The score was 35-7 at halftime of the AFC divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. Even with the fully functional version of his offense, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was going to have a tough time coming back from that kind of deficit. As it turns out, Tebow played most of the second half of that game with some fairly considerable physical handicaps.
As first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Tebow took a hit in the third quarter that tore cartilage attaching his ribs to his sternum, bruised one of his lungs and caused fluid to build up in his chest. In the two nights after the game, Tebow had trouble sleeping because of the pain, and he underwent an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.
The amazing thing was that Tebow actually passed more often, and with slightly more success, in the second half — though his "passing success" is a bit of a stretch in either half. He completed 3 of 10 passes for 28 yards in the first half, and 6 of 16 for 108 yards in the second half. Admittedly, the Pats could play prevent and off coverage through the entire second half, especially when Tom Brady's sixth touchdown pass of the game made the score even more out of reach in the third quarter.
But under any circumstances, that's still a pretty gutsy performance. Some might say that it's not quite the same as Jack Youngblood playing through Super Bowl XIV with a broken leg, or Emmitt Smith beating the Giants with a separated shoulder, or Philip Rivers playing a playoff game with a torn ACL, but you can be pretty sure that it will add to the Tebow Myth.
And in a more real sense, this is a great example of why his teammates buy into what Tebow is doing — in the NFL's culture of necessary toughness, nothing will endear an athlete to his compatriots more than a guy who's willing to sell it all out on the field.
"He proved he can be a very capable quarterback," Broncos linebacker Joe Mays said after the playoff loss. "A lot of people didn't really give him a chance. They said he wasn't good at whatever they said he wasn't good at, and he came out and proved everyone wrong. I enjoyed playing with him. He's the only quarterback I know who thinks like a linebacker — he likes to hit people. I definitely enjoyed that about him.
"He's just a pure football player. You can't take that away from him, just his passion about the game, the way he approaches it has been second to none."
Schefter indicated that the injuries will not affect Tebow's offseason plan to improve as a quarterback — a necessary step if he wants to gain the further endorsement of team president John Elway.
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