Talk of God is back on page one of the sports section and beyond thanks to evangelist quarterback Tim Tebow's orchestration of yet another miraculous finish, this time in the Denver Broncos' playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.
The unashamed-of-the-Gospel athlete ensured yet another week of faith-talk in the most unexpected places with a 29-23 victory over the heavily-favored Steelers. Going into the game, the Broncos were on a three-game losing streak facing the Super Bowl seasoned Steelers, participants in the big game last year.
Adding to the seemingly never-ending drama in popular media over his outspoken love for Jesus Christ, Tebow threw for 316 passing yards and averaged an NFL postseason-record of 31.6 yards per completion. Given that John 3:16 is often cited as the most significant verse concerning salvation and that Tebow himself sported the Bible verse address on his eye black during college, many broadcasters connected the dots.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," reads the NIV version of John 3:16.
“John 3 16” was in the top three most searched terms in Google for most of Monday. SportingNews.com reported yesterday that Tebow's statistics during Sunday's game are speaking as loudly for the Lord as any of his words.
Once again, Tebow praised Jesus before a national audience and gave thanks to his teammates and coaches. The winning TD catch by Demaryius Thomas in overtime also received praise.
"Praise the Lord," Tebow tweeted, which also automatically appears on his Facebook page. "Thanks to all my teammates, coaches and fans…this win was for Broncos Nation. We couldn't have done it without all of us working together as one. And yeah, Demaryius Thomas is a beast."
Ann Bolin, a Castle Rock, Colo. native, said that although she sees Tebow's game day stats as mere coincidence, they are still drawing an increased interest in Christianity, when combined with his admirable public demeanor. With each additional Tebow win, football fans are more likely to explore the quarterback’s personal beliefs for themselves.
"I think people are curious to see what gets Tebow so excited," Bolin said. "I think that’s the nice thing about Tebow – you know where he stands and what he believes in, but he doesn't come out and demand that his fans read the Bible, attend church or donate their incomes to charity. It isn't the suffocating evangelical teaching that turns too many people from the religion, but a lead-by-example kind that makes you question if there might be something worth looking [into].”
Richard Hill, managing editor for the New England Patriots’ fan site PatsPulpit.com, said Tebow's openness about his faith has taken the topic to a higher level of public awareness. The Broncos will battle the Patriots this Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in the next round of the playoffs.
"I definitely feel like he's making religion less taboo of a topic for conservation," Hill said. "I can't think of a recent time where men of the 18-45 demographic could all talk about religion and have it flow with the discussion."
Neal Coolong, assistant editor at the Steelers fan site BehindTheSteelCurtain.com, stuck to sports talk in his analysis of the game. Coolong thought the Broncos brought a "very tough, aggressive defense" against the Steelers and that Tebow played better than he had in earlier games. He said he expects the same level of intensity coming from the Broncos in their rematch with the Patriots.
"Pittsburgh dared Tebow to beat him with his arm, and I thought there was a bit of overconfidence among the Steelers in their ability to get interceptions," Coolong said. "Denver did a nice job of accepting that challenge and racking up big plays – something the Steelers did not allow very many of over the course of the season."
Bolin said she was interested in Colorado's clash with New England coming after one of the Broncos’ best games of the season. Win or lose on Saturday, she said Tebow would take solace in his beliefs and work even harder next season.
"I think that Tebow's faith is as genuine as a person's can be," she said. "He's just more vocal about it than most. Regardless, I think this last week showed that the Broncos are gaining momentum and next season should be one to watch."
Alex Murashko contributed writing to this story.