Game No. 7 – Arizona Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XLIII (2/1/2009)
With the pinnacle game of the NFL season nearby, I am going back through the archives to discuss the top ten Super Bowls of all time. Our number seven game featured two buarterbacks that had already had the fortune of winning a Super Bowl. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals had won Super Bowl XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers had won Super Bowl XL. Both faced off for their second ring in Super Bowl XLIII
The Pittsburgh Steelers came out strong, going 4-1 and then went 8-3 after the bye week to finish with the AFC North Division Title at 12-4 and locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC, earning a first round bye.
QB Ben Roethlisberger led the team with 3301 passing yards and 17 touchdowns while RB’s Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore led the way on the ground with 791 and 588 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns each. WRs Hines Ward (1043 yards, seven touchdowns) and Santonio Holmes (821 yards, five touchdowns) paced the offense. They also had the number one ranked defense in the NFL, led by LB’s James Harrison (later the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year) (16 sacks), LaMarr Woodley (11.5 sacks), and James Farrior (133 tackles, 3.5 sacks), and SS Troy Polamalu (seven interceptions).
Their divisional matchup was against the San Diego Chargers, who the Steelers narrowly defeated in week 11, 11-10. This game was a bit higher scoring as they won 35-24. The AFC Championship against Baltimore saw the defense step up, as a crucial interception by Polamalu turned into a touchdown that put them ahead by the final score of 23-14, clinching their second trip to the Super Bowl in four years.
The 2008 Arizona Cardinals took a different road to the playoffs. They thought their starting QB would be Matt Leinart, but Kurt Warner outplayed him in preseason and took the job back. He would lead them to a stunning 4-2 record going into the bye week. They then proceeded to go 5-5 the rest of the way and narrowly won the NFC West with a 9-7 record. Needless to say they were pretty much being overlooked by everyone going into the playoffs with the fourth seed in the NFC.
Despite being 37, Warner still managed to have a phenomenal year, throwing for 4583 yards and 30 touchdowns. Rookie Running Back Tim Hightower had just 399 yards rushing, but had 10 Touchdowns and they had three Wide Receivers reach the 1000 yard mark. Larry Fitzgerald (1431 yards, 12 touchdowns), Anquan Boldin (1038 yards, 11 touchdowns), and Steve Breaston (1006 yards, 3 touchdowns) were the first to accomplish that feat since the 2004 Indianapolis Colts (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley). The defense was led by LB Karlos Dansby (119 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions) and SS Adrian Wilson (75 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions).
Their wild card matchup pitted them against another surprise team, the Atlanta Falcons. Arizona would come out on top of a highly contested game, 30-24. Their divisional showdown was against the Carolina Panthers and most expected Carolina to dominate as they had won their week 8 matchup 27-23. However, the playoff game wouldn’t be as tightly contested as their regular season matchup as Arizona dominated 33-13 behind Larry Fitzgerald’s 166 yards and a touchdown and six turnovers from Carolina QB Jake Delhomme.
They then faced the heavily favored Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. This game looked to be one-sided as Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals to a 24-6 lead at halftime with three touchdown catches. The Eagles would catch up in the third quarter and it was 24-20 going into the fourth quarter. The Eagles struck first with a 62 Yard touchdown from Donovan McNabb to DeSean Jackson, putting them in the lead 27-24. However, Warner would throw his fourth touchdown pass of the day and the Cardinals would hold on to win 32-25. They had clinched a Super Bowl berth for the first time in team history.
The first quarter of the Super Bowl was relatively quiet as the Steelers struck first with an 18 yard Field Goal from Jeff Reed and were up 3-0 going into the second quarter.
They would extend the lead to 10-0 in the second quarter, with a one yard run from Gary Russell. This time, the Cardinals came back and scored on a one yard pass from Warner to TE Ben Patrick, but the big play was right before the half. Warner was driving the Cardinals down the field and they were in the red zone. However, he would throw a bad pass that was picked off by James Harrison and taken back 100 yards for a Touchdown, putting Pittsburgh up 17-7 at the half.
The third quarter was much like the first, quiet with just a 21 yard Field Goal from Reed, putting Pittsburgh in total control with a 20-7 lead with just one quarter left.
The Cardinals would not go down without a fight though, and would score on a one yard pass from Warner to Fitzgerald, making it 20-14. Then, Arizona Punter Ben Graham would punt the ball and put the Steelers on their own two yard line and an Unnecessary Roughness penalty would put them on their own one yard line. Then, Steelers Center Justin Hartwig would commit a Holding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a Safety and that made the score 20-16 and we have ourselves a ballgame.
The Cardinals would come right back riding the momentum and scored quickly on a 64 yard strike from Warner to Fitzgerald, putting them ahead for the first time 23-20 with 2:37 left to play.
The Steelers faltered on their first play of their next drive, committing another holding penalty, making it 1st-and-20 on their own 12 yard line. That is when Big Ben found Santonio Holmes for 14 yards and then an incomplete pass took them to the two minute warning and a 3rd-and-6. Roethlisberger would again find Homes for a 13 yard gain and a first down. They then went to the no huddle and Roethlisberger found Nate Washington for 11 yards and then scrambled for four more yards before calling their second timeout with 1:02 left to play. That’s when Roethlisberger and Holmes connected with the big play. Roethlisberger threw a little short pass to Holmes and he broke a few tackles for a 40 yard gain that put them on Arizona’s six yard line. They used their final timeout with 49 seconds left. Roethlisberger would try again for Holmes, but the pass would fall incomplete.
The next play was magical. With 42 seconds left, Roethlisberger scrambled to keep the play alive and found Holmes triple covered in the corner of the end zone and he made a phenomenal catch and kept his feet in to give Pittsburgh the lead 27-23 with 35 second left. That gave Arizona one last chance.
Warner would throw a 20 yard pass to Fitzgerald and call timeout with 22 second left. Then, he completed a pass to RB J.J. Arrington for 13 yards and called another timeout with 15 seconds left. Then, the end finally came. Warner was sacked by Woodley and fumbled the ball and Pittsburgh recovered the fumble. Big Ben came out and kneeled the ball for the game’s final play and the Pittsburgh Steelers had won Super Bowl XLIII.
This game had it all and that is why we have named it our number seven Super Bowl game of All-Time. Stay tuned for the rest of our Top 10 coming up in the next few weeks. Any questions or concerns, feel free to email us at Derek@Sportmeisters.com or Ryan@Sportmeisters.com .