Down 35-7 at the half, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow needed a miracle to send his team to the AFC championship. Sacked five times by an aggressive New England defense and picked apart by a marvelous performance by Tom Brady, Tebow was unable to deliver any magic in a 45-10 Patriots win.
Brady's five first half touchdowns, a new NFL playoff record, three to tight end Rob Gronkowski, fueled the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff encounter. The victory sends them to an AFC championship match-up against the winner of the Houston/Baltimore game next week.
After 170 first half passing yards last week against the Steelers, Tebow, with 42 combined yards, fumbled and was sacked twice through the game's first two quarters. The only Bronco to produce any significant offense in the first half was Willis McGahee, who scored the team's only TD and rushed for 68.
Denver's defense was worse. Brady worked the middle of the field and terrorized Broncos linebackers at will. Three of his five first half TDs connected in between the hash marks.
Even with a 35-7 lead at the half, New England didn't let up. Just 3:14 into the third quarter, Brady hooked up with Aaron Hernandez for a 17-yard score. The defense followed suit and shut down Tebow on the ground and in the air. A 41-yard field goal from Matt Prater was all Denver could muster in the third quarter. Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski hit a 20-yard field goal with 12:39 remaining to maintain the five score lead.
Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Tebow continued the rally attempt in the fourth. A 41-yard completion to last week's hero, Demaryius Thomas (six catches, 93 yards) got the team on the goal line, but Tebow was unable to avoid the New England push rush (five sacks), who chased him to the 20 yard line before he threw another incomplete pass on fourth and goal.
With the ball then deep in their own end, the Patriots ate up the majority of the remaining time, running the ball on five of their next six plays. After that, Tebow had one last chance to get his team in the end zone, for pride more than anything else, but was unsuccessful.
For 60 minutes, Tebow was unable to create any magic. The Patriots, powered by Brady and their defensive line, ended the Broncos' season.