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Lombardi Leap


Aaron Rodgers is driving away from Cowboys Stadium in the Super Bowl MVP’s Chevy Camaro convertible, but the entire Green Bay defense deserves permanent joyride privileges following a hard-fought 31–25 win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.

“Gotta give credit to our defense,” said Rodgers, after being presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and the MVP’s keys by none other than four-time Super Bowl champion Steelers quarterback-turned-FOX pregame personality Terry Bradshaw.

“This is a great group of men that we put together here. Lot of character; been through a lot together. It’s just great to be able to share it with them.”

The Packers’ aggressive 3-4 defense forced three turnovers that were converted into 21 points — including a 37-yard pick-six from safety Nick Collins, who dove across the goal line to give Green Bay a 14–0 first-quarter lead it refused to relinquish to a relentless Pittsburgh club that never could get over the hump.

Along with Collins’ highlight reel INT for a TD, linebacker Clay Matthews forced a fumble from Rashard Mendenhall which was recovered by linebacker Desmond Bishop, and cornerback Jarrett Bush hauled in a second INT of Ben Roethlisberger — as Bush's namesake, former President of the United States and Governor of Texas George W. Bush, watched on in a star-studded luxury suite that also included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and “Boom!” John Madden.

In a total team effort, the defense set ‘em up and Rodgers knocked ‘em down. A-Rodg completed 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards, three TDs and zero INTs for a 111.5 passer rating — all while A-Rod was being fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz as part of a near-record Super Bowl crowd of 103,219 at the “Palace in Dallas.”

Once and for all, Rodgers and Ted Thompson — the GM who hand-picked the California kid with the No. 24 selection in the 2005 draft — have stepped out from the shadow cast by Brett Favre.

This postseason, Rodgers completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 1,094 yards, nine TDs and two INTs for a 109.8 passer rating, while scrambling for another two scores and leading the Packers to the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl victory (I, II, XXXI and XLV).

Following road wins at Philadelphia (21–16), at Atlanta (48–21), at Chicago (21–14) and against Pittsburgh (31–25) at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, there is no denying that Thompson’s decision to go with Rodgers over Favre was the right one back in 2008.

“I’m just so very, very proud of these guys on this team. They stood up when everybody thought they were down. They never quit trying. They never quit believing,” said Thompson, during the trophy presentation. “This is a tough business. But I’m very, very proud of this team.”

Several Packer leaders were not only knocked down, but knocked out of Super Bowl XLV. Versatile cornerback Charles Woodson and veteran receiver Donald Driver both limped to the locker room — with Woodson returning to the field wearing street clothes and a sling, and Driver hobbling back in a walking boot.

But Green Bay fought through, just as it has since Week 16 of the regular season, when each game became a must-win. Six straight wins later, the Packers are going back to Titletown as the world champs.

“Coach Lombardi’s Trophy,” declared Packers coach Mike McCarthy,“is finally going back home!”