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Super Bowl XVL: Packers take advantage of mistakes to beat Steelers

Packers jump out early and hang on to beat Steelers, 31-25, in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is on, Ben Roethlisberger is off; hot players and butts; bad play calling and an offensive commercial.

By Jim Buzinski
Outsports.com

How I saw Super Bowl XLV:

The Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25. My pregame pick for Outsports was Green Bay 31-24, so I'll take a bow.

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Hot players (and butt) of the game: Aaron Rodgers (top), Jordy Nelson

Sometimes analyzing a game is pretty simple -- the Packers won the Super Bowl because they made fewer mistakes than the Steelers. Pittsburgh turned the ball over three times (to zero for Green Bay) and that led to 21 Packers points. That was the ball game.

The play of the game was the fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter by Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall at the Packers' 33 after a hard hit by linebacker Clay Matthews and lineman Ryan Pickett. It came when the Packers led 21-17 and were on the ropes, having once led 21-3 and without defensive leader Charles Woodson. The Packers followed the fumble by scoring to take a 28-17 lead.

The second biggest play came after the Steelers had cut the lead to 28-25 and had the Packers at third-and-10 with six minutes to go. Game MVP Aaron Rodgers then hit Greg Jennings for a 31-yard gain, setting up and eventual field goal and burning 5:22 off the clock. A last-minute drive by the Steelers ended with an incompletion on fourth-and-5 and the Packers had their first title since 1996.

Brett who? Rodgers was terrific against the Steelers (24 for 39, 309 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions) and would have had insane stats if not for a half-dozen drops. The killer drop at the time was by James Jones in the third quarter that could have been a 60-yard TD.

I wonder if Brett Favre was watching the game? Like Favre, Rodgers won a Super Bowl in his sixth season, but Favre was not the MVP. With Favre retiring and Rodgers now a champ, let's hope the specter of drama queen Favre hovering over all things Packers is finally over.

Big Ben's woes: The performance by Ben Roethlisberger should end once and for all this nonsense we've heard for two weeks that he's the game's best QB. His two interceptions (one for a pick six) were awful; to his credit, he did play better once the Packers got up 21-3, but he had four drives in the second half where he could have gotten the Steelers the lead and he failed. So much for the idea that he's the one QB you would want with the game on the line. At least he manned up after the game and took responsibility for the loss.

Football is the ultimate team game and Roethlisberger's play was just one reason the Steelers lost. His defense's inability to make a play all game was also key and I am still waiting for NFL defensive MVP Troy Polamalu to do something; he was a non-factor, which tells me the knee he hurt late in the season clearly cut down on his impact. He was late on many plays and out of position on others.

Hot players of the game: The group I watched with was unanimous in singling out Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson (more on him here) for their hotness. My friend JP could not help stop panting over shots of Nelson's tight bubble butt, shown numerous times. We also rewound several times a play that showed conclusively that Nelson was not wearing a cup (it was impressive). Rodgers to Nelson is the hottest QB-receiver combo in the league. And they both can play, too.

Head-scratching: I thought the play-calling by Packers coach Mike McCarthy in the second half stunk. The Packers threw 25 out of 29 times, way too unbalanced especially since the offense seemed discombobulated the whole third quarter, going punt-punt-punt-punt, with more penalties (three) than first downs (one). Green Bay should have run more on first or second down to establish some rhythm. Had the Mendenhall fumble not happened, the Packers were in serious danger of going down and McCarthy would have come in for a lot of second-guessing.

As it was, the game set a Super Bowl record for fewest combined rushing attempts with 36 (23 for Pittsburgh and 13 for Green Bay). This cements once and for all the idea that the NFL is a passing league. This is the fourth straight Super Bowl champ that did not rush for 100 yards total; weird that the last team to do so was the pass-happy 2006 Colts, who rushed for 191 yards in beating the Bears.

Wire to wire: Green Bay became the first Suoer Bowl team since the 2000 Ravens to have never trailed or been tied (after the 0-0 start). Once the Pack led 14-0, the game was over from a historical standpoint since the biggest deficit overcome ever has been 10 points (by the 1987 Redskins and 2009 Saints).

Thriller: The Super Bowl used to be known for blowouts, but this was the fourth straight game that came down to the final minute or close to it. Sunday's game was not an artistic success, but I found it compelling and never thought the Steelers were out of it even when it was 21-3.

Because of free agency, the modern NFL is closely contested, with so many games decided by a few plays. The Packers won four playoff games, but held on at the end in three of them. They also join the 2005 Steelers and the only sixth seeds to win it all. In fact, more six seeds have won in the past six years than one seeds.

The commercials: I am not a commercial hound and missed several to get something to eat or take a piss, so no great analysis here. The group I watched with loved the VW Darth Vader ad, while I found Groupon making light out of the plight of Tibet to be offensive.

From what I am seeing on the Net, Groupon is getting rightly slammed for its horrible ad and Timothy Hutton should be ashamed of himself for participating. Twitter is abuzz with people saying they are canceling their Groupon account; said one Tweet: "Groupon seems to have achieved the unique feat of paying $3M to lose customers who previously loved them." Here is the ad if you missed it.

Halftime: The Black Eyed Peas? Shrug. I also missed the pregame with Christina Aguilera forgetting to sing one line of the Star Spangled Banner (it's a lousy national anthem anyway, so no great loss).

Is Troy Aikman gay: Beats me, but the top searches on our site Sunday were: troy aikman gay; is troy aikman gay; ben roethlisberger shirtless; michael strahan gay; howie long; evan lysacek gay; troy aikman married; tom brady shirtless; nude football players; do nfl players wear cups. Fox carried the game and Aikman was the color analyst.

Cashing in: Got this from an Outsports reader in Dallas, who took the money and headed out of town: "We're all in New Orleans since we rented our cheap condos for $2,000 a week, but we hear it's wonderful in Dallas now that the roads are clear."

Bookies take a bath: Early reports are that the combo of a Packers win and the final score made a lot of money for Green Bay fans and those betting on the point total being higher than 45. The result, according to the L.A. Times, was the worst Super Bowl for the Vegas bookies since 1993. Despite being a No. 6 seed, Green Bay was the favorite and the darlings of the betting public and they covered the pointspread (which ranged from two to three points).

Over and out: This is my final NFL recap of the season. Thanks for reading and all your great comments. Let's hope there is a 2011 season to write about.