FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

Even Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have a little bit of Tebowmania.

“I’m excited,” the Patriots quarterback said Monday as New England began to prepare for their second round playoff game against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. “And I’m sure there’s not a lot of guys on our team that slept great last night.”

Tebow led the Broncos into the second round of the NFL playoffs when he connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard score on the first play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 on Sunday. Now the Broncos will have to face New England, which already beat them Dec. 18.

Denver came into that game at the peak of Tebow hype, riding a six-game winning streak since he was installed as the starting quarterback. Now the Broncos are riding another high, thanks to the quickest overtime score in NFL playoff history.

“That was a great win for them, a really impressive game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday. “It didn’t take long — one play. He made a great throw, Thomas made a good catch. … Well-executed play by the Broncos, and it was decisive.”

Tebow completed 10 of 21 passes for a season-high 316 yards for a passer rating of 125.6 that is the highest in Broncos postseason history. He 4-0 in his career in overtime and 1-0 as a starter in the playoffs.

That’s one more postseason win than the Patriots have had since the 2007 season. In each of the last two playoffs, the Patriots have lost at home.

“It was a very different team last year,” Brady said. “The strengths of this team are different than they were last year. How it all plays out? It depends on how we play. There’s nothing that happened last week or last year or five years ago or 10 years ago that can play into this game.”

McDaniels back with Pats

It’s official. Josh McDaniels will return to the New England Patriots as an offensive assistant this week, and will serve under Bill O’Brien, the offensive coordinator who was named coach at Penn State on Saturday.

The team made the announcement Sunday night.

McDaniels, 35, worked for New England from 2001- 2008, including three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He was the head coach for the Broncos from 2009-10, before becoming the offensive coordinator in St. Louis this season.

Once O’Brien’s tenure officially ends in Foxborough, McDaniels will again become the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.

A native of Barberton, Ohio, McDaniels will go from near the bottom of the NFL after spending the season with the Rams (2-14), to a shot at the Super Bowl with a team that has a 13-3 record.

Interestingly enough, McDaniels’ first game back in New England will be against the team that gave him his biggest chance in the NFL. But, the Broncos, who drafted quarterback Tim Tebow during McDaniels’ tenure, went in another direction after McDaniels lost 17 of his last 22 games.

McDaniels was the only Rams assistant under contract through next season when former head coach Steve Spagnuolo was fired last week.

“I’m sure Josh will have opportunities around the NFL to possibly be a coordinator or better throughout this process,” Kevin Demoff, the Rams vice president and chief operating officer, said at the time. “It’s going to be fluid, but we’ll figure out what’s best for both parties.”

The Rams scored the fewest points per game in the league (12.1), gained the second fewest yards (283.6), and the third fewest yards passing (179.4). Sam Bradford struggled at quarterback with just six touchdown passes and six interceptions in McDaniels’ system, which had many more longer developing pass plays than the Rams had in 2010 under Pat Shurmur, who left to be head coach of the Cleveland Browns after last season.

McDaniels said on Dec. 29, three days before a season ending 34-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, that he had no regrets.

“You’re blessed to have the opportunity to coach in the National Football League,” he said. “You have to do everything you can to try to help the team win.”

The lack of production contrasts sharply with the Patriots offense under McDaniels, especially in 2007 when they went 16-0, then won two playoff games before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14.

In that season, Tom Brady set a single-season league record with 50 touchdown passes for an offense that averaged a league-best 411.2 yards. It also was first in yards passing, 295.7 and points per game, 36.8.

Now, McDaniels is poised to be reunited with Brady and another prolific offense. The Patriots were second in the league in overall yards with 428 per game and yards passing with 317.8. Their average of 32.1 points was third.


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