BTSC Super Bowl Coverage:
An Early Salute To The Free Agents
One Play Helps Define The Season
Hmm, where to start?? Just a few talking points from me before I make a more settled down and less emotional crack at breaking down this game.
* Ben Roethlisberger! You know what's so fantastically exciting about this franchise's future? Big Ben still has his best years ahead of him. At just 26 years of age, Ben has not yet approached his ceiling in terms of consistent play at the toughest position in all of professional sports. He again made a few mistakes against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, but yet again, when it was do-or-die time, Ben delivered in spades. We'll get in to his final drive in greater detail soon enough.
For the day though, Roethlisberger finished 21/30 for 256 yards with 1 TD and 1 unfortunate INT.
Much more after the break.
* Bruce Arians! Outside of our typically frustrating red zone woes, our offense was very solid against the Cardinals. I did think that we could have run the ball more successfully but I loved the way we utilized Heath Miller in particular (sign that Arians truly has been evolving), and I loved the way that Hines Ward had an impact on the game without catching more than two passes. We'll get into Arians' future with this organization soon enough, but give the man his due for some very solid play calling all evening.
Not convinced? Well, we had a 16 play drive that ended in points; an 11 play drive that ended in points; and 9 and 8 play drives that also yielded points.
* On to the other much maligned unit on the squad - the offensive line. I'll provide some frame by frame breakdowns of what they did right soon enough, but for now let's give them credit for giving Ben the time he needed on that final drive. Ben had lots of time to survey the field when he led the team on the final 78 yard drive to win it, including on the last play to Holmes where Ben had time to pump fake, scan the entire back of the endzone and deliver a laser to the corner over the outstretched arms of one defender and in between two others.
The knock on the line today was the inordinate number of penalties - many of which were extremely critical in terms of the flow of the game. More on the penalties from both teams this week.
* Jeff Reed - 5/5 on his kicks today. None too challenging but we needed them all.
* LaMarr Woodley continues his streak of playoff games with at least two sacks. He already had an NFL record by starting his career with 3 such games. Make that 4 and counting. W00t.
* Wow, what a play by the Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison to close the 1st half. There were many 'game-changing' plays in this one - like our initial TD being overruled via challenge to start the game - but none were more important than his. Arizona, which had a sure 3 in the bag and perhaps even 7, saw themselves down 10 at half after responding from an intial 10-0 deficit with aplomb.
* Speaking of the composure demonstrated by Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals - and not just on offense either; their D stepped up to at certain points - hats off to Coach Ken Whisenhunt, Coach Russ Grimm and the rest of the Cardinals organization for one helluva game. Lets hope that Mr. Bidwell doesn't try to do things on the cheap in the near future because I think we all got a very big taste of just how dynamic and capable that Cards team is and what tremendous leadership they're getting from Whiz, Warner & Co.
A real quick word about Anquan Boldin too. Pay the guy. He's money and a really good person to boot, no matter what his emotions may lead him to do on the sideline from time to time.
* I need to devote an entire post to this but the penalties in this game from both teams were staggering - both in terms of the volume of infractions, the bone-headed nature of some of them, as well as how they more or less evened out by the time the final snap had been taken.
* Isn't it just beautiful how the offense bails out the defense for much of the playoffs after a season long dance with greatness from the D. The Cards racked up 400+ yards on the evening - 64 on that final Fitzgerald TD and 377 through the air for Warner by game's end. That number was the highest number allowed all year by LeBeau's defense. Troy Polamalu in particular struggled I thought, but without having seen the footage of what exactly was going on in the secondary, I'd rather not comment just yet.
One thing that shocked me - or rather, disappointed me a bit - was the fact that the Cardinals running backs had so much success catching the football and running for positive yardage after the catch. James and Hightower combined for 63 receiving yards. That's unheard of for us really and definitely gave the Cardinals a different kind of rushing attack of sorts - at least in terms of ways to dink and dunk cautiously while putting their guys in 1-on-1 situations in space to make a guy miss and gobble up positive yardage. Throw in some missed tackles and you have 400+ yards and 377 through the air for Warner by game's end.
Matters not anyway - everyone did their job on both sides of the football at various points in this game. More than the Cards success being a product of poor defense, I think it was instead the simple axiom that great offense beats great defense any and every day of the week. For much of the game, the Cards were just one step ahead of what we were trying to do defensively. Being that it was a two-time MVP QB'ing them, and a fantastic single game coach in Whisenhunt leading the charge, this isn't a huge shock.
In the end though, like I said, it was a complete effort from all sides. The special teams made a few plays after a few errors; the defense shut down the Cards after a ST blunder threatened to give the Cards cheap points; the offense delivered to start and finish the game, with some hiccups in between. The offensive line was unable to pave the way for a steady running attack, but only allowed Ben to be sacked two times while giving him plenty of time to find guys down the field at other moments.
The coaching was fantastic, despite the fact that as always, Monday Morning QBs could find fault in this or that. Bottom line though is we came ready to play. We were fired up, believed in ourselves, and when it was all said and done, seized the moment and brought home the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy. No other team in the league can say as much.