Tuesday, February 8, 2011

 The Green Bay Packers reign supreme in Superbowl XLV

Last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell short, 31-25 to the Green Bay Packers in Superbowl 45. The Steeler's had no answer for Superbowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and his passing attack as he went through the steel curtain defense like a propane torch.  Green Bay packed on the aerial assault, only running the ball thirteen times, the lowest in Superbowl history. The Packers game plan was to exploit the biggest weakness of the Steelers which is the Pittsburgh secondary. They did just that. The Packers offense spread out with four and five wide-receiver sets and picked the Steelers apart. Green Bay must have watched film from when the Steelers lost to the Patriots earlier in the season. The Packers knew that the Steelers were the best in the league all year at stopping the run so they avoided it as much as possible.

For the Steelers, the Superbowl played out the opposite of how the AFC championship game went against the Jets.This time it was the Packers who jumped out to an early 21-3 lead. The Steelers resolve and veteran leadership wasn't enough to overcome the 18-point hole they dug for themselves. The Packers were able to draw first blood as Rodgers floated a perfect pass over the outstretched hands of William Gay to Jordy Nelson for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Packers used that score to set the tone and the Steelers were never able to grab a lead. When the Steelers made it 21-10 just before halftime on a Hines Ward touchdown, the game seemed back in reach. For the first time, the momentum swung the Steelers way. At that moment, the spectators in Cowboy stadium all seemed to bleed black and gold as they chanted "Here we go Steelers, here we go!". The terrible towels were ripped from back pockets and swung into the air waving with ferocity.

In the third quarter, when the Steelers were only down 21-17 and marching, Rashard Mendenhall had the ball stripped by defensive juggernaut Clay Matthews. This was one of the three costly turnovers for Pittsburgh and the Packers capitalized on each one of them for 21 points. Let's give credit to the Steelers for battling back from 21-3 to make it a game but history was against them. No team in Superbowl history had come back from that steep a deficit to win, and still hasn't. Yesterday, Green Bay was the hotter team with the hotter quarterback.

The Packers did what they did all year, battle through adversity and multiple injuries. In the biggest game, their best defensive and offensive players in Charles Woodsen and Donald Driver went down before the over-hyped and under-delivered halftime performance by the Black Eyed Please, I mean Peas. The injuries suffered to important pieces of the Packers was a microcosm of what they faced all season.

It's hard to overcome three turnovers and win against a good football team. Ben's numbers weren't terrible, but his missed throws were. He uncharacteristically overthrew receivers and missed routes all game that he usually hits. Rodgers on the other hand was brilliant. His receivers had six drops and two that would have went for touchdowns. Despite those miscues, Rodgers still finished with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. The defensive player of the year Troy Polamalu had no impact and was only seen in the frame twice, when Greg Jennings caught two touchdowns. The Steelers defensive had no answer for Jordy Nelson who racked up 9 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

With all of the mistakes the Steelers made, they still had a chance with two minutes left. All of Steeler nation took a collective breath and envisioned another come from behind victory as is accustomed with this team and this quarterback. The story didn't end that way.

As Mike Tomlin says there are no moral victories, and this loss will sting the city of Pittsburgh for a long time.

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