Our fearless CBCSports.ca writers offer their impressions on how the Green Bay Packers were able to holds off the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Plus, the boys discuss why Aaron Rodgers is well on his way to carving out his own legend.
The Pittsburgh Steelers committed three turnovers, including two Ben Roethlisberger interceptions, which led to 21 Green Bay points. Do you credit the Packers for playing great defence or criticize Big Ben on two bad decisions? And what do you make of the Rashard Mendenhall fumble in the fourth quarter that allowed the Packers to jump out to a two-score advantage?
Jesse Campigotto: Just bad luck for the Steelers. Clay Matthews and the other Packers defender weren't even trying to strip the ball from Mendenhall. It just popped out, bounced right to Green Bay, and that was the backbreaker. Actually, pretty amazing the Steelers still had a two-minute drill to win it after betting beaten so soundly in the turnover battle.
Tony Care: You could make the argument that two of the three were mental mistakes by the Steelers. On Roethlisberger's first pick, he was hit by Packers defensive tackle Howard Green while launching a pass to Mike Wallace, so I'll give him a pass there. However, he didn't see cornerback Jarrett Bush across the middle on his second interception and you have to fault him for that. And what can you say about the Mendenhall fumble? There is no excuse for coughing up the ball in that manner.
Chris Iorfida: I think the turnovers were more about the Steelers. I just think that this was a team that overachieved to a good degree this season (I saw them as a one-and-out playoff team at the beginning of the season at best) and ended up matched against teams in the playoffs that weren't explosive offensively. The Steelers lost this season against the likes of New Orleans and New England; they didn't have the offence to match up against strong offensive teams. And we saw that on Sunday as well. Ben was trying to make things happen. Until that final drive of the first half, he'd only completed something like four passes downfield through 25 minutes (he completed four others that were essentially behind the line of scrimmage). And even on the drive that made it 21-10, Sam Shields should have had a knockdown or possibly interception, and Antwan Randle-El dug one out off the turf. It's not like Pittsburgh's receivers made a lot of costly drops either, it was just a sub par passing game all around.
Brandon Hicks: Last week I said that since these teams are so close, the game is going to come down to the proverbial "Big Play." Well, here are your big plays, gentleman. And unsurprisingly, it came from one of the defences. Three turnovers, 21 points for the Packers. Good defensive pressure by Green Bay’s line led to the first interception, with Howard Green deserving as much credit for smacking Roethlisberger’s shoulder as Nick Collins does for his fantastic return. You can blame Big Ben a little on the second pick, as he really tried to force a completion with two defenders watching the route like hawks. The fumble? That was just Clay Matthews making the biggest play of his life.
The Packers lost two of their top three defensive backs — Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Sam Shields (shoulder) — on consecutive plays near the end of the second quarter. Given the circumstances how would you rate the unit's performance in the final 30 minutes?
Chris Iorfida: Green Bay's defence was tremendous. It seemed the loss of Woodson rattled them for a bit but they recovered. A.J. Hawk, who's been criticized in the past, arguably played as well as Clay Matthews. Guys like Charlie Peprah and Frank Zombo really stepped up. Matthews deserves credit for taking on the unglamorous job (in that it reflects negatively on defensive stats) of shadowing Roethlisberger instead of dropping back.
Brandon Hicks: Outstanding. Simply outstanding. When I saw Woodson on the sidelines, I was sure the Packers were done. The game shifted dramatically when the veteran corner left, the Steelers had them on the ropes with the run, and I honestly didn't think the "D" could rally to hold them off. Especially with Mr. Clutch Roethlisberger standing in the pocket with a couple minutes to go and the Super Bowl on the line (hey Arizona! Remember that?). They bent as far as they could, but the undermanned Packers defence didn’t break. They’re the real stars of this game.
Jesse Campigotto: Terrific, obviously. The Steelers ran at will early in the second half with Woodson out (Green Bay really missed his tackling) and that seemed like the strategy Mike Tomlin was going to stick with. And then the Mendenhall fumble killed that.
Tony Care: Hey, they've been doing it all year. This team, like none other I've seen in recent memory, simply doesn't allow injuries to derail its objective. Obviously the injuries to Woodson and Shields hurt. The Steelers began to run the ball effective and Roethlisberger was getting into a rhythm. But in the end, the Packers held firm when they had to. It's just a credit to defensive co-ordinator Dom Capers and the entire staff.
Despite all of their mistakes, the Steelers had a last chance at the end to pull it out. Trailing 31-25 with 2:07 remaining and starting on his own 13, was there a feeling Roethlisberger would bring his team back like he did in Super Bowl XLIII?
Brandon Hicks: When I saw Roethlisberger take the field, I thought "He’s got them. He’s got them right where he wants them." A tired, injury-riddled defence stared back at him. But the commercial break at the two-minute warning last longer than the drive! Five plays, two completions, one first down, game over. The Steelers looked confused with the no-huddle – the final drive of the year, title on the line, and there was still confusion in that backfield. Can you say worst timing ever?
Jesse Campigotto: I couldn't see it happening, mostly because Pittsburgh had wasted two of its timeouts. And then that disastrous kick-return play just sealed their fate. First, Isaac Redman doesn't go down when he was bottled up. Had he, the Steelers could've run a play before the warning, at a time when every play was precious. Tack on that silly personal foul by Keyaron Fox, and the Steelers just made it too tough on themselves. Funny, because that penalty reminded me of the personal foul committed by Chris Kemoeatu late in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh's divisional-round win over Baltimore, which gave the Ravens a free 15 yards on their final drive. Turned out that one didn't matter, but maybe it's time to question the Steelers' discipline.
Tony Care: Even with only one timeout, there was plenty of time to drive down the field despite facing what would have been an 87-yard drive. Having said that, I never thought the Packers would wilt, especially with what I stated earlier. The Steelers picked up a nice 15-yard gain off a Roethlisberger-to-Heath Miller connection. After a five-yard reception by Hines Ward, Roethlisberger seemed intent on forcing the ball Wallace, which failed miserably on each of his final two passes.
Chris Iorfida: I really did feel like Pittsburgh was going to embark on a touchdown drive late because that's what they always do, and because I felt like Green Bay kind of got away with breaking a cardinal Super Bowl rule on Sunday. More than the 19 games that precede it, the Super Bowl is about the clock. It seemed the Packers knew about the impact of the ridiculously long halftime because they wisely deferred the kickoff to receive in the third quarter, but then in the second with a big lead they squandered opportunities to really run down the clock down and put the Steelers under the gun by attempting — and not completing — a number of passes. Even Mike McCarthy admitted at the end of the game they unwisely got away from James Starks even though he was averaging four yards a pop. Pittsburgh ended up with two possessions too many in my book, and I thought that the final chance would prove fatal to Green Bay. But the Steelers didn't really threaten on that last drive.
Aaron Rodgers led his team to a Super Bowl title in only his third year. He wins the MVP award, something Brett Favre never accomplished, and has certainly joined the elite group of quarterbacks in the NFL. But does this victory finally enable him to emerge from the shadow of Favre?
Tony Care: From a winning perspective he's got a chance to do things Favre could only dream of. Remember, this team had 16 players on injured reserve, including a pair of key performers in Jermichael Finley and Nick Barnett. Unlike Steve Young, Rodgers has a real chance to carve out his own legend. Young finally won a Super Bowl, but 49ers fans would never put him in the same class of four-time winner Joe Montana. Rodgers can easily pull away from Favre in the only category that really counts — Super Bowl wins.
Jesse Campigotto: Rodgers didn't need this win to join the ranks of elite quarterbacks. He was already there. The Super Bowl MVP probably raises his celebrity status, but football fans have known for a long time how good he is. As for Favre, I don't need to pile on, but we should've seen the Rodgers MVP coming if only because it made for such a fitting end to such a nightmarish season for Favre. No one's ever gone broke betting on Favre coming back, but after what he went through this season even he must know it's time to finally pack it in. Right?
Brandon Hicks: Not until he sends a few inappropriate texts and retires several times. The real answer is yes.
Chris Iorfida: It was wonderfully ironic that Rodgers would be the last quarterback standing in Brett Favre's final year. He's out of the shadows, and someone elsewhere said it best: Now he's chasing Bart Starr.