and serious sermons on Sunday mornings.

But what most people will agree on is that it’s hard to take your eyes off Tebow these days – a man who unapologetically uses football to take his message beyond the field while also taking his team on an unexpected ride through the playoffs.

“I’m just very thankful for the platform that God has given me, and the opportunity to be a quarterback for the Denver Broncos – what a great organization,” Tebow said after his latest shocker – an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime Sunday to beat Pittsburgh 29-23 in the wild-card playoffs.

The play, according to Twitter, spawned a record 9,420 tweets per second.

Not lost in that flurry was that Tebow threw for 316 yards and set an NFL playoff record by averaging 31.6 yards. That’s “316,” as in John 3:16, one of the most-often cited Bible passages for Christians, the most widely searched item on Google for much of Sunday night into Monday, and the message Tebow used to stencil into the eyeblack he wore when he played college ball at Florida.

Not that referencing the Bible or thanking God is anything new in sports. After NFL games for years, a small group of athletes gather around midfield, kneel, hold hands and pray. That devotion has been largely ignored or even criticized by media and fans.

“The thing with Tebow is that he seems more genuinely religious than most athletes, who seem to be religious to win games,” said Clifford Putney, author of the book “Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920.”

That might help explain why Tebow’s gestures are not being overlooked, but part of an ever-growing sensation. It started building when he won the Heisman Trophy and two national titles at Florida, though he was steeped in strong religion well before that – born in the Philippines to missionary parents.

More recently, he introduced mass culture to the art of “Tebowing” – kneeling on one knee, elbow perched on the other, fist to forehead – while chaos is erupting around him. The practice now has its own website, with pictures of people Tebowing in a research lab, in front of the Sydney Opera House, in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, etc.

Entertaining as all that has been, it has made fans and the media rethink the way they judge and cover their sports stars. Reporting that a player was including the Lord in his postgame analysis has long been widely thought of as trite and inappropriate, something to simply skip over when typing in the quotes.

Tebow’s five fourth-quarter comebacks and his four overtime victories – each more improbable than the last – and his steady, genuine, yet somehow unassuming insistence on bringing God into the conversation has forced an uncomfortable question upon those who want to make it only about what happens between the lines.

Does God really care about football?

“Not one whit,” said Joe Price, a professor in the religious studies department at Whittier College. “But does God care about people who play football? You betcha.”

In a sports season filled with unsavory stories – NFL and NBA labor wars, child sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse, and a baseball MVP accused of using steroids – Tebow is seen by many as a sports star who really could be a role model, contrary to what Charles Barkley or anyone else might say.

136612048 8 Another Victory Keeps Tebow In The Spotlight

Tim Tebow receives high fives from fans after the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8, 2012, in Denver. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

But the Tebow angst still exists, in large part because there is seemingly no way to analyze what he does on a football field without religion seeping into at least some part of that analysis.

Opine about his unorthodox throwing motion – widely derided by scouts and coaches and seemingly more suited for tossing a boomerang than a football – and the quick assumption becomes that you might not like him because of his religious beliefs.

Defend him as a winner who cares less about conventionality and depends more on moxie than mechanics – well, then you must be drinking the Kool-Aid, a Tebow fan because you’re in line with his Christian beliefs.

PHOTO GALLERY: Broncos 29, Steelers 23

“I still have doubts about him as a long-term answer, as I think most reasonable people do,” said radio host Sandy Clough, who has been manning Denver’s sports talk shows for more than 30 years. “Does one game, if he plays well, not only invalidate his play from the other (bad) games but anything anyone’s ever said about it? Well, no it doesn’t. It’s all part of the mix. It’s a fascinating mix. He’s the toughest player I’ve ever had to analyze, because there are all these extraneous factors you have to bring in.”

Sensing the excitement and loving his message, Tebow is also being courted by Republican presidential candidates. The quarterback recently told The Associated Press he’s been asked by more than one of the contenders for his support. He wouldn’t name names, but did say he’d declined the offer.

“I think you have to have so much trust in who you support, just from product endorsements to endorsing a candidate because if that person or company does something (bad), it reflects on you,” said Tebow, who’s a pitchman for Nike, Jockey and FRS energy drink.

Tebow has, however, placed himself in the political realm before – two Super Bowls ago when he starred in a Focus on the Family commercial with his mother sharing the story of how she gave birth to him in the Philippines in 1987 after spurning a doctor’s advice to have an abortion for medical reasons. After being criticized for that ad, he didn’t do an encore and instead tries to toe the line of showing his religion without shoving it down people’s throats.

That hasn’t stopped people from mocking him – and worse.

After Tebow was particularly bad in an ugly loss to Buffalo on Dec. 24, comedian and talk show host Bill Maher sent out a tweet that basked in the QB’s misfortune, blaming Jesus for the loss. “And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler `Hey, Buffalo’s killing them,’” Maher tweeted.

Maher, in turn, was roundly ripped for the post.

Less toxic was the recent skit on “Saturday Night Live,” where “Jesus” materializes in the locker room with an actor portraying Tebow, admits he is pulling some strings during these Bronco games, then after being told the New England Patriots are next on the schedule, suggests Tebow substitute his playbook, “the holy Bible,” for one with some Xs and Os.

The “SNL” Jesus also concedes that he, personally, prays to the Broncos place-kicker, Matt Prater, whose excellence has defined what the Tebow sensation has been about for most of this season: a bunch of teammates, motivated by a less-than-perfect leader who never gives up, coming together and picking each other up when the going gets tough.

A great story line that has held most of the year.

The twist on Sunday, though, was that for the first time this season, it could reasonably be argued that Tebow was a one-man show. In the win over Pittsburgh, he completed five passes of 30 yards or more. And with his defense struggling, he threw a perfect strike for the game-winner to receiver Demaryius Thomas, who didn’t have to change his stride and, thus, ran untouched into the end zone.

“He was the same Tim, calm and collected,” Thomas said. “He took it one play at a time and was in the huddle and said, `It’s either we win or we go home.’”

By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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