Brady did the supposedly impossible. He got an infatuated nation to turn off Tebow long before the fourth quarter.
In case you missed the rest: Less than four minutes into the third quarter, Brady tied the NFL record of Steve Young and Daryle Lamonica with his sixth touchdown pass of the game. He coasted from there. By that point, the message had already been sent: Worship false quarterback gods at your own risk.
Time had press credentials for the game. So did GQ. So did People and "Good Morning America." Yet when it was over, all that was left was the traditional sports media explaining how the Broncos had been exposed as a painfully weak playoff team with a limited quarterback.
Forget the Tebow Effect. This was the Brady Effect.
Brady had something to prove on this cold night with its 12-degree windchill. So did his Patriots.
Prove it to Tebow? No, not really. In truth, he was only a bit player in this redemption story. And by halftime, Tebow already was Route 1 road kill.
What Brady and the Patriots had to prove was that they were something more than regular-season heroes. At one time the gold standard for postseason excellence, Brady and the Patriots hadn't won a playoff game since the nearly perfect season that ended with a loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
They had lost their past two postseason games at home, too. Get this. The Patriots are 23-1 in the regular season at Gillette since 2009. And they were 0-2 in the postseason before this game. A loss, according to Elias Sports Bureau, would have made Brady only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to lose four playoff games in a row and the first to do it with no road games.
Instead, he ties the NFL record with six touchdown passes. Instead, he ties Joe Montana as the only quarterback with 15 postseason victories. Instead, he set a Patriots playoff record with 363 passing yards. Instead, he put Tebowmania in the rearview mirror ... at least until next season.
Look, Tebow is a terrific person. He is a leader. He is a winner. He is a role model. The charity work, the spirits he lifts he is good for athletics. He is good for all of us. But let's be honest. He is slow in his arm delivery. He is slow to recognize his receivers. He has his limitations. On this night, both he and his Broncos were in the deep end of the pool and, at last check, Tim Tebow still cannot walk on water. Tebow finished 9-for-26 for 136 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked five times.
Giddy Patriots fans chanted "Tee-bow" in that derisive sing-song fashion, as if he were "A-Rod." This one dissolved into a laugher in a hurry. Following one of the greatest playoff games in history the 49ers' wild, last-minute victory over the Saints this one had to be one of the worst.
Not if you're a Patriots fans, of course. For Patriots fans, this lopsided game was beautiful.
The first drive was easy for Brady, embarrassingly easy. Five plays, 80 yards, in 1:51. No huddle, no problems. The big play was a 43-yard run by tight end Aaron Hernandez. A nation had no sooner switched channels from Candlestick than Brady found Wes Welker for a 7-yard touchdown pass. There was a lot of the three receiver, two tight end formations by coach Bill Belichick, and not much that the Broncos did to slow it down.
Tebow The Good doesn't hate much, but he hates fumbles, and sure enough, he coughed up the ball on Denver's first drive. Rob Ninkovich came off the left edge and strip-sacked Tebow from behind, and Brandon Spikes recovered the fumble.
Brady kept attacking with tempo. The Broncos defense was leaking here, there, everywhere. Rob Gronkowski, who would finish with a NFL postseason record-tying three TD receptions, made a tremendous diving catch in the corner of the end zone to complete a seven-play, 59-yard drive. Just like that, it was 14-0, and, man, it seemed that's all that was featured by the NFL Saturday were quarterbacks and monster tight ends. Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, Gronkowski, Hernandez and Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Brady ... you get the picture. Gronkowski had 10 catches for 145. He's a beast.
Brady did lose his mind for a couple of minutes in the first half. On what appeared to be a communications problem, Brady badly overthrew Gronkowski and was picked off by Quinton Carter. Starting from the New England 24, the Broncos would score their only touchdown.
Brady got lucky on his next possession. Joe Mays dropped a sure interception. Brady didn't need any luck from there. His 12-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski put the Patriots ahead by 14 again. From there, Brady found old buddy Deion Branch for a 61-yard touchdown pass. Racing down the left sidelines, Branch got away with a subtle push-off against Andre Goodman. Brady then closed out the half with a five-play, 58-yard touchdown drive in 64 seconds, finding Gronkowski yet again.
By halftime, Brady had already done something nobody else had done in months. He turned Tebowmania into the macarena.