January 8, 2012
DENVER – In a dozen years, most of us still will remember where we were sitting when Demaryius Thomas took a perfectly thrown Tim Tebow pass and rampaged 80 yards for a touchdown that shocked the Steelers, silenced doubters and thrilled several million Colorado residents.
The Broncos had no reason to believe they could topple the mighty Steelers. Please, don’t tell me you saw this coming. This was a logic-defying performance by one of the most confusing, most entertaining teams ever to compete in our state.
I was sitting in the pressbox at Mile High, blessed with a wide-angle view high above the action. As soon as Thomas caught the pass, I could see an angle to the end zone. I could see tens of thousands of spectators rising to their feet in anticipation of victory. I could sense several million Broncos fans rising in living rooms all over Colorado.
Thomas would not be denied. In one of the most magnificent plays in Broncos history, Thomas overpowered Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor at midfield with a jab to the helmet that brought back memories of Muhammad Ali in his prime.
The Steelers had no chance. Thomas ran with the ridiculous speed of a young man who knows exactly what he wants. Thomas wanted the end zone. Taylor chased him. Ryan Mundy chased him.
Nobody was going to catch him. The Steelers boast football’s most gifted, most violent defense. The Steelers boast a rich history jammed with Super Bowl victories.
Didn’t matter. Thomas was gone. The Steelers were done. And a giant statewide party had begun.
The pressbox is a sensible, silent place. That meant I missed all the leaping and shouting and rejoicing. That meant I remained in my seat, shaking my head in happy bewilderment as Thomas crossed the goal line.
The scene was probably different at your place. I hope so. Maybe you ran around the block shouting at the limits of your lung power.
This was sports at its best. This was game filled with drama, filled with plot twists, filled with injustice and, most of all, filled with thrills.
The Broncos had no business defeating the mighty Steelers. The Broncos played without heart and without a clue for three straight weeks while getting trampled by the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs.
I gave the Broncos no chance against the Steelers. Few in the football nation gave them a chance.
But Champ Bailey, the Broncos defensive star, sensed a resurrection during practice last week. He believed the version of Broncos that won six straight games was slumbering. He believed the team would awaken.
“We are the same team,” Bailey said. “We just played differently. We played harder.”
They sure did.
Of course, the good times could soon end. The Broncos must travel Saturday to New England to tangle with Bill Belichick, football’s evil genius, and Tom Brady, one of football history’s top half-dozen quarterbacks.
The Patriots will be favored. The Patriots will be surrounded by their loud fans. The Broncos once again will be given little or no chance.
Don’t count this team out. Don’t ever make the mistake of dismissing this edition of the Denver Broncos.
Last week, I said the Steelers would trample the Broncos. I’ll be hearing from a few dozen of you who will kindly remind me of just how wrong I was.
And that’s fine.
This has been a season filled with surprises. For me. For you. For anyone paying attention. The Broncos had no reason to believe they could topple these Steelers. They believed anyway.
“I don’t want anybody going on that field with me if they don’t believe,” Bailey said. “We got a lot of people who do believe, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The doubters will be back, which makes sense. The Broncos are once again staring at considerable adversity.
Don’t worry. They will travel to New England with immense, illogical confidence.