Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson celebrate as the Packers seal a win, and a 13th World Championship - AP
Confetti fell from the rafters in Cowboys Stadium Sunday, Terry Bradshaw stood on a podium with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the triumphant trio of Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson, and Mark Murphy were there to receive that trophy. After 14 long years, after the most controversial personnel move in NFL history, and after a season full of injuries to key players, the Green Bay Packers stood victorious as World Champions for the 13th time.
As the great Jim Irwin once said, “The Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming home!”
It was a gut wrenching battle for most of the game. Many predicted a close, tight game and that’s exactly what we got. Some wondered if the Packers lack of Super Bowl experience might hurt them, turns out they weren’t the ones that came out looking nervous.
The Packers would strike first and often in the first half of this Super Bowl. The first score of the game came on a fantastic throw from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson that went 29 yards. Things were rolling early in the passing game, but the defense would make the next big play…
Following the kickoff return after the Nelson touchdown (which because of a penalty pinned Pittsburgh back at their own 7), Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to throw. Mike Wallace was running free, he had probably a step or maybe a little more on Tramon Williams. What Roethlisberger wasn’t expecting, though, was Howard Green who pushed through the offensive line up the middle and hit Roethlisberger’s arm as he wound up to throw. A wounded duck came out, ending up well short of Wallace, but not short of Nick Collins who made the interception. Collins then raced 37 yards and dove into the end zone for the touchdown. Just like that the Packers were up 14-0 and everyone in Wisconsin was feeling great.
After a Pittsburgh field goal made it 14-3, Rodgers went back to work with 4:28 left in the first half. Starting from their own 47, the offense would need just 4 plays to find the end zone as Rodgers found Greg Jennings up the middle and with a pinpoint accurate throw made it a 21-3 game. Suddenly it wasn’t a question of if Green Bay would win, it was a question of by how much.
The final possession of the half for Pittsburgh would be a disastrous one for Green Bay. Pittsburgh went right down the field and answered the Packers late score, making it a much more manageable 21-10 at halftime. On that drive CB and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson went down with a broken collarbone and postseason star Sam Shields also left. The Packers were left with Pro Bowler Tramon Williams, and pretty much nobody else. Sure, they were winning, but it kind of felt like Green Bay was losing at half.
The Packers offense would stall badly in the 3rd quarter. 4 punts. And Pittsburgh found their way back into the game, getting a TD on their first second half possession and making it a 21-17 lead for Green Bay. No team had ever come back from a 10+ point halftime deficit in the Super Bowl, but Pittsburgh was making it interesting.
The 4th quarter started with a bang, though. Literally. On the first play of the quarter Roethlisberger handed the ball to Rashard Mendenhall and he was met a couple yards in the backfield by Ryan Pickett, and your Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Clay Matthews. Matthews got a helmet on Mendenhall’s arm, and that jarred the ball loose. Des Bishop recovered and the Green Bay defense had stopped a very promising drive for Pittsburgh that looked destined to end in a lead changing TD.
Green Bay took the ball with 14:50 left, marched 55 yards, and got the second Greg Jennings TD of the day. 28-17 Packers, and time is running out on Pittsburgh. But boy did they give it one heck of a run.
Roethlisberger responded to the Green Bay TD by getting one of his own on a pass to Mike Wallace. Then they went college on everybody and ran a triple option play to get a 2 point conversion. 28-25 Packers, but Pittsburgh has life again.
Rodgers was calm, cool, and collected, and he responded. He led a fabulous drive (aided by a 33 yard completion to Greg Jennings that was an ankle tackle by Troy Polamalu away from being a TD) all the way down to the Pittsburgh 5 yard line. But the drive stalled. A third down incompletion in the end zone intended for Jordy Nelson meant the Packers had to settle for a field goal. 31-25 Packers, but Big Ben had done this before against Arizona a couple years back. He knows what it’s like to lead a Super Bowl winning drive.
After the kickoff, the Steelers took the ball from their own 13 (a personal foul on the kickoff contributed to the bad field position). Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 15 yards to start the drive, and millions in Wisconsin were on the edge of their seats. We’d seen this game before against Philadelphia in the Wild Card and against Chicago in the Conference Championship. Did the defense have it in them to do it again? For the next 3 downs they did their job. And suddenly it was 4th and 5. One play either continues the game, or it ends the game. Roethlisberger dropped back, he fired the ball to Mike Wallace who leapt up. It hit him in the hands, but Tramon Williams made a play and knocked it out. The ball hit the ground, the Steelers turned the ball over on downs, and millions of Cheeseheads celebrated. The defense saved the day again, and the Packers were world champs once again.
Rodgers took the requisite knees and was named game MVP afterwords, Mike McCarthy got his Gatorade bath, and all of Wisconsin rejoiced. After everything that’s happened to this team this year, and in the last 4 or 5 years, the Green Bay Packers had reached the top of the football mountain.
Titletown was finally the home of the titleholders once again.
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