Chills, thrills and excitement as the Pittsburgh Steelers rally to defeat the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23.
By Jim Buzinski
With their scintillating 27-23 comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the most successful franchise in the Super Bowl era. Their sixth win puts them ahead of Dallas and San Francisco.
The Steelers won one of the most exciting Super Bowls with a pulsating fourth quarter that saw 23 points scored. After the Cardinals went ahead, 23-20, with 2:47 left, the Steelers put together a drive for the ages that saw them go ahead for good with 35 seconds left on a stunning six-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to MVP Santonio Holmes.
I like Roethlisberger because he comes across as a regular guy and a bit of a goofball (have you seen him plastered?). He also gives honest answers to questions. When asked on ESPN what he thought of the pass he threw for the game-winner, which was tossed in the area of three Cardina"l defenders:
"I thought it was picked. Honest to goodness, I thought I just blew it."
|The Steelers have won a record six Vince Lombardi trophies.|
Astonishing: The last play of the first half provided one of the best moments ever. Arizona was trailing 10-7 and had first-and-1 at the Steelers 1 with 18 seconds left. Kurt Warner threw a quick slant pass to Anquan Boldin, but Steelers linebacker James Harrison stepped in front. Then the fun began. With a bevy of blockers and with Arizona's players chasing him, Harrison weaved down the right sideline and wound up scoring with two Cardinals trying to haul him down.
I was stunned that no one from the Cardinals was able to bring down Harrison or knock him out of bounds. A replay did show Pittsburgh's DeShea Townsend grabbing and holding Warner as the QB tried to make a tackle, but no flag was thrown. Nonetheless, it was not the best example of pursuit I have seen and Boldin was nowhere near the play at the end. Harrison is not some super-fast defensive back; he's a 242-pound linebacker (albeit with some speed) and someone should have taken him down. Harrison scored with :00 on the clock. Had he been tackled, the half would not have ended, since the Cardinals were guilty of a personal foul on the play. Nonetheless, a tackle would have at most given the Steelers seven points instead of three.
Slow starters: The Cardinals scored 16 of their 23 points in the final quarter, which made me wonder what took them so long? Their game plan was way too conservative; in the first three quarters, Warner attempted one pass longer than 10 yards. It was only when they opened it up in the fourth quarter that we saw the same Cardinals that won three previous playoff games.
Larry Fitzgerald, who was unstoppable in these playoffs, had his first pass thrown to him with 1:53 left in the first half, got his first catch with 59 seconds in the half and did not have any passes thrown to him in the third period. At the end of the first half, my friend JP was screaming for the Cardinals to throw a fade to Fitzgerald, but his call went unheeded and disaster struck when Warner was intercepted. Credit the Steelers for a good defensive scheme, but the Cardinals should have thrown it more to Fitzgerald, who is capable of beating double coverage and it unstoppable on the fade.
In the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald had five catches and two touchdowns (one on a fade) in the span of five minutes. For the first three quarters, the Cardinals out-thought themselves and let the defense dictate what they did. It was only when the fell behind by 13 and got desperate that the Cardinals clicked. If they played with that urgency earlier, I think they would have won.
Flag happy: Referee Terry McCauley and his crew threw way too many flags (18 penalties were assessed and two declined). Some calls were legitimate, but way too many were of the ticky-tack variety on infractions that did not alter the outcome of the play. McCauley got as much air time as John Madden. I watched the game with Jim Allen, among others, and he thinks McCauley is the epitome of hotness, so he was thrilled the ref got so much face time. The rest of us watching just groaned as each flag fell. At least McCauley's crew didn't screw up the play clock again.
Commercials: They almost all sucked and even those mildly amusing will get old after being watched more than twice. Enough said.
The halftime show: I like Bruce Springsteen's politics but his music leaves me indifferent, so halftime was a good time to stretch and eat.
NBC shines: I thoroughly enjoyed NBC's game coverage. Al Michaels and John Madden were solid, made good points, got excited at the right time and stay focused on the action (no annoying Fox "swoosh" sound effects or giant robots, or endless CBS promos for the "Subway Postgame Show").
Madden was bold when he said that the Steelers' James Harrison should have been thrown out of the game after punching a Cardinal player and drawing a fourth-quarter penalty; most analysts would have tip-toed around the idea of tossing the league's defensive MVP in such a big game. The camera coverage was excellent, especially on the big plays. I would have liked a bit more of the overhead shots, though, to show what coverages defenses were in. And on Harrison's 100-yard interception return, Madden said he ran like "James Brown," when he meant "Jim Brown," since no one calls the legendary Cleveland Browns' runner "James," but he was trying too hard to link the first names. All in all, an A effort.
Ranking: Don Banks of Sports Illustrated already calls it the best Super Bowl ever.
For drama, plot twists and huge, game-changing plays, how can we say anything less than the Super Bowl's 43rd edition was the best ever?
It had the most astounding turn of events. It had a record fourth-quarter comeback, with the Arizona Cardinals digging out of a 13-point fourth-quarter hole, a feat that has never been seen before in Super Bowl play.
Fair points, but I still think last year's 17-14 Giants win over the Patriots was better, given the historic nature of the Giants' upset of the 18-0 Patriots. There is some symmetry to both games -- both last year and this year saw the winning team fall behind on a late touchdown, only to put together a touchdown drive of their own. Last year, the Giants took the lead for good with 35 seconds left. Sunday, the Steelers took the lead for good with 35 seconds left.
I thought Sunday's game was generally well played, with three stunning plays -- Harrison's 100-yard interception return, Fitzgerald's 64-yard TD pass to give the Cardinals their only lead and Holmes' sick catch for the game winner. It had everything a fan could want in the fourth quarter
This ranks No. 2 on my list of best Super Bowls. It was not the best NFL game I've seen (far from it), but it was special when compared to so many Super Bowls that have been blowouts or dogs, especially through the mid-90s. It has only been with the advent of free agency since then that the games have gotten more competitive and exciting. The last six Super Bowls have been decided by 3, 3, 11, 12, 3 and 4 points; even the two double-digit wins (by the Steelers in 2005 and the Colts in 2007) were competitive into the fourth quarter. I am curious as to how others would rank Sunday's game.
It's over: Another NFL season has passed and I now go into sports hibernation for seven months. It has been fun writing these reports each week and I hope some of you made a lot of money by betting against what I picked, especially against the pointspread; it's a safer way to make money these days than the stock market.