By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune –
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Poof!
Just like that, Tim Tebow’s special journey this season concluded Saturday night. A story that transcended the game and captivated those who don’t follow the sport came to an end with one cold thud.
The Broncos ran into the AFC’s top-seeded Patriots at Gillette Stadium, and the gadget offense that launched Tebowmania was no match against 34-year-old Tom Brady, a polished postseason performer seven years removed from his last Super Bowl championship.
Tebow became the first quarterback in NFL history to deliver six fourth-quarter comebacks in his first 11 starts, and then he knocked out the Steelers and their top-ranked defense in the wild-card round last Sunday with an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime. He was ineffective and exposed in this setting, forced to endure derisive chants of “Tebow! Tebow!”
There was no magic, no heroics. Instead, it was fireworks from Brady as he tied an NFL postseason record with six touchdown passes in a 45-10 blowout. By the time Brady threw his sixth touchdown pass early in the third quarter, Tebow had completed only three passes for 28 yards. The last quarterback to throw six touchdown passes in the postseason was Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX.
The Patriots snapped a three-game postseason losing streak and will host the AFC championship game next Sunday against the Texans-Ravens winner.
As for the Broncos, as controversial as it will be they have to consider their future with Tebow. It’s a topic President John Elway, coach John Fox and management need to think long about.
An NFL-record five touchdown passes by Brady in the first half — three to tight end Rob Gronkowski — staked the Patriots to a 35-7 halftime lead. They didn’t relent and Tebow was befuddled, unable to react when his primary read was covered. He completed just 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards. He was sacked five times and had five carries for 13 yards. It was much worse than the Week 15 meeting when the Patriots won 41-23 at Denver.
Brady, the two-time league MVP, was electric in the frigid conditions with a wind-chill of 12 degrees and winds up to 20 mph at kickoff. He passed for 363 yards on 26 of 34 passing as the Patriots continued firing into the fourth quarter of the rout in a no-huddle attack.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had a creative twist for his tight ends. He lined up Aaron Hernandez, who made 79 catches for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, in the backfield as a running back. On the fourth snap of the game, Hernandez went off left end for a 43-yard gain. He finished with five carries for 61 yards and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Gronkowski manhandled the Broncos’ secondary. The Broncos tried covering him at times with cornerback Chris Harris, an undrafted free agent who didn’t get an invitation to the combine. Gronkowski had 10 catches for 145 yards and tied the NFL postseason record with three touchdown receptions.
Brady improved to 15-5 all-time in the postseason.