1. The Game - A terrific game, and you could not ask for much more. As I said in my Super Bowl column , the NFL has found a way to make these games exciting like at the end, like the NBA. We have been spoiled over the past few years, and while I would not say this game topped last year’s or any other great Super Bowl, it will go right up there with those great games. I saw it as a Pittsburgh semi-blowout, I was right for about 52 minutes, and I was very happy to be wrong.
2. Ben Roethlisberger - Boy, did he make up from his record-setting lousy performance in Super Bowl XL. From the start of the game until the very end, he was in rhythm. His escapability is remarkable. Just when you think you have him, he manages to use his strength to get away and make a play. It is not Montana or Elway, but he doesn’t have to be. Big Ben gets it done his way. He was intercepted once on a tipped ball. But, it was the final drive for the ages, and his TD pass to Santonio Holmes was picture perfect.
3. Kurt Warner - If anyone had any questions on whether he is a Hall of Famer, he answered it. There is an open invitation for you to come to Canton, Kurt. For the third time in his career, he led his down the field to tie or take the lead in a Superbowl with under 5 minutes to play. He passed Joe Montana in total passing yards in Superbowl history. Montana did it in 4 games, Warner only needed 3. Kurt did make some mistakes, the biggest being a very costly interception at the end of the first half that was a 14 point swing, and really the play of the game, he also tripped over his center’s feet a couple times, and had a fumble on the handoff to James early in the game that Arizona recovered. But, he made the plays he needed to make, and finally found Larry Fitzgerald when he had to most.
4. Santonio Holmes - I can’t rank him any higher, because I had him in my fantasy league and it was nice of him to give his best game at the Super Bowl. He was great, and deserved the MVP. But, where the heck was this performance in the regular season? His best game was 5 catches, for 94 yards in week 2! His TD catch was as pretty as you will ever see to win a football game.
5. The Combination of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston - The three who should have a nickname were all very good. They combined for 21 catches, 282 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Angry Anquan before the game came up with a nice effort, and had the big 45 yard play to set up Arizona’s first touchdown. Anquan went 8 for 84. Breaston went 6 for 71 and was the wild card that the Steelers had to pay attention to and that freed up things finally for the most talented player on the field late in the game. Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass until there was under a minute left in the first half. He didn’t catch his second pass until the fourth quarter. But, Fitzgerald proved the old adage that great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be. Fitzgerald caught 4 passes on the Cardinals second scoring drive, including the 1 yard TD pass where he made a sensational catch despite being mugged by Ike Taylor, who did not get a penalty for pass interference. That was just the appetizer. With 2:47 to go in the game, Fitzgerald caught a 15 yard slant and go route, and he was gone for 64 yards giving the Cardinals their first lead. Larry would finish the game with 7 catches for 127, and 2 touchdowns and nearly stole the MVP away.
5. Darnell Dockett & Karlos Dansby - Dockett absolutely ate up his counterpart Darnell, the Steelers’ Darnell Stapleton. Dockett had 6 tackles and 2 sacks. Dansby had the interception that would have been huge had Arizona not given the turnover back on Harrison’s interception for a touchdown. Both players gave great efforts, and will be rewarded when free agency comes to them.
6. James Harrison - Like John Matusak, he was a One Man Force . The Cardinals left Mike Gandy by himself to block him, and he held on for dear life. They flagged Gandy three times for holding, it probably could have been 10. The Cardinals needed to give him help and did not. All three drives that had Gandy’s holding penalties led to punts for Arizona. Who would have thought that the longest play in Super Bowl history would come from a 6 foot, 250 pound outside linebacker. A great read on the interception and an amazing 100 yard return! Great blocking downfield was key, and James used every ounce of himself to find the end zone. He could have been MVP until about 8 minutes to go in the game. He roughed up a Cardinal player and was not flagged for it, and was lucky to not be disciplined for a dirty play.
7. Al Michaels & John Madden - Like I said last week , I think Al is the best in the business and he was terrific on Super Bowl Sunday. He didn’t try to exaggerate how great the game was, he let it play out and just announce the action. I’m not a huge Madden fan, but this game fit him perfectly. It was a time when Madden’s simple comments were effective.
8. - Joe Willie Namath - Did Broadway Joe look great or what? I haven’t seen him look that good since Super Bowl III. He really should bring in the Lombardi trophy every year from now on. I don’t think he wanted to give it away. He wanted to keep it and maybe impress a certain Suzy.
1. The Officiating - How there was not a formal review on the second to last play is beyond belief. While, it did look like a fumble by Warner, there could have also been a way to call it a tuck, which would have meant an incomplete pass. I do not see why the league couldn’t have spent the 2 minutes to fully review the play to see if the call on the field was correct. Terry McAulay looks very good on TV, he looks and speaks professionally, but is not a great referee. He did not do that great of a job in Super Bowl XXXIX, and should not have been awarded another Super Bowl that quickly. The roughing-the-passer penalty on Karlos Dansby in the 3rd quarter gave me flashbacks of Sugar Bear Hamilton on Ken Stabler in the 1976 AFC Playoffs. I thought he missed an intentional grounding on Roethlisberger as well. There were a lot of penalties and many of them were justified. The holding in the end zone, and the running over the holder, were excellent calls. How James Harrison was not flagged for giving someone the business was beyond me. I disagreed with Madden, on saying he should have been ejected. A Personal Foul would have been fine there. No call was inexcusable. Santonio Holmes should have been given a personal foul for using the ball as a prop on the game winning TD. Look, I am no fan on the rule; and I love celebrations, but that is a rule and it should have been a penalty, which would have meant the Steelers would kickoff from the 15, instead of the 30. The Cardinals probably would have been in better field position on the final drive. All in all, I do not believe the result changes because of the officiating, but their performance was mediocre at best. But, officiating is the last the NFL wants to hear about the day after the Super Bowl, it certainly wasn’t the talk of the office after last year’s game.
2 - Arizona’s Secondary - With Hines Ward not 100%, this should have made the Cardinals secondary’s task a little easier. But, this bumbling unit proved to be the downfall of Super Bowl XLIII as it could not cover the one man it had to stop in Santonio Holmes. How he was still able to catch that touchdown with 3 defenders in the area is unforgivable. Holmes should have been mugged and 5 penalty flags should have been on the field before he could be allowed to catch anything in the end zone that late in the game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a nice play on a bomb to Nate Washington early in the game, but was beat routinely by Santonio Holmes and had a facemask penalty on Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half. Antrel Rolle only had a couple of tackles and did not do much else. Adrian Wilson had 7 tackles, but had a silly Personal Foul penalty on the Steelers field goal attempt as he ran over the Steelers holder. Lucky for Wilson, the Cardinals still kept the Steelers out of the end zone. Aaron Francisco was completely lost and fell down on the 40 yard pass to Holmes on the final drive allowing him to reach the 6.
3. Mike Tomlin - I know some say the decision to kick the field goal was a good one, but I disagree. You need less than a yard; I would have gone for it and used Big Ben on a QB sneak and take my chances. At the worst, Arizona has their first possession of the game at their own 1. But, I would have felt confident that the game would have started 7-0. The Steelers have a 20-7 lead in the 4th quarter, they are the best defense in the league, and he has the safeties playing in what looks like St. Pete. They are at least 25 yards off the ball. It was only a matter of time before Larry Fitzgerald made his mark on this game when you leave the middle that open. A great defense does not give up 14 points in 5 minutes of the 4th quarter of a game that it is winning by double figures. Had the Steelers not come back to win this game, Mike Tomlin would have had been wearing huge goat ears this morning.
4. Troy Polamalu - He played in the game, yes? I know I saw his hair. He was practically invisible. Two assisted tackles, no solo tackles, and at least half a dozen whines to the officials. I thought Hines Ward was the one who Whines Hard? I think we have a new candidate for that award.
4. Bruce Springsteen - Somebody’s getting older, and unlike Brenda Warner and Joe Willie, he isn’t getting better with age. He tried to bring the emotion of his concerts to halftime, and I like it at the beginning, with the whole “Put down the guacamole,” bit. But, the crotch slide that ended up tea bagging the camera operator. I think NBC would have rather seen Janet Jackson’s floppy boob come out again than a 59 year old man’s crotch come flying through their new HDTV. Was it me or did it look like Bruce couldn’t remember his lyrics?
5. Roger Goodell - My goodness, what a horrific public speaker. First, his award presentation to Kurt Warner on the Walter Payton, NFL Man of the Year Award was something out of the Oscars. Roger, “And the winner is Kurt Warner.” That’s all you have to say? How about a sentence or two about the man and what he represents to the league, or even commenting on and thanking the other players nominated. Second, when you give out a championship trophy, it is okay to say a couple sentences about the game and to thank both teams’ owners, players and fans. He said one sentence comparing this game to last year’s game, which was ridiculous. Let this game be the new chapter in NFL History, there is no need to talk about one game being better than the other. Every NFL fan is biased and will form their own opinions. I give more of a speech when one of my players wins a Fantasy sports title, for goodness sake. Goodell makes Belichick look like a distinguished speaker. Goodell would be Bush at a press conference, and Belichick would be Obama.
6. NBC - Were 725 analysts really necessary? Maybe this why GE’s stock is ready to hit single digits? Why on God’s green Earth was Matt Millen brought in? What insight could he possibly have? Um, I ran a team completely into the ground and have put my former organization farther away from this stage than Neptune is to Earth, so I guess I am qualified. Next on CNBC, Bernie Madoff to discuss sound investing in troubled times! One player I thought I would not be talking about was Rodney Harrison. But, NBC with its earnest payroll hired him too for analysis. Now, you know, I love the Patriots, and Rodney is a favorite of mine, but man did he come off like an ass last night. How they dropped the audio on Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama was inexcusable.