I was at a local bar with fans last night watching Super Bowl XLIII and judging from the reactions, they were either Cardinal supporters or impartial fans.
I was actually sitting next to a guy who was a longtime Mets and Dolphins fan. He told me he hated the following teams, in no particular order: Cowboys, Raiders and Yankees.
In the middle of finishing off a small batch of chicken fingers, Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers down field with big plays to Hines Ward and Heath Miller on their opening drive.
I pointed out to a couple of guys next to me (who were rooting for Arizona) that Ben could sneak it in and sure enough he tried the same rushing play as he did in Super Bowl XL when he was short of the goal line but the ruling was a touchdown.
This time, he tried the same thing but I noticed his knee was down and I was patted on the back for my awareness.
From there, the game was kind of dull until I sensed Arizona had the momentum.
When the Cardinals drove to the one-yard line, everyone knew they were going to score....that was until James Harrison picked off Warner and nearly stumbled 100 yards for the greatest momentum-changing play in a Super Bowl I had ever seen.
After Pittsburgh took a 20-7 lead, I told the guy next to me that if Arizona did not score a touchdown the game would be over.
Play after play, the bar reached a crescendo.
We witnessed maybe the greatest, most heart-wrenching fourth quarter in the history of the game.
I had never gripped a bar table harder than I had in that time period.
Kurt Warner was nothing short of spectacular, one of the greatest rallies I had ever seen.
Play after play, the bar was on edge and I could feel the game reaching its climax.
Then it happened. Warner threw the perfect fade to Fitzgerald who made a Tyree-esque catch for the score and everyone knew the Cardinals had a chance.
After Arizona pinned Pittsburgh at the one-yard, we held hands during the Steelers' third-and-10 play and when Santonio Holmes caught Roethlisberger's pass to convert for a first down we figured the game was over there.
When the "flag" sign flashed on the scoreboard, we didn't know what was going on and as holding was called on Pittsburgh in the end zone that was the moment where I said, "Kurt Warner was meant to win this game."
It was 20-16 with with 3:04 left. What happened next was....well, insane.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, the bar exploded as Warner hit Fitzgerald over the middle and the game's best receiver turned on the afterburners.
I high-fived people I didn't even know as the Cardinals took a 23-20 lead.
But that's when I had a flashback.
A flashback to last year.
Perfection intact until Eli Manning took it all away.
Flash forward a year and there was 2:37 left on the clock. I kept repeating "too much time" to the guys I was hovering around but overtime was still a possibility.
We all watched as Roethlisberger escaped sacks and made clutch play after clutch play before making the go-ahead pass to Holmes with 35 seconds left.
We all shook our heads as Big Ben got out of three potential sacks. He was Montana and Elway on the same drive, pure guts.
What some people did NOT see was Holmes' mockery of LeBron James' pre-game powder routine after he scored and had the referees seen that, maybe the Cardinals get better field position.
You never know.
As Warner guided Arizona down the field for a chance at an improbable touchdown, I said to a random guy "If this comes down to a Hail Mary, I'm gonna be sick."
We then prepared for the greatest finish in Super Bowl history.....a finish that unfortunately, never came.
I watched replay after replay on my computer and on television. It is still questionable if Warner fumbled a would-be Hail Mary pass with five seconds left.
The momentum swings in that fourth quarter were enough to make you dizzy. It really made me think which finish was better, last year or this year.
The two game-winning drives were eerily similar only in this Super Bowl, there was no controversial, hated villain that everyone would prayed to see get defeated.
Still, in the back of my mind, I kept saying, "What if Warner got that pass off and had a chance at the greatest finish ever?"
Would a receiver have caught it? We'll never know.
I walked out of the bar into the bitter cold somewhat disappointed but happy that I got to see a classic game.
When I got back to my apartment, I subscribed to NFL.com's Game Rewind and watched the full fourth quarter.
On second thought....maybe the final pass was incomplete and Warner deserved a second chance.
Hey, you never know.
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