Not the best football game I’ve ever seen, but this Super Bowl comes very close to the top of the list. Going into the game, I thought one of two things would happen: 1. The Steelers win a defensive battle, or 2. The Cardinals win in a shootout.
Turns out I was right...sort of.
In a combination of offense and defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a Cardinal comeback in the fourth quarter to finish as the best football team in the world. Here are three reasons the Steelers earned their sixth world championship:
1. The Last Play of the First Half
Talk about momentum changers. In case you weren’t watching, the Cardinals had the ball in Pittsburgh’s red zone with the first half winding down. The score was 10-7, and all signs were pointing towards the Cardinals at least tying the game before halftime. As you have most likely seen dozens of times by now, Warner threw a pick to James Harrison, who ran it back 100 yards to claim the longest play in Super Bowl history.
Major props to the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator for the play call on that down. The Steelers defense wasn’t all that impressive tonight, but that call—a fake blitz by Harrison—was perfect. Harrison isn’t the tallest linebacker, and Warner instinctively thought he had blitzed. Couldn’t have worked out better for Pittsburgh.
That play took the score from a 10-10 tie at worst at halftime, to a 17-7 two-possession game with huge Steeler momentum. (Although the super-long Super Bowl halftime show probably diminished that.)
2. Mr. Poise Roethlisberger
If Big Ben was nervous in his last Super Bowl appearance, he certainly wasn’t tonight. He stepped up and made the big plays when he needed to, and used his fantastic scrambling ability (also known as ducking and weaving) to avoid the dangerous Arizona defensive line.
Some of that credit goes to amazing catches by Pittsburgh.
3. The Santonio Holmes Touchdown
Every kid dreams of the opportunity to make the catch that Holmes did with just seconds remaining. In the right corner of the end zone Holmes killed his legs a la Cris Carter (who wasn’t inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. An amazing travesty, but another story).
It was a questionable call, but there obviously wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the touchdown call. His foot was tucked behind the other, and it wasn’t clear whether or not that one touched the turf. Only one camera view made me think twice—and the right call was obviously made.
Here are three reasons the Cardinals stuck close at the end:
1. The Last Play of the Second Half
Yes, I know. I have amazing creativity when it comes to naming the most important play of the 2008 NFL season. The inability of the Cardinal offense to tackle James Harrison on his run-back probably cost them the game.
The fact that Fitzgerald caught up with Harrison at the one-yard-line confuses me. Assuming he came from the other side of the field, I’m sure he had enough speed to catch Harrison before that point. Right? Maybe he was going directly at the goal line just to be sure that he could reach Harrison.
Regardless, the Cardinals looked eerily similar to the Vikings’ special teams unit on that run back. They couldn’t buy a tackle.
2. Mr. Kurt Warner
Probably the biggest reason the Cardinals stayed within breathing distance of the Steelers was because of the veteran leadership of Warner. He made the biggest mistake of the game, but was very solid the rest. If the Vikings can somehow convince Warner and Co. to play next year in Minnesota (assuming he plays at all), I will be a very happy man.
3. The Safety and Arizona’s Goal-line Defense
Everybody loves goal-line stands. One of the biggest momentum-changers in football is a safety. When a Pittsburgh offensive lineman was charged with holding in the end zone, Arizona had huge momentum and two points tacked onto the board. Not the biggest increase in points, but it led to additional Arizona points.
Clearly an entertaining football game. These two teams were very well matched against each other. If you didn’t get the chance to watch it, well...let’s just say that you have my pity.