Chicago Cubs

Tim Tebow does it again

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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.

Cubs are about to find out how Brewers will counter Jose Quintana move

Cubs are about to find out how Brewers will counter Jose Quintana move

MILWAUKEE – It’s nice that the Cubs like their dugout vibe again – except when John Lackey bumps into Anthony Rizzo – and Jose Quintana comes with three additional years of club control and Jake Arrieta says: “We expect to remain in first place.”

But after making it this far – ahead of schedule in a long rebuilding project – the Milwaukee Brewers are not at all conceding the National League Central.

The Cubs experienced a playoff-like environment in late July during Friday night’s 2-1 loss in front of a sellout crowd at Miller Park. Every year is different, the Cubs kept saying during all their stops and starts in the first half, and these next 60 games should feel like a real pennant race, not the cruise-control settings from last season.

How will the Brewers counter the Quintana move? Well, Harvard guy Brent Suter, a 31st-round pick from the 2012 draft, outpitched Quintana, a player the Brewers targeted and discussed in depth with the White Sox before Theo Epstein made his blockbuster deal during the All-Star break.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon sees an American League East-style lineup stocked with patient, powerful hitters, one that has kept the Brewers (55-50) within a half-game of first place, even after last week’s six-game losing streak.

Milwaukee also has an aggressive, involved owner (Mark Attanasio), a 30-something, Ivy League general manager (David Stearns), a top-10 farm system and the reality that chances like this don’t come around that often for small-market franchises with the July 31 trade deadline looming.

“You’re looking at what everybody else is doing,” Maddon said. “We’ve already been proactively in front of some other groups by getting that done. So now anything we can do on top of that in a positive vein, absolutely, is going to benefit us. I don’t doubt that the Brewers are probably going to do something.

“But at the end of the day, we just got to worry about what we’re doing. I think it’s going to be hard to duplicate what we’ve already done in regards to getting Quintana.” 

So much about his new existence is different, but Quintana has seen this movie so many times before with the White Sox, a tough-luck loss where he only gave up two runs in six innings. Jason Heyward also bailed out Quintana in the third inning with a spectacular leaping catch at the right-field wall to take a two-run homer away from Ryan Braun.

“It was a battle,” said Quintana, who is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts for the defending World Series champs. “Every game counts. I’m really happy to feel that atmosphere every night when I go to the mound. It was a tough night for me, and we’ll come back tomorrow.”

After Suter limited the Cubs to four singles and a walk during seven scoreless innings, Javier Baez generated all the offense with a John Daly swing. Baez drove a pitch from Anthony Swarzak – the reliever making his Brewer debut after getting traded from the White Sox – off a stadium club window above the second deck in left field.

Baez admired his shot, stared out at the field and spit out a sunflower seed as he slowly began his home-run trot. Part of the crowd of 42,574 started chanting: “Let’s go, Cubbies!” The day before on the South Side, Maddon listened to a question about Arrieta’s prediction and talked about “baseball karma,” saying it’s “out there” and “it’s going to come back and bite you.”

“Milwaukee is not going anywhere,” Maddon said. “I don’t take anything for granted, man. I really approach the day the same all the time. My experience tells me that. If you are not doing that – if you start getting full of yourself and believe in whatever – it’s going to go away real quickly.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying: ‘I feel it. I like where we’re at. I like the way the guys are reacting. I like the energy.’ Those are all good thoughts, good words. But when you start getting full of yourself and thinking it’s going to come easily – that’s the trap.”

Whether or not the Cubs and/or Brewers make a splash on July 31, these two teams will clash nine more times within the next two months.

“It will be cool,” said Kyle Schwarber, who struck out swinging at Corey Knebel’s 97-mph fastball with a runner on third base to end this game. “We’re going to be playing our baseball. We can’t be worried about whatever the division is. We got to worry about ourselves and play our game and go from there.”

Wake-up Call: Jose Quintana picks up first Cubs loss; White Sox lose again

Wake-up Call: Jose Quintana picks up first Cubs loss; White Sox lose again

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