Tebow phenomenon gets eerie

By Adam Schefter | ESPN NFL | January 13, 2011

Before evangelical sports icon Tim Tebow wowed on American football fields, he called the Philippines home.

On Jan. 8, 2009, in the BCS Championship Game, then-Florida quarterback Tim Tebow wore eye black with the inscription John 3:16, a reference to the Bible passage that says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

On Jan. 8, 2012, three years to the date that he caused millions of football fans to Google the meaning of John 3:16, Tebow played his first NFL playoff game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Tebow threw for 316 yards.

Tebow averaged 31.6 yards per completion, the highest single-game postseason completion average in NFL history.

Ben Roethlisberger's second-quarter interception, which led to a Matt Prater field goal and a 17-6 Broncos lead, came on third-and-16.

The Steelers finished the game with a time of possession of 31:06.

And at the time Tebow threw the game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas -- the NFL's longest postseason pass in overtime history -- CBS's final quarter-hour overnight ratings were, yes, a 31.6.

Now, some people believe in UFOs; some don't. Some believe in the afterlife; some don't. Some believe in coincidences; some don't. And some people believe in the power and talents of Tebow; some don't. But there can be no denying that the events from Denver's wild-card win over Pittsburgh are downright eerie.

When this string of 3:16 facts was relayed to one NFL executive this week, he paused and said: "Is that right? I'm converting."

That's how many people feel now. Tebow is winning more converts with each win. What Denver did in beating Pittsburgh behind Tebow was hard to imagine, but maybe it should not have been. The Broncos were the sixth team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a point differential of minus-50 or worse in the regular season -- and all six of those teams won their first playoff game.

But -- and here's why Broncos fans should worry -- each of the previous five lost its second playoff game. Denver is trying to buck that trend Saturday night in New England against Tom Brady and the Patriots. If anyone is capable of doing it, it would seem to be Tebow, who has made history that no other player has. But this will be the biggest challenge of Tebow's career.

People can argue about whether Tebow is a bona fide quarterback, whether these 3:16 numbers are accidental, but one fact is beyond argument.

With Tebow as their starting quarterback this season, the Broncos are 8-4, including a wild-card win over the defending AFC champions. There's no arguing over who will be Denver's starting quarterback entering the 2012 season.