Super Bowl XLIII: As Good As Any Ever
The query is sure to be thrown around.
Was that the best Super Bowl game ever played?
If it wasn't definitively, an argument can be made that it definitively was, and at the very least, it was as good as any ever.
Cardinals-Steelers couldn't have matched Giants-Patriots in terms of historical scope, even if the long suffering Cards had won. Super Bowl XLII had more at stake. But in terms of sheer, pound-for-pound excitement, it can't possibly be surpassed. It was truly a football game to behold.
It had it all.
We had Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald giving heroic performances in a crushing loss, the Cardinals' quarterback earning his Canton bust despite the outcome, the Cardinals' receiver taking over the fourth quarter as only he and a handful of receivers in the history of the league could.
But then we had MVP Santonio Holmes matching Fitzgerald step-for-step, catching four passes on the Steelers' game-winning drive, including the touchdown, then celebrating by mimicking LeBron James' famous pre-game ritual (the gesture lost on Madden and Michaels).
Before Sunday's kickoff, anybody who said that Ben Roethlisberger wasn't a great quarterback was merely mistaken; Now, they just look foolish.
We had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, a ton of penalties (none of which proved to be too costly), and an improbable rally by the underdog that sent one fan base into a temporary catatonic state, followed by an immediate response that will permanently damage another.
My heart was pounding and my city doesn't even have a professional football team; for Cardinals and Steelers fans, the unfolding drama must have been nearly unbearable.
Mixed in between we even had a few memorable commercials.
Warner has now recorded the top three single-game passage yardage performances in Super Bowl history. He has led two teams to the Big Game, one of them the NFL's version of the Los Angeles Clippers, and he nearly won it for them.
In this one, Warner finished 31-of-43 for 377 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, rallied his team back from a 20-7 fourth quarter deficit against the league's best defense to set his team up for the upset, and cemented his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His playmate Fitzgerald provided further proof to the adage that you can't keep a good man down for long, dominating the fourth quarter after being held in check for the first three. His line: seven catches for 127 yards and two scores, both of them in the final frame. We may call him the best football player alive.
My favorite commercials of the night:
3. Cars.com: David Abernathy—At childbirth, David congratulates the doctor on a perfect delivery with a handshake (among other impressive feats, but he still can't decide on a car any better than the rest of us can).
2. Pepsi Max: I'm Good—No matter what unfortunate accident befalls man—whether it be getting hit with a backswing, having a bowling ball dropped on their head, or being electrocuted and ejected from the top of a ladder and violently slammed off the side of a truck—he can take it. What they couldn't take is "the taste of diet Cola—until now."
1. E*Trade: Talking Baby—You know, the business savvy (not to mention absolutely adorable) little baby at the computer who gives investment tips. This time he's joined by a friend, who blesses us with a little rendition of the song "Broken Wings," which was once sampled on a posthumous Tupac track.
We all knew that Holmes was a very good young receiver and dangerous deep threat, but I, for one, had no idea he was capable of taking over the last three minutes of the freaking Super Bowl. He finished with nine catches for 131 yards and the season's winning touchdown reception.
Holmes may never be as dominant, at least on a consistent basis, as he was in the pressure-cooked moments of Sunday night's affair, but for at least one evening he was legendary.
On NBC's pregame telecast, guest analyst Rodney Harrison stated that Roethlisberger was not a great quarterback, but a great football player, which could possibly be interpreted as a backhanded compliment.
But John Elway wasn't really a great quarterback, either, in the pure pocket-passer sense—at least not as a young player, as all of his best throwing seasons came after the age of 32.
And besides, everyone seems to be ignoring a strong mitigating factor in the whole "Ben's not that really that good," "Ben's a game-manager," and "Ben's Troy Aikman in black and yellow" (another back-handed compliment) case: in 2007, Ben threw for 32 touchdowns and only 11 picks, for a stellar (by any standard) 104.1 QB rating.
When you add in the fact that he just won his second Super Bowl before the age of 27, by leading his team downfield at the end of the game in a Tom Brady-like manner (though not as stoically and coldly cool), it's safe to say that not only is he a great football player, he's a great quarterback, as well.
When Arizona made their unlikely comeback to take the lead in the fourth, I thought to myself that maybe I was right, that the Cards, underdogs four weeks in a row, really were a team of destiny.
But how many times have we seen a team make a furious rally to gain the lead in the fourth quarter of a football game, only for the other team to respond on the ensuing drive and win in the end, anyway?
We saw it just two weeks ago, in the NFC Championship Game, with the Cardinals on the other end of the equation.
And one of the best games of this past college football season was Texas at Texas Tech, when the Longhorns gamely fought back against the Red Raiders, took the lead, then got their hearts ripped out in the end.
I was prepared for either scenario to be the final story of the game. Obviously, it was the latter.
Now, the night belongs to history.
It was one to remember.
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