Reporting from Denver — The city of Denver on Monday? Two miles high.
The afterglow of the spectacular 29-23 victory over Pittsburgh won't soon fade — the memory of Tim Tebow connecting with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime — even as the Broncos began their preparations Monday for a divisional playoff game Saturday at New England.
"That would be the greatest moment in the history of this stadium for sure," said Broncos President Joe Ellis, who was with the team when the new Mile High opened in 2001. "These guys deserve this. They've been through a lot. And Tim could have had a rough week last week, but he turned it around and made it as positive as possible. It was terrific."
There's peril in celebrating too long after a win, so the Broncos didn't spend too long reliving the Steelers game before turning their attention to facing the host Patriots, who beat them by 18 in Denver three weeks ago.
"They are a very good football team; they've got a lot of playoff experience," Denver Coach John Fox said. "We will have to deal with crowd noise — that's always a little bit of an issue, but it won't be the first time this season we've had to do that. It'll be a huge challenge and when you get to this point in the playoffs that's kind of how it always is."
The Broncos have already played their way into the postseason record books. Not only was Tebow-to-Thomas the longest winning touchdown in any playoff game, but also 11 seconds was the quickest overtime in league history.
"It was amazing," Thomas said of the play, a slant from left to right across the middle. "I know walking up to the line, I saw the safety come down, I was like, 'This is going to be a big play.' The middle of the field was wide open. All I had to do was beat the corner. Once I beat him there was nothing but green grass. Once I beat him I knew I was going to score."
Thomas, selected 22nd overall by Denver in 2010, was the first receiver chosen in that draft, two spots ahead of Dallas receiver Dez Bryant, and three spots ahead of Tebow. Since turning pro, Thomas has dealt with a slew of injuries: a torn Achilles, broken foot, concussion, sprained ankle and fractured finger.
"It was the freak accidents that would just happen in my time of getting back on the field," he said. "I knew once I got back on the field and got healthy, I could make some plays and help the team."
And he did that Sunday, on a stage bigger than he could have hoped.