Nine years ago, it happened.
Tim Tebow was in the shotgun with Willis McGahee to his left in the backfield. Demaryius Thomas was split wide to the left.
This, the first play of overtime, appeared to be a run. Eddie Royal motioned toward the line just before the snap, and as he did, the lone safety outside the box dropped down, clearly expecting a run from McGahee.
"It was the first time we had ever run it exactly like that," Tebow said in 2019. "… When we get to the line of scrimmage, I see [Steelers safety] Troy [Polamalu] is already down in the box. And then I see their other safety coming down in the box. And I think, 'Well, one of them's about to roll back, right? You can't both be down in the box.' But neither one gets back."
For a split second, they thought they were right. Tebow motioned as if handing the ball off to McGahee, and as Thomas rocketed off the line, the Steelers' safeties took a step forward before realizing their fatal mistake.
"That was one of my best routes on that offense," Thomas said in 2020. "… I just remember most of the time when we sent Eddie Royal in motion, the safety would come down because he's thinking we're running the ball, because we did that a lot that season and that game. I remember, I think it was [then-quarterbacks coach] Adam Gase that came up and said, 'We're going to do this the first play. You'll have a chance to make the play and make a big run with it.'"
Thomas, in just his second NFL season, made good on his opportunity, capping an already impressive day by sprinting 80 yards and stiff-arming cornerback Ike Thomas en route to the game-winning score.
"I came up with the run — [that was] all I knew I had to do, right off the bat, because I saw the safety come down," Thomas said. "I had to beat Ike Taylor, and I beat Ike. … It was at a catchable height. I stayed in stride, caught it on the run. It was perfect. … So, happily, when I caught the ball, it was like my hand was in the perfect position to get him right in the chest with a stiff-arm."
The result in the stands was sheer mania.
"As D.T. stiff-armed the last defender and it became clear he was going to score, the people around me and in the entire stadium went nuts," Kevin McDonald, a season ticket holder, said. "I became a season ticket holder in 1995 and this stands out as the most insane atmosphere I've ever experienced in Mile High Stadium or the new stadium. It's possible it's been equaled just in terms of noise, but I've never see people lose their minds like that, myself included. People were jumping up and down, screaming and hugging people near them."
To read Demaryius Thomas' full recollection of that game,please click here.
To read stories collected from reports, security staff and fans in the stadium and around the world,please click here.
Below the Fold
With much of the draft order set, ESPN's Todd McShay has made a new mock draft. For the Broncos at No. 9, he picks Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. "I think Denver ultimately will give Drew Lock another year to prove he's the guy," McShay writes. "Cornerback is another position to watch, especially with Alabama's Patrick Surtain II still out there. But I love Owusu-Koramoah's range, instincts and suddenness. He found his way into just about every statistical category in 2020, including racking up 11 tackles for loss."