POSTED: Sunday, January 8, 2012 - 9:32pm
UPDATED: Sunday, January 8, 2012 - 11:37pm
One of the most storied NFL Playoff teams ran into a rejuvenated Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, and the Broncos defeated the stunned Steelers 29-23 in the AFC Wild-Card Playoff game Sunday.
Behind Tebow's 316 passing yards, the Broncos (9-8) are heading to New England for a second-round game against the top-seeded Patriots on Saturday night.
"I just think we executed a little bit better. We just tried to step up. We knew that it's 'win or go home' and this team wanted to fight. And we wanted to play another game," said Tebow.
The Steelers (12-5) lost despite Ben Roethlisberger rallying them from a two-touchdown halftime deficit with 10 points in the final 10 minutes.
"I'm proud of our guys and the way that they fought, but, obviously, we're not into moral victories. It wasn't enough," said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. "They made the significant plays tonight, particularly the chunks that allowed them to win. We accept responsibility for that, like we have through many, many legs of the journey this year."
The Giants, meanwhile, embarrassed the visiting Falcons, defeating them 24-2 in NFC Wildcard game.
New York's defense held the Falcons to just 69 yards on the ground and stifled three fourth-down conversion attempts.
Players and coaches from the Giants spoke enthusiastically about today's performance and looking forward to Green Bay, while members of the Falcons were more somber about finishing the season.
"Our defense is playing great football right now, so hopefully they'll continue to do that," said Giant's quarterback Eli Manning. "But we know offensively we're going to have to play strong, we're going to have play good, we're going to have to score some points. We can't make mistakes and hopefully get off to a faster start than we did today."
"We played some plays good, we played some that were not so good and I think that's the story of our 2011 season," said Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith. "That inconsistency starts with me. I take full responsibility for it and every man in that room, in our locker room, we all put ownership on it."