If it ever went away, Tebow-mania is back in the NFL. For much of the regular season, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow made himself a national cult – hurling winning, last-minute touchdown passes and then kneeling on the touchline to give thanks to the Almighty for his deliverance, in a gesture that spawned its own word, "Tebowing". But in the last few games the magic had deserted him, and the Broncos barely made the play-offs.
Tebow had a lousy throwing technique, poor field vision and had just got lucky, the critics said. There was even talk of replacing him by an untried back-up if he continued to struggle against Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC wildcard round.
No one need have worried. First Tebow threw for an impressive 316 yards against one of the NFL's toughest defences, never being sacked and without throwing an interception. If the Steelers managed to tie the game 23-23 late in the final quarter, it was not his fault. And then as overtime began, he produced his biggest miracle yet. With the very first play of the extra period, he connected with a 20-yard pass to receiver Demaryius Thomas. That seemed to be that – until Thomas raced away for an 80-yard touchdown. A sensational upset win for the Broncos, and there was Tebow dropping to his knees. "First of all, thank you Lord," was how he described his initial thought as he saw Thomas head for the endzone.
Across the land, a new outbreak was reported of tebowing, defined by the website tebowing.com as "to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different". Even Lady Gaga was amazed. "Tebow, Thats what the (****) a champion looks like," the flamboyant pop diva tweeted on Sunday to her 17m followers.
Denver fans are dreaming of another Super Bowl run, 13 years after the Broncos' championships in 1998 and 1999. In the next round the Broncos meet the New England Patriots. If they do make it to Super Bowl XLVI, Denver's most likely opponents will be either Green Bay or New Orleans, generally rated the two best teams in the entire NFL. WIth Tim Tebow, however, anything is possible.