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.

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

It may have been just a distant similarity to players on an MLB cellar-dweller earning a Cy Young or MVP award (which happens in Chicago, a lot – Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks twice), but to the Bears it matters. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his dominating performance in the Bears win last Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and he is not alone among Bears getting recognition after one of their few victories.

Never mind that the victory moved the Bears to 3-9 and came over a team losing its 11th straight game. What Hicks accomplished – two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble – was being a force in the Bears’ domination of the 49ers and has been part of the emotional core of a team that has lost but not folded.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re not getting the results we want,’ but guys have invested,” Hicks said. “I’ve told guys, ‘just think about the hours you’ve invested, to get your body and mind ready for a 16-game season. Why would you put all that work in and then, when you don’t get the results you want, just quit?’"

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear right here]

Jordan Howard is one of the nominees for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL player of the week. Howard, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year, could be a double-winner: He also is among the nominees for Pepsi NFL rookie of the week, as is teammate Leonard Floyd (two sacks, safety, four tackles).

Voting on the latter two awards is still open.

Hicks’ play vs. San Francisco boosted him to a career-best six sacks, and he credited Bears coaches afterwards with giving him opportunities to rush the passer, not simply be utilized as a run-stopper. He has been everything and perhaps a little more than the Bears anticipated when they signed him this offseason to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with $5 million guaranteed.

“I think he's done well,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It's a credit to him, a credit to Jay [Rodgers, defensive line coach]. Akiem has kept improving throughout the season, and he's been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us, and he's been a steady bell cow for us in there.”

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

The White Sox rebuild is in full effect.

Rick Hahn & Co. have traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in exchange for eight prospects in a span of two days.

Take a look at scouting reports for all eight players.

Yoan Moncada, 21, 2B — No. 1 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Moncada brings a tantalizing blend of physicality, power, speed and athleticism as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility, making him one of the most dynamic prospects in the game. He projects as a plus offensive force, a plus defender at either second base or third base, and a plus runner capable of wreaking havoc on the basepaths. The one big area of his game that needs improvement is his plate discipline, which was exposed after he struck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox. Despite that poor showing, he demonstrated patience throughout the minors and has shown a propensity for making quick adjustments before. He could start 2017 in Triple-A, but very well could break camp with the White Sox and solidify himself as a starter from day one in his new organization." — (Baseball America)

Lucas Giolito, 21, RHP — No. 3 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The 2012 first-round pick and four-time BA Top 100 prospect made his long-awaited major league debut in 2016 but struggled, getting rocked for 26 hits and 16 earned runs in 21.1 innings, with more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). Giolito in the past sat in the upper 90s with his fastball and frequently reached triple-digits, but saw his stuff back up and sit in the 92-94 mph range and top out at 96 in 2016 with poor command. That fastball gave Giolito his biggest problems in 2016, with MLB opponents batting .349 against it with a .730 slugging percentage, per Statcast. While his fastball stalled, he still limited big league hitters to sub-.200 averages on his curveball (.167) and changeup (.143). The Tommy John survivor has seen his prospect stock fall in light of his recent struggles, but if he can rediscover his fastball velocity still projects as one of the most promising young righthanders in baseball. Scouts reported issues with his mechanics and pitchability this year, but both are correctable issues that should lead to improved command once they are solved." —​ (Baseball America)

Michael Kopech, 20, RHP — No. 30 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Kopech is the latest in a long line of big, hard-throwing Texas righthanders, with a 98 mph fastball that routinely gets up to triple-digits and recently hit 102 in the Arizona Fall League. The 33rd overall pick in 2014 is more than just a thrower though, with an 87 mph power slider and 91 mph changeup that both made significant progress throughout the 2016 season and give him two quality offerings to confound batters even further. Taken on the surface, his raw stuff draws comparisons to Noah Syndergaard. Kopech does come with red flags, however. In 2015 he was suspended 50 games for amphetamine use and in spring training 2016 he broke his hand in an altercation with a teammate. If he can harness his talent without any more incidents, Kopech profiles as a possible No. 1 starter." —​ (Baseball America)

Reynaldo Lopez, 22, RHP — No. 38 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"Lopez entered 2016 as the Nationals’ second-best pitching prospect behind Giolito, but by the end of the year had surpassed him in the eyes of most evaluators. Lopez is just 6-foot, 185-pounds but possesses an electric 95-97 mph fastball that touched 100 in his major league debut in 2016, and backs it up with a low 80s curveball that grades plus, as well as an upper-80s changeup. Lopez’s biggest bugaboo is his command, which wavers at times and resulted in 4.5 walks per nine innings once he got to the majors. Still, the quality of his stuff allowed him to survive in both a relief and starting role once he got to Washington, and he gives the White Sox a young, major-league ready, power righthander to pair with lefties Jose Quintana—assuming he’s not traded—and Carlos Rodon." —​ (Baseball America)

Dane Dunning, 21, RHP

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The Nationals drafted Dunning 29th overall this past June and signed him for $2 million after he was a core piece of Florida’s dominant pitching staff. Dunning bounced between starting and relieving in college but has the stuff to be a starter, with a low-90s fastball that gets up to 95 mph and a changeup and slider that both have a chance to be average. He demonstrated impeccable control at Florida and continued it with a 32-to-7 strikeout to walk mark over 33.2 innings in his pro debut. With strikeout stuff, plus control and a prime pedigree, Dunning has a chance to move quickly up the White Sox system and help sooner than later in Chicago." —​ (Baseball America)

Luis Alexander Basabe, 20, OF 

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Basabe signed with the Red Sox along with his twin brother Luis Alejandro out of Venezuela when they were 16. They climbed the system together until this year, when Luis Alejandro was traded to the Diamondbacks midseason for Brad Ziegler. Now, Luis Alexander is on the move too after reaching high Class A as a 19-year old and solidifying himself as one of Boston’s top 10 prospects. He is a switch-hitter with the speed and athleticism to stick in center field, and his 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts last season are a testament to how his speed plays on the basepaths. Basabe is still very raw and refining his game, particularly his plate discipline and strike-zone judgement, but has shown the skill set to become a top of the order center fielder down the road." —​ (Baseball America)

Victor Diaz, 22, RHP

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Diaz has a power fastball in the 96-100 mph range, an 87-90 mph slider that is his main secondary pitch, a riding two-seamer and a splitter in its nascent stages. He is still learning how to harness his arsenal after issuing 41 walks in his first 90 career innings. If he does that, he becomes a bona fide closer prospect down the road." —​ (Baseball America)