Tim Tebow confounded critics of his throwing ability and un­or­tho­dox offensive production against the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing for more than 300 yards and guiding his team to an overtime win. As AP reported:

Bury the blueprints on how to thwart Tim Tebow. He can beat you with his arm as well as his legs.

The formula up until last weekend was to stack the box and dare him to beat you with all those errant passes.

But coming off his worst game as a pro, the most maligned quarterback in football morphed into a conventional quarterback Sunday in snapping out of a three-game funk and sending the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers to an early playoff exit.

Tebow, whose record-setting redemption kept Denver’s thrilling roller coaster of a season roaring right along, is more challenging than ever to defend. So, the top-seeded New England Patriots are preparing for deep passes as much as the Broncos’ bothersome read-option offense.

“They’re a tough team to prepare for because they do a lot of different things,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “There aren’t really any other teams like them in the league, so there’s no other team you can really draw that experience from. What they do offensively is a little bit unique.”

After relying all season on the league’s best ground game, Tebow turned into an Aaron Rodgers-Drew Brees-Tom Brady lookalike by throwing for 316 yards against the league’s No. 1 defense in his first playoff appearance.

Tebow and the Denver Broncos are heading to New England for Saturday’s NFL playoff showdown, and will have a former coach on the Patriots sideline in Josh McDaniels. As Cindy Boren explained:

The New England Patriots made a swift, smart move by hiring Josh McDaniels as an offensive assistant, but are they too smart for their own good?

The Patriots wasted no time bringing McDaniels, out of a job when the St. Louis Rams dumped their coaching staff, back to New England. McDaniels will report to work immediately and will, presumably, be named offensive coordinator when Bill O’Brien departs to become the head coach at Penn State when the Pats’ postseason run ends.

McDaniels has great familiarity with quarterback Tom Brady from his time as the Pats’ offensive coordinator (2007-08). He also has significant familiarity with quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. He did, after all, play a big role in drafting them when he was head coach of the Denver Broncos — the team the Patriots just so happen to play in the divisional round of the playoffs Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

It may seem suspicious, given Spygate and all, but there’s no rulebook end-around here. Besides, the Broncos aren’t in much of a position to complain. They did the same thing when Dan Reeves added Mike Shanahan to their staff in 1989, after he was fired in Oakland. That worked out pretty well.

Brady was not coy about what McDaniels brings back to the Patriots after two years as Broncos’ coach (2009-10) and a season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. Brady could use a little boost; he has lost three straight playoff games, including two at home to second-year quarterbacks (which Tebow happens to be).

“He obviously has some inside information on that team and those players because he coached them,” Brady said during his weekly interview on WEEI. “I haven’t seen Josh yet, so I really don’t know. I think Coach [Bill] Belichick has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to want Josh to do.

Many watched in delight as Tebow extended his season and the unlikely tale that has become a national story, but others are tired of the constant attention paid to his successes. As Cindy Boren reported:

Most of America seems to disagree with him, judging by TV ratings for the Denver Broncos’ overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, but Charles Barkley would like to request a Tebow Timeout.

“The national nightmare continues. Hey, listen, I like Tim Tebow but there comes a point, he had a great game. He’s supposed to have a great game,” Barkley, fresh from hosting “Saturday Night Live,” told Mike Missanelli in an interview on Philly’s 97.5 The Fanatic (via Sports Radio Interviews). They want to make it seem like, ‘Oh, the world is aligned correct. I’m like, he does play quarterback. He is supposed to play well.”

Barkley told Missanelli “I think the world has” had enough of Tebow.

“First of all, Mike, I don’t know anything you said about Tebow, but let’s just say the jury is still out on Tebow. He seems like a nice kid, but these ups and downs are so different. The jury is still out on Tebow. Just because he had a great game and made four or five great throws [Sunday] doesn’t mean he’s gonna be a great starting quarterback in the NFL.”

Don’t tell Sir Charles, but the ratings for Sunday’s game were anything but turrible. Tebow led the Broncos’ to a 29-23 overtime win that was the most watched TV program since last February’s Super Bowl.

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