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NFL – Throwback Thursday: An NFC South Shootout

19 Nov

It’s time for another Throwback Thursday feature, and on this week’s NFL schedule, a pair of NFC South rivals, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, go head to head. We’ll go back a relatively short period of time, only 6 years, to a matchup of these clubs that was a high-scoring affair. It happened on September 7, 2014, on opening day, at the Georgia Dome. The opposing quarterbacks were the same pair of signal callers who lead their teams today – Drew Brees of the Saints and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

The Saints jumped out early, with Shayne Graham booting a pair of field goals and Khiry Robinson scoring on a short run. Ryan found Roddy White on a 2 yard scoring pass, but Brees matched that when he hooked up with Brandin Cooks for a 3 yard score, giving New Orleans a 20-7 lead. Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant cut the lead to 20-10 with a three-pointer just before halftime. The third quarter belonged to Ryan and the Falcons. The Falcon field general threw a pair of touchdown passes, a short 1 yarder to Levine Toilolo and a 54 yarder to Antone Smith, and suddenly Atlanta was in control with a 24-20 lead. The final quarter was a real roller coaster. First Brees engineered a drive that ended with power back Mark Ingram scoring from 3 yards out to regain the lead for the Saints. The Falcons answered that with a drive of their own, and Jacquizz Rodgers finished it off with a 17 yard rushing touchdown to put Atlanta back up, 31-27.

The roller coaster ride continued as Brees marched the Saints downfield again, and Ingram again scored from 3 yards out to put New Orleans up 34-31 with only slightly over a minute left to play. Ryan answered back, driving his troops down the field to set up a game-tying 51 yard field goal by Bryant as time expired in regulation. The Saints won the toss and received the OT kickoff, and that’s when disaster struck and the roller coaster derailed on the club from The Big Easy. Marques Colston, Saints’ wide receiver and Brees’ favorite target who had racked up 110 yards receiving on 5 catches for the day, caught a pass but promptly put the ball on the ground, fumbling to set up a 52 yard game-winning attempt for Bryant. The veteran kicker split the uprights and Atlanta escaped with a 37-34 win. The Falcons had a little easier time knocking off New Orleans in their second meeting that year, winning 30-14. However, 2014 wasn’t a very successful season for either club. The Saints finished 7-9 and the Falcons were even worse, with a 6-10 mark.

 

 

Marques Colston fumbles to set up winning Atlanta field goal

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Good Luck For The Ravens?-Nevermore

12 Nov

With the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens squaring off on this week’s NFL schedule, our Throwback Thursday feature remembers a game between these 2 teams played on January 22,2012, a contest to decide the AFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLVI. Played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, it was a back-and-forth battle between 2 proud teams trying to advance for a chance at pro football’s biggest prize. In the end, it was the Ravens who encountered a pair of hard luck plays that ultimately were the difference in the game.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal for the Patriots to open the scoring, the only points scored by either team in the first quarter. Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff tied the game early in the second stanza, and the teams then traded touchdowns. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored from 7 yards out for New England, and quarterback Joe Flacco hit his tight end, Dennis Pitta, with a 6 yard scoring pass, tying the score at 10-10. Gostkowski closed out the first half and opened the second with field goals to put his club up 16-10, but the Ravens fought back. Flacco threw 29 yards to Torrey Smith for a touchdown, and Cundiff hit another field goal as Baltimore pulled ahead 20-16 headed into an eventful final quarter.

It was in this fourth quarter that Baltimore saw their chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy fade into history. First, Tom Brady used his patented QB sneak to dive into the end zone from a yard out, giving the Patriots the lead at 23-20. Flacco didn’t flinch, however. With 1:44 left to play, he guided the Ravens on a drive deep into New England territory. That’s when the first twist of fate happened. Flacco tossed a perfect pass to the usually reliable Lee Evans. Evans snatched the pass and turned at the goal line into the end zone, only to have Sterling Moore, a journeyman Patriot cornerback, jar the ball loose at the last second. It was redemption for Moore, who had missed a tackle on Smith’s touchdown catch-and-run earlier. All was not lost, however. Despite failing to cross the goal line, Baltimore could still at least tie the game with a field goal. Fate, again, wouldn’t be kind to the Ravens. Cundiff’s 32 yard game-tying attempt with 11 seconds remaining inexplicably sailed wide left, and the Patriots escaped with the victory.

 

Ravens’ Lee Evans drops potential game-winning TD pass

 

Luck would run out for New England in the Super Bowl. They were matched up with an NFC team that had spoiled their attempt at a perfect season a few years earlier – Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Once again, the Giants spiked the Patriots’ dreams.

 

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: A Bump In The Road

05 Nov

We’re on to week 9 of the 2020 NFL schedule, and one of the premier matchups this week pits the Green Bay Packers against the San Francisco 49ers. For Throwback Thursday this week, we look back at a contest between these 2 clubs that was played on December 10, 1961. It was the penultimate regular season game, played between a pair of Western Division rivals who were having excellent seasons. The Packers had throttled the Niners 30-10 at home earlier in the year, and this time traveled to the West Coast for a rematch at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. Green Bay, beaten in the NFL title game a year earlier by the Philadelphia Eagles, was coasting along to another Western crown, entering this game at 10-2. The 49ers were a respectable 6-5-1, and eager for  another shot at Vince Lombardi’s team.

After a scoreless first quarter, 49er quarterback John Brodie took charge and guided his forces on a pair of touchdown drives, hitting Bernie Casey on a 51 yard score and finding R.C. Owens with a patented “Alley Oop” toss from 10 yards out to open up a 14-0 lead. Lombardi then went to his bag of tricks to cut the lead in half. The halfback option pass, a staple of trick plays for basically all NFL teams at the time, was employed by the Packers with success using Paul Hornung regularly. This time, however, Lombardi doubled down on the trickery, as backup RB Tom Moore used the tactic to find Max McGee for a 22 yard score. Charlie Krueger, San Francisco’s old warhorse defensive tackle, trapped Packer signal caller Bart Starr for a safety, then McGee scored again, this time on a conventional pass from 12 yards from Starr. In the final stanza, 49er placekicker Tommy Davis hit on a 40 yard field goal to boost his team’s lead to 19-14. The ever-resilient Packers fought back and took the lead at 21-19 when fullback Jim Taylor, finishing a hard fought day at the office that saw him rush 22 times for 122 yards, burst through the San Francisco defense and scampered 40 yards for a touchdown.

Brodie and the 49er offense didn’t flinch, however. His receivers, Casey and Owens, blistered Green Bay’s vaunted defense for over 100 yards receiving each on the day. As the game clock wound down, they drove downfield and with only 11 seconds left, Davis won the game with a play that is now impossible to accomplish in the NFL these days. He made good on a 14 yard field goal attempt to seal the upset win. At the time the goalposts were still located right on the goal line, as opposed to at the end line where they are today, making a 14 yard attempt impossible. The loss was just a slight bump in the road for Green Bay. They righted the ship the following week by beating the Los Angeles Rams to close out the regular season, then trounced the New York Giants 37-0 in the NFL Championship to give Lombardi the first of his 5 titles in the following 7 years.

 

Packers huddle up at Kezar against the 49ers

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Jets Are Grounded

29 Oct

It’s the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs taking on the lowly New York Jets on this week’s NFL schedule, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature we’ll zero in on a time when both of these clubs were powerhouses. It’s December 20, 1969 at frigid Shea Stadium for a divisional playoff game to begin the chase to see who will be the last American Football League champion before the league merges into the NFL. The Jets are defending champions, having shocked the world by upsetting the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The stage is set for the Jets – they are reigning champs, have home field advantage for the title game and most of all have their swashbuckling quarterback, Broadway Joe Namath, leading their offense. The Chiefs, however, enter the game with a better overall record, and, having beaten New York in the regular season, are installed as favorites to win.

The teams are both guided by future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Namath and K.C.’s Len Dawson, but on this day, the cold weather and a pair of ferocious defensive units take command and dictate play. Scoring in the first three quarters is limited to field goals. Jim Turner boots one to give the Jets an early 3-0 lead, while Jan Stenerud answers with a three-pointer in each of the next 2 quarters to put his Chiefs ahead 6-3. New York gets a golden opportunity to crack the end zone when Kansas City cornerback Emmitt Thomas is called for pass interference in the end zone, setting up the Jets with first and goal at the one yard line. The Chiefs’ stout defense, particularly their linebacking corps, takes charge at that point. Future Hall of Famer Willie Lanier stuffs two running plays, while Jim Lynch and Bobby Bell combine to force Namath to throw the ball away on third down and inches, forcing another Turner field goal to tie the game. It was a dismal performance overall by Namath. He completed only 14 of 40 passes against the Chief defense and was intercepted 3 times, twice by Jim Marsalis.

Dawson finally musters up a drive that ends in 6 points when he hits Gloster Richardson from 19 yards out to supply the Chiefs with their final victorious margin of 13-6. The Chiefs, who were Western Division runnerups to Oakland, extract revenge on the Raiders the following week by beating them 17-7 to capture the final AFL title. They uphold the AFL pride that the Jets had gained the previous year a week later by upsetting the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

 

It’s a cold, rough day for Joe Namath (12) and the Jets

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: An AFL Preview

22 Oct

The Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears face off on this week’s NFL schedule, which leads us to travel back to November 2, 1958 for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. It was a wild game in L.A.’s Coliseum between these 2 clubs that saw an offensive explosion that wasn’t a common sight in those days, as the Rams won 41-35. Actually, the Rams were noted for high-flying offense in those days but on this day the usually defensive-minded Bears joined the show too. Chicago’s defense started the scoring onslaught when Erich Barnes intercepted a Bill Wade pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Wade and the Rams took control from there. The L.A. signal caller led drives that produced 4 touchdowns and a field goal, as he ran 3 yards for one score, hit Tommy Wilson and Leon Clarke with touchdown throws and saw Wilson run 9 yards to the end zone for another six-pointer. Those 4 TDs and a field goal gave the Rams a resounding 31-7 lead, and it looked like they were on there way to a one-sided victory. When Chicago QB Zeke Bratkowski hit Bill McColl from 10 yards out to cut the score to 31-14 at halftime, it was a harbinger of things to come. He hit Willie Galimore for a 12 yard score early in the second half, but the Rams got the momentum back with another Wilson touchdown run and a field goal to finish up the third quarter with what appeared to be a comfortable 41-21 lead. The proud Bears weren’t about to lay down, however. Rick Casares, who had 23 carries for 113 yards on the day, ran in from 5 yards out and Bratkowski found McColl open again for a 25 yard scoring connection. The clock ran out on the visitors from the Windy City from that point and the Rams escaped with the win.

One Ram player who had an outstanding afternoon that day, although he never reached the end zone, was halfback Jon Arnett, who carried the ball, caught passes and returned kicks for a massive 298 total yards from scrimmage. Wade’s performance must have gotten the attention of Chicago owner/coach George “Papa Bear” Halas. He later traded for Wade and was rewarded when the signal caller guided his Bears to the NFL championship in 1963. The offensive display the Rams put on was somewhat of a look into the future. Their coach, future Hall of Famer Sid Gillman, became the first head coach of the fledgling American Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers in 1960, where he was the architect of some unstoppable offensive attacks that were a large part of the high-scoring attraction that the new league’s fans enjoyed. Gillman’s Chargers, who moved to San Diego in 1961, reached the AFL title game 5 times in the league’s first 6 years and won it all in 1963 behind stars like Jack Kemp, John Hadl, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln and Lance Alworth.

 

Rams’ Tommy Wilson had a huge day (Daryl Norenberg photo)

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The “Oilers” Return To Houston

15 Oct

For this week’s NFL Throwback Thursday feature we’ll go back to 2002 for a clash between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, who meet on this week’s schedule. Being one of the youngest franchises in the NFL, this is the first time the Texans have been featured in a weekly TBT post here. The importance of the game lies in the fact that the Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers prior to abandoning the city to move to Tennessee, were returning to their old home for the first time since leaving in 1997. The Texans, the newly minted expansion franchise, were closing out their first season against their division rivals and were hungry to give their fans some measure of revenge in the game. The Titans had beaten them earlier in the season at Memphis in a relatively close 17-10 battle, so there was reason for optimism.

As far as how the game went, it was pretty forgettable. The Texans had valiantly played most of their opponents closely all year, an accomplishment for a new team, and also racked up 4 wins along the way. This game was no different, but Houston, led by prize rookie quarterback David Carr, couldn’t muster any kind of offense at all against the tough Tennessee defense. The Texans’ defense played strong also, and the only first half scoring was a pair of Joe Nedney field goals to give the Titans a 6-0 lead. Houston managed a third quarter field goal to pull with 3, but in the final quarter, the only player to have any success for either team, running back Eddie George, scored on a 4 yard touchdown run to give the Titans a 13-3 lead that wound up being the final score. George managed 102 yards rushing on 25 carries on the day.

Because the two clubs were placed in the same division, the AFC South, they had to play each other twice a year. Still, maybe because of the 5 years that Houston went without a team and the rebranding of their old team as the Titans in Tennessee (they remained the “Tennessee Oilers” for 2 seasons), there wasn’t a great deal of hatred generated by the rivals or their fans. Tennessee dominated play for the first 2 seasons, but the Texans finally did capture a measure of pride in the 2004 season by sweeping both games from the Titans.

 

 

Titans’ stars RB Eddie George, QB Steve “Air” McNair

 

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Shocking The Future Champs

08 Oct

The Battle of Pennsylvania takes place on this week’s NFL schedule as the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Philadelphia Eagles. The two clubs also took each other on in the penultimate game of their respective 1960 seasons on December 11th of that year, and that is the contest we feature for this week’s Throwback Thursday post. The Eagles were enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time, while Pittsburgh was slogging along to another in a line of mediocre to bad years. It was unknown at the time of course, but Philly would go on to win the league’s championship later that year as they caught lightning in a bottle behind the quarterback play of aging veteran Norm Van Brocklin. With a 9-1 record they entered Forbes Field on this day as heavy favorites over the Steelers, sporting a losing 4-5-1 mark. In a shocking turn of events, Pittsburgh rode a spectacular performance from future Hall of Fame running back John Henry Johnson to jump out to a 27-0 lead by halftime in the game. Johnson, who rushed for 182 yards on 19 carries on the afternoon, scored on scampers of 7 and 87 yards and added a halfback option touchdown pass of 15 yards to flanker Buddy Dial, all after quarterback Bobby Layne had opened the scoring with a 6 yard rushing touchdown.

The stunned Eagles replaced Van Brocklin with Sonny Jurgensen in the second half and after a scoreless third quarter the young red-headed signal caller restored some pride in his club in the final stanza. He led drives that saw him complete scoring tosses of 53 yards to Timmy Brown and 19 yards to Tommy McDonald, while Brown also ran 7 yards to paydirt to bring Philly to within 27-21. Brown would finish with 3 catches for 112 yards to lead all receivers on the day but the Eagle comeback fell short and the 27-21 score held up. Johnson’s big day was the highlight of the winning effort for the Steelers, but he wasn’t alone in contributing to the win. Tom Tracy added 95 yards on 22 carries and Dial totaled 6 grabs for 85 yards and his TD, while Layne, although he was intercepted 3 times, was responsible for a pair of scores. Van Brocklin would come back to eventually lead the Eagles over Green Bay in the title game, then go out on top as he retired after the season to take the head coaching job of the NFL’s new expansion team, the Minnesota Vikings, in 1961.

 

 Steeler QB Bobby Layne, sans face mask, sails a pass over Eagle defenders (Getty Images/Neil Leifer)

 

 

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Paul Warfield Curse

01 Oct

The Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns lock horns on this week’s NFL schedule, and we’ll travel back to a game played between these 2 clubs on December 28, 1969 for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. It was a divisional round playoff game between the Browns, the Century Division champs, and the Capitol Division titlist Cowboys. The NFL, in it’s last couple of seasons prior to the merger with the AFL, was divided into 4 divisions – Century, Capitol, Coastal and Central. Both clubs were perennial winners in the decade of the 1960s, although Dallas was beginning to gain the reputation as a team that “couldn’t win the big one”. Despite being molded into a perennial winning franchise by coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys had suffered crushing defeats in the prior 3 years’ playoffs. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers beat them twice in the NFL championship game and the Browns upset them in a divisional playoff game in 1968. The rematch in this 1969 clash would be a repeat of the previous season, and a certain nemesis that haunted the Cowboys was to be a major factor again. That nemesis was Browns’ wide receiver Paul Warfield. He had been a thorn in Landry’s side in the clubs’ two prior meetings – catching 7 passes for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns in Cleveland victories. Warfield again burned the Cowboy defense in this game. Although he didn’t reach the end zone, he racked up 99 yards on 8 receptions to lead all receivers in a resounding 38-14 win by the Browns.

Cleveland had control of this contest from the opening whistle as quarterback Bill Nelsen engineered drives that resulted in a pair of short rushing touchdowns from fullback Bo Scott, a scoring throw to tight end Milt Morin and a Don Cockroft field goal as the Cotton Bowl visitors built a 24-0 lead in the third quarter. Craig Morton, battling to get Dallas’ offense moving, finally got his club on the scoreboard with a 2 yard QB sneak, but after Leroy Kelly scored on a short run, his struggles reached the point of no return as Cleveland cornerback Walt Sumner intercepted him and ran it back 88 yards for a gut-punching touchdown to open up a 38-7 Browns’ lead. In what was to become an omen for the future, Landry turned to his backup signal caller, Roger Staubach, to salvage some dignity in the game. Roger the Dodger guided the Cowboys on a scoring drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Lance Rentzel to complete the game’s scoring.

It took a few years and a couple more cringeworthy postseason losses before Dallas finally overcame the “can’t win the big one” stigma. In Super Bowl VI in 1971, they routed the young Miami Dolphins 24-3 to give Landry his first championship. To finally end their postseason failure string was one thing, but it also came with a cherry on top. Warfield, now a member of the Dolphins, was held to a pedestrian 4 catches for 39 yards in the win.

 

Browns’ QB Bill Nelsen surveys the defense (Getty Images)

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Double Doldrums

24 Sep

The NFL is on to week 3 of their schedule, and a matchup on the slate of games has the Detroit Lions taking on the Arizona Cardinals. Our Throwback Thursday feature is a game between these 2 franchises that was played on December 6, 1959, as both teams were winding down on seasons they couldn’t wait to get to the end of. Both were once proud NFL powerhouses that had fallen on hard times lately. Detroit, a club that won 3 titles in the 1950s and could be realistically put on a pedestal as the team of the decade, entered this contest with a lowly 2-7-1 record. The Cardinals were in even worse shape. Based in Chicago at the time, they were finishing off a dismal final season in the Windy City. Unable to compete with their neighboring team, the Bears, the Cards were slated to move to St. Louis for the 1960 season. Their 2-8 record entering the game was indicative of a franchise that was going nowhere. So basically this week’s TBT featured game is a contest with little historic significance between a couple of late ’50s bottom feeders.

The Lions, whose championship pedigree was much more recent than the Cardinals, reached back into that winning history to club their soon-to-be-leaving Chicago opponents, 45-21. Lion quarterback Tobin Rote, who had led his team to an NFL title just 2 years prior in 1957 and would later guide the San Diego Chargers to an AFL title in 1963, opened the scoring with a 9 yard touchdown run. They added a field goal, and in the second quarter the defense pitched in when Yale Lary scooped up a fumble and rambled 28 yards to paydirt to widen Detroit’s lead to 17-0. One Cardinal who refused to be disheartened was halfback John David Crow. He scored from a yard out to get his team on the board, but Rote got the points back with a 13 yard TD pass to Dave Middleton, giving the Lions a 24-7 lead going into the half. The Lions went to backup QB Earl Morrall in the second half, and he responded by hitting Jim Gibbons for a 33 yard score. When Terry Barr scampered 32 yards for a touchdown early in the final quarter, the game was all but over as Detroit took a commanding 38-7 lead. With John Roach being ineffective most of the day, Chicago turned to M.C. Reynolds to try to salvage some dignity. Reynolds hit Crow for a 36 yard touchdown and Woodley Lewis for another score from 20 yards out, but it was too little too late. Jim Doran recovered a fumble in the end zone for Detroit between the 2 Cardinal TDs, and the 45-21 final score was cemented. Crow’s 103 yards of total offense was tops for both teams, and Reynolds completing 8 of 10 throws for 170 yards and the 2 touchdowns in a relief role was impressive, but the Lions dug into their winning past to claim the victory, giving them a temporary respite from the doldrums they were mired in all year. Both teams lost the following week, which back then was the final week of a 12 game regular season. Little did either franchise know that their doldrums would continue to this day. The 1957 championship was Detroit’s last, and the Cardinals haven’t won one since 1947.

 

 

Detroit QB Tobin Rote (18) dodges Cardinal defenders

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Tebow Mania!

17 Sep

As the NFL season enters week 2, we’ve picked out one of this week’s matchups, between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, as our Throwback Thursday feature for the week. We harken back to an AFC Wild Card game played on January 8, 2012 between these 2 franchises that was the apex of a phenomenon, at least at the NFL level, known as Tebow Mania. The Broncos had used a first round draft pick on the quarterback from the University of Florida, Tim Tebow, whose skills weren’t really on par with a top NFL signal caller, but who definitely had one distinct quality- he was a winner. The game was arguably the crowning moment of the former Heisman Trophy winner’s mostly forgettable NFL career. It was Denver’s first appearance in the postseason since 2005, and with home field advantage at Mile High Stadium the excitement level among Bronco fans was high. The Steelers did all the scoring in the first quarter with a pair of field goals as Tebow struggled to get his team’s attack off the ground, but the controversial quarterback came alive in the second stanza by leading Denver to 20 unanswered points, firing a 30 yard scoring pass to Eddie Royal and then finishing a drive with an 8 yard rushing TD. He guided the Broncos to two more field goals to lift Denver to a 20-6 halftime lead. The Steelers, a proud franchise with a rich winning tradition, rallied back in the second half. Wide receiver Mike Wallace cut the lead to 20-13 with a one yard end around run for a touchdown, and after both clubs traded field goals, the Steelers capitalized on a Willis McGahee fumble to drive to a tying touchdown on a 31 yard Ben Roethlisberger to Jericho Cotchery pass. Both defenses stiffened from there and the game went into sudden death overtime.

After winning the OT coin toss, Tebow and the Broncos wasted no time. Tebow, who had guided his team to an 8-8 record and an AFC West title after being named the team’s starter following a 1-4 start to the season, connected with his favorite target, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, on an 80 yard throw-and-catch touchdown pass that gave Denver a 29-23 victory and sent the Mile High crowd into a frenzy. For Thomas, the play capped a record breaking afternoon, as he finished with 4 catches for an incredible 204 yards receiving. The excitement only lasted a week for the Broncos and their fans. They were brought back down to earth the following week in the divisional round when Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots handed them a resounding 45-10 defeat.

 

Denver’s Tim Tebow in action vs. Steelers

 
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