After an unpredictable NFL season, the Super Bowl did not disappoint. Last year’s game was so incredible, it easy to forget that the Super Bowl is frequently a game not worth watching. This game was certainly worth watching. In the wake of a truly spectacular contest, here are a few things worth revisiting from Super Bowl XLIII.
The Winner: The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the best teams in the NFL all year long. Boasting the number one defense in the league for most of the season, no one doubted their ability to make plays and suffocate opponents’ offensive weapons. Roethlisberger was a dependable quarterback who had already led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in 2006. Today on SportsCenter the question was posed, “are the Steelers America’s team?” I’ll ignore the rhetoric (considering the Cowboys are frequently called America’s Team), but are the Steelers really the most popular franchise in the NFL? Are they the best franchise in NFL history? Certainly no one can argue with their winning ways. They have won six Super Bowls in the last 35 years, including two of the last four. That said, the 49ers were the team of the 80’s, the Cowboys owned the 90’s and the Patriots have been the more dominant team in the 2000’s. Personally, I can’t see how a franchise can suddenly be “America’s Team” just by winning a couple of Super Bowls. Their fans travel incredibly well, sometimes giving the illusion that there are Steelers fans everywhere. But how many Steelers hats do you see randomly around the major cities of the US? None. They are not the Yankees or the Red Sox, teams that have fans littered across the country. They are a great team and this was a great win, but “America’s Team,” I think not.
The Loser: My hat goes off to the Arizona Cardinals. This was a franchise that had won one playoff game since 1998. No one (including myself) gave them a shot in hell of making noise in this year’s playoffs. They won at home against a fairly unproven Falcons team, but no one thought anything of it. After all, they were headed to Carolina to play a legitimate Panthers team, and they were finished after that. That is until they shellacked the Panthers 33-13. Another home win against a good Eagles team and they found their way to Super Bowl XLIII. Somehow ESPN’s online polling had 40% of America predicting a Cards victory, but America is really, really dumb. Few experts picked the Cards to win. Pittsburgh’s defense was too good, and the Cinderella show was over. But if James Harrison’s ridiculous 100-yard pick-6 didn’t occur, the Lombardi Trophy might very well have ended up in Arizona for the summer. The Cardinals exceeded all expectations throughout the playoffs, and showed tremendous heart, orchestrating a fourth quarter comeback against a team that had never lost after being up 11+ points in the playoffs. They made the playoffs worth watching this season, and they proved they belong among the NFL’s elite.
The Real MVP: No disrespect to Santonio Holmes, but Ben Roethlisberger was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII. Big Ben was impressive from start to finish. He completed ten of his first eleven passes, leading the Steelers to an early 10-0 lead. He finished the game 21/30 for 256 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Granted, these are not spectacular, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping numbers, but the way he commanded his team was truly impressive to watch. When he got the ball at his own 22 with 2:30 left, he took over. On the final drive, Roethlisberger was 5/6 passing for 84 yards as well as a four-yard scramble under pressure. Coach Mike Tomlin kept the ball in Ben’s hands every play of that final drive, and he delivered. That’s your Super Bowl MVP.
Hall of Fame QB: I have heard quite a bit of debate about whether or not Kurt Warner belongs in the Hall of Fame. Here is my attempt to settle the debate. Warner’s accomplishments in the NFL are staggering. His career passer rating of 93.8 puts him in third place all time, behind only Steve Young and Peyton Manning. In his record breaking 2001 season with the St. Louis Rams he threw for 4,830 yards (second all time), with six consecutive 300 yard passing games (tied for first all time) and nine games of over 300 yards passing (tied for third all time), a feat which he had accomplished once before in his career. Another major criterion for any player enshrined in Canton is his performance in big games. Warner has been phenomenal throughout his career in the post season. He boasts a career record of 8-3 in the playoffs, averaging more than 300 passing yards per game with 26 TD and only 13 INT. And after his 377-yard performance yesterday, Warner is now in first, second and third place on the list for most yards thrown in an individual Super Bowl. Warner is also a man of Hall of Fame character. He was this year’s recipient of the Walter Peyton Award for the incredible charity work that he and his wife Brenda do every year. Warner belongs in the Hall of Fame.