Klee: The Tim Tebow-to-Thomas Touchdown, in the words of Demaryius Thomas

By Paul Klee Updated: September 26, 2014 at 7:55 am • 0

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in a weeklong series covering six of the most memorable moments in Denver Broncos history.

DENVER – Demaryius Thomas takes the Samsung smartphone into his left hand. He taps the YouTube video with his right.

The familiar radio voice of Dave Logan summoning goosebumps: “Shotgun for Tim Tebow …

As a smile climbs across Thomas’ face, the Denver Broncos’ locker room stops to see what on earth he’s watching. It’s a Tuesday in September. What could be so interesting that the star wide receiver has taken a seat to devote his full attention?

“I’ve never seen the whole (game),” he says. “Only the highlights.”

Thomas is 26 now. He was 24 then, at the tail end of his second season in the NFL. In the words of the man who scored the historic touchdown, here is how the greatest play in Broncos history unfolded.

The play – “Tebow To Thomas” – won’t define the career of Demaryius Thomas. He’s too talented, too promising, too good for that. Plus, the play is only 10.9 seconds long, even if it will last a lifetime. But if there is a day when Thomas is honored in the Broncos Ring of Fame, or enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this will be the play that draws the loudest cheers, the play that brings the smile back to his face again.

“Watch the safety come down,” Thomas says, drawing the phone closer.

The video is from Jan. 8, 2012, and the Broncos are hosting the Steelers in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs. The Broncos aren’t supposed to be there, not after losing 7-3 to the Chiefs in the regular-season finale, not after Las Vegas named the Broncos an eight-point underdog. Definitely not with Tebow at quarterback.

But there they are, in a tie game (Broncos 21, Steelers 21), on the first play of OT.

“I remember when we were in the huddle,” Thomas says. “We weren’t thinking about a touchdown – just keeping the ball, keeping the drive going.”

Through four quarters in regulation, the Broncos had 12 possessions on offense. On all 12 possessions, the first play of the drive was a running play – four by Tebow, eight by running back Willis McGahee. That’s how they got here, with a read-option offense more befitting of Air Force than an NFL team.

Meanwhile, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy had noticed a tendency in the Steelers defense. “He was working on it (the play) at halftime,” Thomas says. In regulation, the Broncos ran 34 rushing plays and 20 pass plays, roughly the usual ratio since Tebow took over quarterbacking duties from Kyle Orton in Week 6.

This time on first down – the first play of overtime – Denver eschewed the run.

In short motion is Eddie Royal. Tim play-fakes in the pocket, Logan says.

Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy was the cue for Thomas. Mundy, a safety in his third season, would decide if Tebow would throw or hand off. If the safety went in motion, the call would be a running play, Thomas says. Instead, Mundy approached the line.

“When the safety came down, I was like, ‘Oh, man,'” Thomas says. “I knew that if I just beat Ike (Taylor), there’s a lot of field on the other side.”

The Steelers were caught off-guard. And why would they expect a pass play? The Broncos had played the entire first quarter without a pass completion. Eric Decker, the No. 2 wide receiver, had been knocked out of the game on a hit by James Harrison on the first play of the second quarter.

He (Tebow) sets, throws, Logan says on the video. Pass caught, Demaryius Thomas.

Tebow’s pass leaves his hand at the Denver 14. The football travels 24 yards through the air until Thomas reaches up to snag it at the 38. He is in full stride.

“Tim threw a great ball. And I was wide open,” Thomas says. “When Tim dropped back so quick, it was over with. He knew I’d be open. I knew, when we were lined up, it would be either a first down or a touchdown.”

The sprint was on. As Thomas began to separate from his defender, Steelers safety Ike Taylor, the 75,970 inside Sports Authority Field went from library quiet to jet-engine loud. Mile High shook like old Mile High, a football palace in hysterics.

“When I was running, it felt like we were in a commercial,” Thomas says. “It was so loud, I can’t even describe it.”

The play, and the game, wasn’t over yet. Taylor shadowed Thomas like a seagull over a beach BBQ. As he crossed the Broncos’ 46-yard line, Thomas extended his left arm, his off hand, with a stiff-arm that would’ve stopped a buffalo. The stiff-arm stunned Taylor, who stumbled behind Thomas by a good 3 yards.

“I’ve been doing that since I’ve been playing football. I was doing that in high school,” Thomas says.

With a laugh he adds, “I didn’t have many moves coming up. So I would just stick out my arm.”

At the 2010 NFL draft combine, Thomas sped through the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, just shy of Calvin Johnson’s 4.35, ahead of Dez Bryant’s 4.52.

The race to the end zone was over when it started, the playoff game with it.

Here we go . 40 . 35 . it’s a foot race … 20 … 15 … 10, Logan says, his voice raising a decibel with each yard that passed. Touuuuchdown, Denver! It’s over! It’s over in Denver! The crowd has lost their mind. It is over. The first play of overtime …



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7 Responses to “Klee: The Tim Tebow-to-Thomas Touchdown, in the words of Demaryius Thomas”

  1. andrea says:

    The NFL has lost its mind by blackmailing Tebow from the league.
    Buzzy Says : I think you mean BlackBalling

  2. Sage says:

    Great find, Buzzy. Enjoyed this.

    I’d forgotten that Decker went out in the 2d quarter. Then there’s the easy end-zone inteception which Champ Bailey dropped. It was a team win, of course. But Tebow helped the team overcome so much adversity.

    John Elway hugged Tebow at the end awwwwww

    • Sage says:

      Seemed like there were also a lot of drops from Broncos receivers that day.

      The always-run-on-first-down thing was very annoying. Must admit, however, they capitalized on the element of surprise mightily in overtime.

      • ck says:

        Sage: That is very true and one of the reasons they quickly traded ANY WR’s who could actually catch the ball (part of Elrot’s diabolical plan to derail Tebow as qb along w/Fox who couldn’t coach and was F-I-R-E-D from Carolina; being more than happy to be RID OF HIM!!!)
        Buzzy Says : I think FOX was Pro T2 as he saved his Job and PM would never would have went there if not for T2s record there.

        • ck says:

          Buzzy: Well, how grateful was he when he let them do what they did…hmmmm!
          Saw Mr. Pizza (PM) on the sidelines watching TN lose recently…WHY did he not go there and let T2 have the team that he carried/earned? Not fair at all impo. Don’t see the justice in any of it at all and only hope something good comes out of it for Tebow besides all of this reporting which he is very adapt/professional in everything he endeavors.
          You are right that T2 saved not only his (Fox) bacon but, The Bronco’s Franchise too b/c the whole town celebrated WINS for a change instead of WAY TOO MANY LOSSES W/THEIR “BEST CHANCE TO WIN QB’S!!”:)

  3. ck says:

    Glad they are giving credit where it is due and not forgetting the one mostly responsible, if not wholly b/c he lifted that team ALL THE WAY TO THE PLAYOFFS WHEN HE WAS THEIR #1 NFL QB!!!

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