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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.

Tebow completed 10 of 21 passes but Thomas hauled in four of them for 204 yards after his top target, Eric Decker, was lost to a left knee injury on the first play of the second quarter when he was hit by linebacker James Harrison.

Tebow also ran 10 times for 50 yards.

“I think we executed a little bit better. We tried to step up,” Tebow 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 outdueled Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner who fell to 10-4 in the playoffs.

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 the quarterback 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.”

Pittsburgh caught a break in the second half when the Broncos thought they had another takeaway inside the Steelers‘ 20-yard line, but an errant whistle negated the turnover and the Steelers capitalized with an 87-yard TD drive to pull to 20-13.

Denver’s decision to defer upon winning the first-half coin toss started to look like a bad decision when Roethlisberger drove the Steelers to two quick field goals and the Broncos managed just 8 yards in the first quarter.

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