First off, congratulations goes out to the Steelers who were two minutes and change away from one of the biggest meltdown in Super Bowl history. All of their good fortune in the first three quarters (Harrison’s game-changing play, Terry “Pittsburgh” McAulay’s penalties, and Ben slipping away from Cardinal defenders), dissipated in the fourth amidst bad offensive line play and the defense being exposed by Warner.
Ok, let’s get the blame game out of the way. Let’s take a look at the ABC’s of Super Bowl XLIII.
THREE REASONS WHY THE STEELERS WON:
1. James Harrison
Harrison’s interception will join the ranks of great Super Bowl defensive plays like the 49er goalline stand in Super Bowl XVI; Mike Jones’ tackle in Super Bowl XXXIV of Kevin Dyson; and Jack Squirek’s interception of Joe Theismann in Super Bowl XVIII.
Also, go back and watch the play and you’ll notice something even more awe-inspiring than the actual pick. Pittsburgh’s downfield blocking to spring Harrison was Raven-esque and the key to Harrison eventually breaking paydirt.
2. Ben’s escapability
Ben wears the right number. His escapability is reminiscent of another number 7 in the building on Sunday night, John Elway. He kept plays alive, avoided numerous sacks and eventually extended plays that yielded big gains to the game’s eventual MVP, Santonio Holmes. He finally erased the memories of his poor effort versus Seattle in Super Bowl XL.
3. Pittsburgh McAulay
Luckily, the Arizona comeback perhaps will shift some of the attention away from the officiating but for the second straight Super Bowl involving Pittsburgh, the Steelers benefited from the calls. How big of an advantage has Pittsburgh received in these past two Super Bowl wins?:
Super Bowl XL:
Seattle: 7-70/Pittsburgh 3-20
Super Bowl XLIII:
Arizona: 11-106/Pittsburgh: 7-56
For those of you scoring at home, that’s 176 yards worth of calls in two games. It’s not the main reason they won, but it sure helps. While clearly some of those penalties were deserved, some of them bordered on absurd (see Karlos Dansby roughing the passer penalty).
THREE REASONS WHY THE CARDINALS LOST:
1. Missed opportunities:
It is very easy to look at the final Pittsburgh drive and torch the Arizona defense which was manhandled in the first quarter and in the game’s most pivotal drive. However, before we kill Clancy Pendergast’s gang let’s flash back to the second quarter.
With the score 10-7 Pittsburgh, here’s a breakdown of what Arizona unleashed:
Drive Began: PIT 43- 3 plays, -17 yards Result: Punt
Drive Began: PIT 34- 8 plays, 33 yards Result: Interception (TD)
Those two series were huge because the Cardinals had all of the momentum in terms of game play and got the ball to open the second half. Instead of getting something out of at least one of the drives up 14-10 or tied at 10, they came away without a lead or tie and were down by 10 for the second time in the game.
It’s not necessarily the Harrison play but the cumulative damage of having the ball twice in Steeler territory and not coming away with points that is one of the most damaging factors in the loss.
I heard some of the analysts on ESPN giving great praise to the Cards’ D. I’m not quite so ready to do that. They allowed the Steelers to hold the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the first quarter; then gave up an epic eight minute drive in the third quarter; and allowed the definitive drive of the game to happen in which all they had to do was keep everything in front of them.
The worst case scenario in the final drive for Zona’ s defense should have been allowing a game tying field goal and possibly dealing with overtime. Instead, they allowed Santonio Holmes to take over the game and ultimately become Super Bowl MV.
See Pittsburgh McAulay above.
Steeler Nation is back on top for now after one of the greatest Super Bowls of all-time. Big Ben joins an elite club of quarterbacks with at least two Super Bowl rings as a starter (Starr, Griese, Bradshaw, Staubach, Plunkett, Montana, Aikman, Elway, Brady). Meanwhile, it’s a copycat league and teams will now look for Mike Tomlin types to the roam the sideline and relate to players in a little more meaningful fashion.
As for you Cardinals fans, take heed in what Buzzsaw fan and blogger extraordinaire Will Leitch wrote after the game. This is going to hurt like hell for a long time…probably until the Cardinals win one. That isn’t necessarily an awful thing though. Instead of being taken for granted, ignored and disrespected, Arizona joined the living NFL franchises in the last few weeks.
Who knows what lies ahead for the Cardinals. The NFC has produced eight different conference champions over the past eight seasons. Anquan Boldin may leave. Kurt Warner has seven kids, a Super Bowl ring, two league MVPs and has resuscitated two fledgling franchises over the last decade. Warner, who undoubtedly should make the Hall of Fame after his performance this season, can still sling it but there is a chance he may not come back and ride off into the sunset. That means waiting in the wings is Matt Leinart who is more known for his partying ability than his quarterbacking.
Nonetheless Cardinals fans, go into the off-season with your heads held high. In 2009, you’ll be introduced to this cool thing called Sunday Night Football and you’ll receive higher priority on Sunday afternoons. Just don’t screw it up by going 5-11 next season.