Athlon's Rob Doster offers his insight from Super Bowl 45.
As Commissioner Roger Goodell said while presenting the trophy that bears the name of the greatest Packer legend of them all, “Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay.” Five quick observations from the Packers’ 31–25 win over Pittsburgh, which at first blush makes my top 10 Super Bowls of all time:
• The game lived up to the hype — almost. Going in, this one had the potential to surpass the 44 that came before it, and Super Bowl XLV far outshone about 35 of its predecessors. The outcome was in doubt until the final two minutes, and we saw a career-making performance from a superstar quarterback. But the game fell slightly short of ascending to the top five of all time. On the negative side of the ledger: There were no lead changes; no two-minute heroics, like in the Steelers’ win over the Cardinals; the game didn’t go down to the last play, like Titans-Rams; and there were no real signature plays, like David Tyree’s helmet catch. But those are small quibbles. The game was great.
• Aaron Rodgers is the game’s best quarterback. He now has as many Super Bowl wins as his Packer predecessor, Brett Favre. He’s 4–1 as a starting quarterback in the playoffs, and in his one loss (to the Cardinals last year) he put up 45 points. He joins two Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Steve Young, as one of three quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a Super Bowl win. And as great as his stats were — 24-of-39 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and a 111.5 passer rating — they would have been better were it not for about six drops and the first-half loss of Donald Driver to an ankle injury. He’s not Brett Favre yet, but he’s poised to eclipse Brett’s legend in Green Bay and build an unmatched legacy of his own.
• Turnovers and mistakes were the difference in the game. Aside from the final score, the key number was 3–0 — Green Bay’s advantage in turnovers. Obviously, Nick Collins’ 37-yard pick-six, with an assist from the Packer pass rush, was critical. (An aside: Teams with pick-sixes are now 11–0 in Super Bowls.) Just as critical was Rashard Mendenhall’s momentum-changing fumble courtesy of Clay Matthews’ yellow hat with the Steelers driving toward a potential go-ahead score. Eight plays and 55 yards later, the Packers had a 28–17 lead. There were also some head-scratching penalties, notably on special teams, that damaged the Steelers’ cause. Of course, if the Steelers had won, we’d be talking about Green Bay’s dropped passes.
• The Steelers’ renowned headhunters and heroes of previous Super Bowls, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, were largely invisible. The Steelers did sack Aaron Rodgers three times, but their lack of physicality, as typified by their MIA stars, was surprising. The Pack were successful with a few probing runs from James Starks, and the Steelers weren’t able to take Rodgers out of his game with their blitzes. Physical advantage to the NFC, for once.
• Musically, the evening was far from Super — Xtina mangled the Star Spangled Banner, and the Black Eyed Peas were as forgettably bland as their namesake legume. Usher and Slash did their best to try to bail out the headliners, to no avail. When the highlight of the most important set of your career is a pair of cameos by other artists, you haven’t exactly killed.