Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won their second Super Bowl in four years and sixth in franchise history. The Steelers have now won more Super Bowls than any other NFL franchise.

The game was one of the better in the Super Bowl canon. While the Steelers led for most of the game the Cardinals didn't roll over and play dead. That could have very easily happened at the end of the first half. The Cardinals were at the goal line when Steelers linebacker James Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals QB Kurt Warner. Harrison ran 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 17-7 lead after the extra point. It is the longest play in Super Bowl history. If not for the interception the Cardinals might have taken the lead or tied it with a field goal.

The Steelers had a 20-7 lead at the beginning of the 4th quarter. But Warner engineered a drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to make the score 20-14 after the extra point. The Cardinals caught a break later in the quarter. It appeared that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had thrown a completed pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes from their own end zone. But an offensive holding penalty gave the Cardinals a safety which meant the score was now 20-16. Minutes later, Warner threw yet another touchdown pass to Fitzgerald to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 23-20 after the extra point.

However, there was still 2:37 left in the game. Plenty of time for Roethlisberger to do damage. Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to 18 comeback victories in the 4th quarter including five times this season. Make that 19. With only 35 seconds left in the game, Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Holmes to give the Steelers back the lead. After the extra point, the Steelers led 27-23.

Warner had one last chance. He did throw two completed passes and was in Pittsburgh territory but on the next play he couldn't get out of the pocket and linebacker LaMarr Woodley forced a fumble which effectively dashed the Cardinals hopes of a Super Bowl victory and a comeback triumph for Warner. Steelers won 27-23.

Santonio Holmes was named Super Bowl MVP. He caught nine passes (including the game winning touchdown) for 131 yards.

Kurt Warner deserved a better fate. He completed 31 out of 43 passes, threw 3 touchdowns against one interception (albeit a very memorable one.) His 377 yards were the second most by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. Second only to himself when he threw for 414 yards during his Super Bowl XXXIV triumph with the Rams. Warner also has the third highest passed yards in Super Bowl history when he threw for 365 yards in the 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. So Warner made it the Super Bowl three times and passed for over 350 yards in each game. Yet most fans will remember that he lost two of the three Super Bowls in which he played. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has won his second Super Bowl in only his fifth professional season and isn't even 27. Warner didn't experience his first NFL success until he was 28.

Well, Warner will enjoy starting for the NFC in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu next Sunday. He then becomes a free agent. There is speculation that Warner will retire and give over the QB reins to Matt Leinart. Warner and the Cardinals might have not won today. Warner might not end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame either. But he has enjoyed an extraordinary journey and has made the most of his adventures on the gridiron, win or lose. If nothing else he has lived a life that he was not clearly destined to live. As I stated in my article faith and perseverance are their own rewards. These are rewards that cannot be found inscribed on a trophy. Nor are these rewards that can ever be taken away from him.

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