The pre-game buzz for the Super Bowl had predicted a close game , possibly a OT thriller. It wasn’t quite that close but , after a mostly one sided first half , it developed into an absorbing struggle that wasn’t decided until the last minute.
Immediately after the game , a rabid Steeler fan e-mailed me , moaning about “ Ben Ratlisberger” and how he gave the game away to the Packers . She also downplayed Aaron Rodger’s performance claiming that he ” didn’t live up to the hype of the last two weeks” . Sorry , but I don’t agree.
I thought Roethlisberger played a fairly good game except for those two early interceptions . The first one , in particular , was an ill-advised heave that was run back for a TD. However, it wasn’t all Roethlisberger’s fault as his protection broke down and the Packer’s B.J Raji crashed into him just as the ball was released. What was surprising was that the Steelers went for a pass so deep in their own territory. I’d have thought they’d try a couple of running plays first to gain some breathing room. Other than the two INT.’s , Ben played a solid game . True , he did overthrow his receivers on occasion, most notably on that final unsuccessful drive , but he also scrambled for first downs a couple of times and brought the Steelers almost all the way back. Considering he was playing behind an inexperienced center and was faced with a swarming Green Bay defense , his figures of 25 of 40 / 263 yards / 2 TD’s are not bad at all , except for those two costly interceptions.
They suffer though in comparison to the numbers put up by Aaron Rodgers. ( 24 of 39 / 304 yards/ 3 TD’s and , most importantly , no interceptions). The numbers don’t tell the full story either. Green Bay receivers dropped at least four other passes , one of which would have been a sure TD. Rodgers passing was truly marvelous especially when you consider that Green Bay had no running game to speak off and the Pittsburgh defenders were able to tee off on him . Not only did he stand up to the fierce Piittsburgh pass rush , he delivered his passes with pinpoint precision , the ball nestling in the arms of his receivers, with the defenders having no chance at an interception . He did suffer a cold spell in the middle of the game but came back in the fourth quarter to throw a final TD and then lead the Packers on a time-consuming drive for a FG that gave the Packers a little breathing space. Kudos also to the receivers , Jordy Nelson ,Greg Jennings and James Jones who rose to the occasion in the absence of the injured Donald Driver and played the game of their lives.
The Packer defense also deserves its share of praise for the way in which it regrouped after the injuries to Charles Woodson and Sam Shields. Perhaps the key play of the game was the forced fumble by Rashard Mendenhall. At the time , Pittsburgh had crawled back to within 4 and , with plenty of time left , were threatening to go ahead for the first time in the game . Mendenhall was hit high and low by Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett , and it would have been a miracle for him to have held on to the ball. That fumble not only deflated the Steeler momentum , Green Bay turned into seven points and a lead of 11. For the rest of the game , the Steelers were on their heels even though they did manage to claw back to within three points .
As I’d mentioned in an earlier post , I was rooting for Green Bay to win . My reasons were 1) Aaron Rodgers and 2) Ted Thompson , the Green Bay Packer GM .
Aaron Rodgers , I’ve always liked . I thought he was treated shabbily by Brett Favre , who rather than mentor his putative successor , saw him as a rival to be frozen out . Rodgers bore Favre’s slights stoically even though his patience must have been sorely tested by Drama Queen Brett’s annual retirement antics. He also had to put up with abuse from Favre supporters who hated him for supplanting their idol . Now , finally , Rodgers has escaped from the shadow of Favre and seems poised to write his own chapter in Green Bay lore. This is a young Green Bay team , Rodgers is only 27 , and they have a solid core of young players . Once they get back the players who were injured they will be a deep , deep team that will be a Super Bowl threat for years to come .
Like Aaron Rodgers , the GM Ted Thompson was vilified by Favre loyalists for standing up to their hero.Last year , the criticism reached a crescendo as Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship game and Green Bay was knocked out of the playoffs early. Last night’s Super Bowl win has shown how right Thompson was in wanting to phase out Favre . No Praise is strong enough for Thompson’s perspicacity in recognising that the Packers had gone as far as they could with Favre and for his courage in pushing for Rodgers to replace him .
As for the Steelers , they have nothing to be ashamed off. They gave it their all , advancing to their third Super Bowl game in six years . True they didn’t win but , after the early season distractions with Ben Roethlisberger , they did well to come this far . I’m very impressed with Coach Mike Tomlin and the grace he showed in defeat . They’re in a tough division in the tough AFC but , under Tomlin , with a solid cast of talented players , they could very well be challenging for a place in next year’s Super Bowl.
Even though this year’s Super Bol was a close game that was not decided until the last minute , I would classify it as a very good game , but not a great one . For most of the first half Green Bay was dominant and there were no lead changes in the entire game . There was none of the tension of last year’s game between New Orléans and Indy or the nail-biting clash between the Giants and the heavily favored Patriots five years ago. Or perhaps , it’s just that my rooting interest was not as strong it might have been because neither of my favorite s ( the Giants and the Colts ) was involved.
It could also be that this year , we didn’t have a big Super Bowl bash opting instead to watch it with one other couple over hamburgers , mixed vegetables and soup. Watching the Big Game in a big raucous group adds extra spice to the game . Maybe next year we’ll watch in a group at a sports bar.