Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos’ one-play overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers drew the best preliminary television rating for a National Football League wild-card playoff game in 24 years.
The 29-23 win last night at Mile High Stadium in Denver, which included a career-high 316 yards passing by Tebow, was seen on CBS in an average of 25.9 percent of homes in the top 56 U.S. television markets, the CBS Corp. (CBS) network said in a statement. That’s the best first-round rating since a game between the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Oilers in 1988, which also went to overtime and drew a 26.7.
The Broncos’ win, which snapped a three-game losing streak, came as Tebow ran for one touchdown and passed for two others, including an 80-yarder to Demaryius Thomas that ended the game on the first play from scrimmage of the extra period, eliminating the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers. The overtime drew a 31.6 television rating.
Tebow led the team to five fourth-quarter comebacks for victories in the regular season. The 24-year-old Tebow, a devout Christian, was one of the dominant storylines of the NFL season, spawning a fad known as “Tebowing” through his kneel-and-pray pose after victories.
Denver also won overtime games against the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears during a six-game winning streak that put them into playoff contention. The run was snapped in a 41-23 home loss on Dec. 18 to the New England Patriots (13-3), the team they’ll face in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Jan. 14.
Denver, which won the AFC West title with an 8-8 record, played in the first round as a division champion against the Steelers (12-5), who gained one of two wild cards in each conference for the teams with the best records among non- division winners. The Patriots, with the conference’s best record, got a first-round bye.
The New Orleans Saints’ 45-28 win over the Detroit Lions two nights ago on Comcast Corp.’s NBC earned a 19.3 major-market rating. It was the third-highest rating for the primetime Saturday wild-card game since the 1999 season, though lower than last year’s 20.8 rating for the New York Jets’ 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The early NFL game on Jan. 7, a 31-10 win by the Houston Texans over the Cincinnati Bengals that was also aired on NBC, drew a 15.3 major-market rating, lower than last year’s 18.3 rating for the Seattle Seahawks’ win over the Saints.
In other second-round playoff games, the Saints (14-3) will be at the San Francisco 49ers (13-3) on Jan. 14, while the Texans (11-6) visit the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) and the Giants (10-7) play at the defending Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers (15-1) on Jan. 15.
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