The Most Exciting Super Bowl (Squares) Game Ever?

Jacob NitzbergAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2009

As most everyone knows, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII by a score of 27-23.  For football fans, the game was close, entertaining and exciting, and was on par with last year's game.

For those who participate in a few extra activities while watching the game, this Super Bowl had it all.   For the majority of America who plays Super Bowl Squares (or Boxes), or makes prop bets during the big game, last night game provided so many different twists and turns that replay challenges were watched like never before.

The first quarter provided only one score.  On Pittsburgh's first drive of the game, the Steelers faced 3rd-and-Goal from the 1-yard line.  Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (yeah I used his last name, I'm not Madden or Michaels) scrambled in for an apparent touchdown, which would presumably give the Pitt a 7-0 lead. 

Arizona coach Ken Wisenhunt challenged, Big Ben was down, out came the FG unit and the score was only 3-0.  Unless one was lucky enough to have both of those combinations in their pool, a lot of people lost some money on that challenge.

That call also could have affected the over/under bet on the jersey number of player who scored the first touchdown in the game, which was set at 38.5.  It nearly did, as on the first play of the second quarter, Roethlisberger threw to Heath Miller (No. 83), who was stopped at the one-yard line.  Short-yardage back Gary Russell (No. 33) punched it in, and all the bettors on the under sighed in relief.

Later in the second quarter, Arizona had scored to make it 10-7, and were driving in the Pittsburgh red zone with 18 seconds and no timeouts.  People with the (0,0) and (0,4) squares were fighting it out for which type of score the Cardinals would get, and those with (0,7) were praying for the Steelers to somehow stop the Cards.

Of course, after showing the stat for how great Cardinals QB Kurt Warner had been in the red zone all playoffs, Warner was picked off by Defensive POY James Harrison (did they mention he was undrafted and cut four different times?) who then had the longest play in Super Bowl history with a 100-yard return for an apparent touchdown.

The owners of the (7,7) square could not believe their luck.  And then the replay booth needed to determine whether or not Harrison got the ball across the goal line.  I know it's always possible, but I can't remember when four different squares all had a legitimate chance to win on the last play of a quarter.

While I don't know every prop bet available, I'm pretty sure that Harrison's interception affected many of them, most notably the first half over-under and who would score the first defensive TD.

Then came quarter number three.  This one did not provide much scoring or excitement until the 3:30 mark, when the Steelers drove into the red zone.  Those of us with the (0,7) box who were hoping for a Pittsburgh stop in the second quarter needed another one on third down to set up a FG attempt which would make the score 20-7. 

Sure enough, the NFL's 28th ranked defense was able to force an incompletion, and Pittsburgh K Jeff Reed knocked the field goal through.  But, of course, there was a flag.  The rarely seen knocking over the holder penalty on Cardinals S Adrian Wilson gave the Steelers first-and-goal from the five-yard line.

A natural assumption was to assume the Steelers would capitalize on this and the (4,7) crowd would finally get involved.  But the Cardinals defense held strong, and another Reed FG, this one counted, went through and (0,7) square holders rejoiced.  Oh, and the Cardinals kept the game within two scores, which I guess was important for the outcome.

After being forced to punt with 13 minutes left to play, Pittsburgh took over on their own 43-yard line and it seemed that the only bet in doubt was what Pittsburgh's final score would be.  Surely they would win outright, cover the spread and hold Arizona scoreless for the rest of the game.

As we all know, the opposite happened.  A Larry Fitzgerald one-yard touchdown made it 20-14, and later, after an Arizona punt put Pittsburgh on their own one-yard line, a holding penalty in the end zone made it 20-16.  The (0,6) square comes out of nowhere to make an appearance, and puts a wrinkle into the final score.

We all know that the actual game got exciting from there, as each team scored a touchdown to make the final score 27-23 Pittsburgh.  

As great as last year's game was, with the undefeated team and the upset and all, it only produced five different scoring plays.  This year's Super Bowl had all the excitement, nine scoring plays, three near or called back scoring plays and Bruce Springsteen (you could bet on which songs he played).  For the football fan who had no rooting interest in this game, I don't think it gets much more exciting.