With the Packers up by six, Aaron Rodgers looked on as his defensive unit took the field in a much too similar situation as the last time these two teams met. The previous year, the Steelers had driven down the field in the final two minutes and won the game 37-36 on the last play of the game.
There would be none of that on Super Sunday as the Packers’ defence stopped Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on fourth and five with just over a minute to go. Big Ben tried to get it to Mike Wallace but the ball fell incomplete. Right then, the camera turned to Rodgers. He jumped up and ran around aimlessly on the sideline out of excitement. He knew what that incomplete pass signified. It meant the Green Bay Packers were going to bring the Lombardi Trophy home for the first time since 1997.
After Christina Aguilera finished mangling the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Packers and Steelers delivered quite a show.
Rodgers, the game’s MVP, turned in a remarkable performance in Super Bowl XLV going 24-39 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and most importantly, no turnovers. Rodgers was unbelievable this whole postseason.
Jordy Nelson, the team’s fourth-string wide receiver, was Rodgers’ favourite target catching nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, which made up for his three big drops. He also found Greg Jennings, usually his favourite target, for 21-yard and eight-yard scores. Despite the fact that his receivers dropped several balls, Rodgers thrived in this game.
Unfortunately for Roethlisberger, he was not able to take care of the ball, and more often than not in the NFL, the team with the most turnovers loses the game. The Steelers, not the young Packers, looked like the inexperienced team in this one.
Perhaps the most important play in the game came early on. From his own seven-yard line, Roethlisberger took the snap, pumped fake once and threw deep left for Wallace. His arm was hit as he threw and the errant throw was picked off by ball-hawk Nick Collins and returned 37 yards to the house to give the Packers an early 14-0 lead.
The Packers built a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. Things started to unravel a bit after that for the Pack. First, reliable veteran receiver Donald Driver injured his ankle. Then, Charles Woodson, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, broke his collarbone diving for a ball. With Woodson out, the Steeler offence finally showed some signs of life, marching down the field easily and cutting the lead to 21-10 right before halftime.
After the Black Eyed Peas stunk up the stage with their less-than-super half-time performance, the second half finally got underway. After a quick defensive stop, the Steelers struck again as Rashard Mendenhall took it in from eight yards out. And just like that, the Packers lead was cut to 21-17. Everything was going in the Steelers’ favour as James Jones dropped a perfectly thrown ball on the next possession which would have been a touchdown for the Packers. Instead, Green Bay punted once again and the Steelers started their drive. On the last play of the third quarter, Roethlisberger found Hines Ward in the middle of the field for a nice gain to the Packers’ 33-yard line and it looked as though it was just a matter of time before they took their first lead of the game.
Then, it happened &- a game-changing play by Clay Matthews. He penetrated the line of scrimmage like a hungry lion and stripped Mendenhall of the ball. The Packers recovered the fumble and shortly after, and Rodgers found Jennings in the endzone for the second time for the clinching score.
“You play to be world champions,” Matthews said after the game, “and that’s what we are today.”
Matthews, who I think should have won the Defensive Player of the Year award, proved his case on the biggest stage of all. Troy Polamalu, who did win the the award, was a complete nonfactor in the game and was beat a few times for big plays. Maybe the hair got in the way.
“I think the reason Green Bay won is because Rodgers is so good,” said Eric Noivo, defensive end for the Concordia Stingers’ football team. “He made plays at key times and Pittsburgh committed too many turnovers. The Steelers had all the momentum before the Mendenhall fumble.”
In my online commentary for the Concordian, I predicted a 31-26 Packers’ victory and Aaron Rodgers winning MVP. I also said at some point in the game, Clay Matthews would make a game-changing play. He did just that.
Overall, Roethlisberger was good, but Rodgers was great. In a quarterback-driven league, the quarterbacks’ play was the difference in this one. Dallas was most definitely Mr. Rodgers’ neighbourhood on Sunday night.
It was a priceless moment.