Tim Tebow does it again

636482.jpg

Tim Tebow does it again

From Comcast SportsNet

DENVER (AP) -- "Pull the trigger," John Elway told his Denver Broncos star, Tim Tebow, trying to shake the quarterback from a three-game funk. Tebow went one better -- he pulled off an upset. A rejuvenated Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime and the Broncos defeated the stunned Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in the AFC wild-card game on Sunday. Wild doesn't begin to describe it. The play took 11 seconds and was the quickest ending to an overtime in NFL history. It was also the longest overtime touchdown in playoff history. Thomas hauled in a high play-action pass at the Denver 38, stiff-armed Ike Taylor and then outraced backup safety Ryan Mundy to the end zone. "I was just saying, Man trust your speed. Trust your speed. Don't cut back. Don't cut back.' And he kept it straight. He outran the guy," said Willis McGahee, whose fourth-quarter fumble helped Pittsburgh tie it. "I was like, Oh my God, is he still running?' Please just go. Please. Please." Tebow, who had done next to nothing in the second half after a 20-point explosion in the second quarter, looked as startled as everyone else. He chased down Thomas and knelt on one knee -- Tebowing as it's known -- in the end zone while the crowd was going crazy. Then he pounded a fist in triumph and took a victory lap. "When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, Thank you, Lord,'" Tebow said. "Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him -- like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I've done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans." Behind Tebow's season-high 316 yards passing, the Broncos (9-8) are heading to New England for a second-round game against the top-seeded Patriots (13-3) on Saturday night. The Patriots walloped the Broncos 41-23 last month, sending Tebow into a funk that included seven turnovers and a 40 percent completion clip -- and prompting Elway to implore him to "pull the trigger" in the playoffs. Did he ever. And unlike Elway, who lost his first postseason start -- to the Steelers at home in 1984 -- Tebow is 1-0 in the playoffs. "We're just a fighting team. A lot of resilience," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "In any adverse situation, we'll find a way to get out of it. Everybody says we backed into the playoffs, we're in. We did something right along the way. We're in it. We won a game. Now, we've got to go try to win another one." The Steelers (12-5) lost despite Ben Roethlisberger rallying injury-depleted Pittsburgh from a two-touchdown halftime deficit with 10 points in the final 10 minutes. Pittsburgh called tails for the overtime coin toss, and it came up heads. Tebow, who engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks and three OT wins in the regular season, wasted no time finding Thomas over the middle with just his second pass on first down all night -- and his first completion. Thomas also had receptions of 51 and 58 yards to set up second-quarter touchdowns after Tebow lost his top target, Eric Decker, to a seriously injured left knee, in the first half. "They were the No. 1 defense and we are the No. 1 offense running the ball," Thomas said. "So, I feel like they wanted to make a statement and stop the run. I don't know if they forgot about the passing game. The last couple of games that we had, we were not passing the ball that great." Thus, Elway's admonition. "I feel like he came out and played confident," Eddie Royal said. "And I think that's what John was trying to tell him: Play the way you know how to play. And Tim did that. He was smart with the ball and really led this offense today." Tebow's passer rating of 125.6 was the highest in Broncos postseason history. "He showed he's a quarterback in the NFL, case closed," McGahee said. "They say he couldn't throw. They said we wouldn't be able to run the ball on them. We did that. I wonder what they're going to say next week." Mundy was playing in place of Ryan Clark, the Steelers' leading tackler who sat this one out because of a blood condition that's exacerbated at altitude. "We lost, and it's not because I didn't play; we had very capable guys that played well," said Clark, who was one of several Steelers sidelined or injured. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was out, replaced by Doug Legursky, who had a bad snap right before halftime that moved Pittsburgh out of field goal range. On the first snap of overtime, Thomas pulled in Tebow's high pass and raced down the Broncos sideline, sending the crowd, including Elway, the Broncos executive vice president, into a frenzy at Sports Authority Field, which was rocking like the old Mile High Stadium back in the 1990s. McGahee sold the play-action well, drawing safety Troy Polamalu and others up to the line to defend the run and leaving Thomas with room on the crossing pattern to grab the pass and turn on the jets for the 80-yard score, Tebow's longest pass play as a pro. "It was a little surprising," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "But I guess he's been working hard. He's taken a lot of criticism over the past few weeks about his throwing motion, his passing game. Like I said earlier, he's a competitor. You keep trying to down a guy, and a guy like him who's a tough competitor, he's going to get you one time." Hines Ward called this defeat "just as disappointing" as last year's loss to Green Bay in the Super Bowl. "I've been on a lot of really good teams, thank God, and I felt this team was up there with them," Polamalu said. "We weren't able to stay healthy and keep a cohesiveness like we wanted to." Tebow completed 10 of 21 passes and Thomas hauled in four of them for 204 yards after Decker was injured on a hit by linebacker James Harrison. Thomas, who missed training camp while recovering from a torn Achilles and the start of the season while dealing with a fractured finger, has come on strong of late, averaging 109 yards over the last six games. But the Broncos' top pick in 2010 -- taken three slots ahead of Tebow in the first round -- hadn't had done anything like this. "It's amazing because I haven't played explosive like I did in college in a long time," Thomas said. Tebow threw two TD passes and also ran 10 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. "I think we executed a little bit better. We tried to step up," he said. "We knew it was win or go home. This team wanted to fight. We wanted to play another game." These two teams had played the first ever regular season overtime game on Sept. 22, 1974, in Denver. Now, they played the first non-sudden death playoff game in history. The new rules called for both teams to get the ball in the extra period providing there wasn't a touchdown by either the offense or defense. Tebow took care of that in a hurry. Making his first appearance in the playoffs after going 7-4 as Denver's starter, Tebow outplayed Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner playing on a bad ankle, who fell to 10-4 in the playoffs. Roethlisberger was 22 for 40 for 289 yards with one TD, one interception and five sacks. Tebow wasn't taken down once by the league's top defense. The Broncos snapped a three-game losing streak that had many wondering if they were even worthy of their first playoff in six seasons, and it kept the Steelers from their 34th playoff win, which would have broken a tie with the Cowboys for the most ever. Tebow led Denver to 20 second-quarter points -- they had scored just 13 in the quarter in his 11 starts -- but a 20-6 halftime lead didn't last long. Receiver Mike Wallace had a 1-yard TD run, Shaun Suisham kicked a short field goal and Jerricho Cotchery grabbed a 31-yard TD pass with 3:48 left in regulation to tie it. The Steelers were nearing field goal range in the final minute of regulation but the Broncos sacked Roethlisberger three times on that final drive, forcing a fumble that Roethlisberger recovered. "We were moving it and we had a shot," Roethlisberger said. "Someone got, it felt like a finger, on the ball and knocked it out. After that, you're trying to throw a 70-yard Hail Mary and that's hard." Roethlisberger never got the ball back as Tebow added to his growing list of impossible victories in the blink of an eye and a flick of the wrist. "He gets a lot of flak when things go wrong," Clark said, "but he played phenomenal today." Notes: This was the Broncos' second playoff win since Elway retired following his second straight Super Bowl triumph in 1999, and their first since Jan. 14, 2006, when they handed Tom Brady his first playoff loss. The Broncos lost to the Steelers the following week. ... This was the first OT playoff game since the Saints beat the Vikings 31-28 in the NFC championship on Jan. 24, 2010.

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

OAKLAND — Stephen Vogt made an unexpected appearance in left field Wednesday night, and his performance got approval from a pretty good outfield authority.

Former A’s teammate Josh Reddick was watching from the Houston Astros’ dugout and thought the catcher-by-trade handled himself very well.

“I was talking to (Houston manager) A.J. (Hinch) and I said, ‘It’s gonna be interesting because you know at least one ball’s gonna get to him,’” Reddick said. “You start laughing because four of the five that were hit that inning were hit to him.”

With the A’s bench short-handed, manager Bob Melvin sent Vogt to left after he pinch-hit for Rajai Davis, and indeed Vogt got a workout throughout the top of the eighth. That added a bit of levity to a 5-1 loss that otherwise provided the A’s very little to cheer about.

They were bottled up by Astros right-hander Mike Fiers and four relievers as the Astros won their ninth in a row at the Coliseum and their third straight in this four-game series. A’s starter Sean Manaea was rolling through five scoreless innings before Houston blitzed him for three runs in the sixth. The Astros tacked on a couple more late runs against Oakland’s bullpen and that was enough on a night the A’s mustered just four hits total.

After Vogt delivered an RBI groundout that scored the A’s only run in the seventh, Melvin wanted to keep Vogt’s left-handed bat in the lineup, so he asked the veteran catcher if he could handle left.

“I said yeah, absolutely,” Vogt said.

It’s easy to forget that Vogt came up through the Tampa Bay Rays’ system playing a lot of outfield, and he played more than a dozen games in the outfield in 2014 for the A’s, mostly in right.

He sure got tested. The Astros’ first four hitters of the eighth all hit balls in Vogt’s direction. He got a routine fly from Brian McCann, a difficult low liner off the bat of Yuli Gurriel that he smothered for a single, a double from Alex Bregman that he did a good job cutting off and a sacrifice fly to the warning track from Jake Marisnick.

“I had the adrenaline shot run up and I was loose and ready to go,” Vogt said. “Obviously I was a little more focused than probably your average outfielder out there. I’m glad the first one came to me, otherwise I would have been sweatin’ it for a while.”

Vogt has lost time recently behind the plate against right-handers to Josh Phegley, who has done an effective job controlling the running game. And though you shouldn’t by any means expect to see Melvin running Vogt to the outfield often, you also shouldn’t assume it won’t happen at all.

At some point, the A’s figure to call up catcher Bruce Maxwell as part of the crop of young players they’re trying to give more time too. If the left-handed hitting Maxwell were to share catching duties with Phegley, and if the A’s were to trade Yonder Alonso (again, we’re talking ‘ifs’ here), it’s conceivable Vogt’s left-handed bat could be put to use at spots other than catcher, perhaps at first base or, in a pinch, even the outfield.

His old teammate thinks he could pull it off.

“I remember him playing in right in ’14 when I was (injured),” Reddick said. “He did a pretty good job out there, it’s not like he’s foreign to it. He knows what he’s doing.”

No need for Warriors fans to fret over NBA's projected lower salary cap

No need for Warriors fans to fret over NBA's projected lower salary cap

There is no need for the Warriors fan to grow anxious with the news Wednesday night that the NBA salary cap and luxury tax threshold will be roughly two percent lower than initially projected.

For one, those players committed to returning are not likely to change their minds.

For two, the cap/tax figures also will influence other teams that might target members of the Warriors, such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Even with the lower numbers, reported by multiple outlets, Kevin Durant remains in line for a raise from the $26.5 million he made last season, and he already has made clear his intentions to accept less than the $31.8 million the Warriors could’ve paid him.

With the cap expected to be about $99 million instead of the roughly $101 million originally forecast, that figure falls between $30 million and $31 million.

Durant’s willingness to be flexible -- designed to help the team in its attempts to retain Iguodala and maybe Livingston -- remains the most significant factor for the Warriors as they proceed. Even if Durant takes 10 percent less than, say, $31 million, he still would get a modest increase.

Stephen Curry, who also has announced his intention to re-sign with the Warriors, still could receive about $35 million in Year 1 of a five-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million.

When the numbers are that astronomical, losing a small percentage is not such a crucial factor.

The Warriors surely knew the cap/tax figures would take a hit. Both figures are impacted by revenue generated through the playoffs, which featured only 79 of a possible 105 games.

Only two series -- Jazz-Clippers and Celtics-Wizards -- went the full seven games and eight of the 15 series ended in five or fewer games, including five sweeps.

The Warriors accounted for three of those sweeps.