Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow prays after the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the NFL AFC wild-card playoff football game in Denver on Sunday. (MARC PISCOTTY – REUTERS)The Denver Broncos’ playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night was unlikely enough, but Tim Tebow’s passing yardage — the Christian quarterback threw 316 yards — sent commentators over the edge. The Associated Press reported that he also averaged 31.6 yards per completion. The religious connotations to John 3:16, a famous Bible verse, were too much for many to chalk up to chance.
View Photo Gallery: The quarterback for the Denver Broncos has become a polarizing figure in football, in part because of his outward displays of Christian faith.
Tebow has said previously that the Bible verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” is his favorite. When he wore the Scripture verse on his eye black during the National Championship Game in 2009, the term “John 3:16” was reportedly Googled more than 90 million times.
The Christian athlete has faced repeated criticism during this NFL season for wearing his faith on his sleeve. Bill Maher criticized Tebow (and Jesus) in a controversial Tweet after a Denver loss, and “Saturday Night Live” mocked the quarterback in a skit in which Jesus suggested that the quarterback “take it down a notch.”
Some say that the religious significance of Sunday’s game went deeper than the stats. In a column this weekend for The Washington Post’s Outlook section, David Kuo and Patton Dodd set up the showdown between Tebow and Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this way:
“Tebow and Roethlisberger point to the essential aspects of evangelicalism, the ones that make it persist — its missionary, proclamatory character on the one hand, and its private, searching piety on the other. The former wants to appeal to the whole world, which is why Tebow’s family raised him not only to preach, but to persuade others with a winning demeanor. The latter wants a changed life; Roethlisberger, in evangelical parlance, rededicated his life to Jesus after a period of backsliding, because he knew no other way to break his pattern of misbehavior.”
The Broncos’ win Sunday means that, for a week at least, Tebow mania is here to stay.
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By Elizabeth Tenety | 10:38 PM ET, 01/08/2012