I’m not sure whether it was the deep dark chocolate cake, pigs wrapped in bacon, or the over-hyped commercials, but I struggled to pay close attention to the NFL’s biggest game. Regardless, I have some thoughts on Super Bowl XLV. And yes, I know no one cares.
First of all, let’s give the Green Bay Packers credit for overcoming injuries at nearly every position en route to winning the franchise’s first title since Brett Favre ruled Lambeau. The healthier teams normally decide titles, so Green Bay’s success is rare and should be celebrated or at the very least, appreciated. Ted Thompson deserves a year off. Maybe the lockout will give it to him.
Let’s also acknowledge Aaron Rodgers’ impeccable play over the last two months. In my opinion, Rodgers leapfrogged Roethlisberger, Rivers, and Brees on the NFL quarterback ladder. He’s closing in on Manning and Brady, too. I understand that’s a big statement, but Rodgers’ playoff performance wasn’t a flash in a pan. He’s that good, and at 27, he’s just entering his prime. Maybe riding the pine behind Favre for three years wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Needless to say, as a Philadelphia Eagle fan, I’m petrified.
As for the game, I will politely ask Steeler fans to refrain from using the phrase, “The Steelers gave it away.”
Truth is… the Packers took it away.
I think I’m the only person who believes there are two types of turnovers; forced and unforced. If you look back on Pittsburgh’s three turnovers, you’ll see that all three were forced. (If you’re wondering, an example of an unforced turnover is Ray Rice’s lazy fumble in the 3rd quarter of the AFC Divisional Round, or Michael Vick’s game clinching interception on Wildcard Weekend, or Eli Manning diving to the ground in Philadelphia and fumbling the ball away.) Now let’s look at the Steeler turnovers.
Pittsburgh’s first turnover was a Roethlisberger interception returned by Nick Collins for a touchdown. It was a great play by the defensive linemen to make contact with Roethlisberger’s arm and disrupt the throw. Roethlisberger didn’t make a mistake. The defense simply made a play. Verdict: Forced.
The Steelers’ second turnover was another interception. This time, Packer defensive back, Jarrett Bush broke on a pass across the middle and picked it off. Roethlisberger did a poor job of locating Bush. Bush did an excellent job of reading Roethlisberger. Verdict: Forced.
The third turnover committed by Pittsburgh came when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the football on 2nd and 2 on the first play of the 4th quarter. I’m willing to divide this one evenly between forced and unforced. Mendenhall only had one arm around the football –a no-no after contact – but Clay Matthews also delivered a big hit to dislodge the ball. Verdict: 50-50.
Yes, the Steelers lost Super Bowl XLV because they turned the ball over. However, as you can see, the Packers forced those turnovers more than the Steelers gave them away. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the vaunted Pittsburgh defense forced exactly zero turnovers of its own. If you’re unwilling to credit the Packers for forcing three turnovers while committing none, look at it this way: The Packer defense outperformed the Steeler offense. Likewise, the Packer offense outperformed the Steeler defense. Cut it, spin it, flip it, do whatever you’d like with it. The outcome doesn’t change. The Packers beat the Steelers.
Back to the Mendenhall fumble. I’m not one for criticizing media types. However, Peter King calling Mendenhall’s fumble “the biggest single mistake of the game for Pittsburgh” was a little drastic. I understand the fumble occurred in the 4th quarter with the Steelers driving for the lead. Still, how was that fumble any more significant than the Roethlisberger interception that directly resulted in a Packer touchdown? At least with Mendenhall’s fumble the Steeler defense had the opportunity to limit the damage. Obviously, they failed miserably to do so, but the opportunity was there nonetheless.
Instead of calling out Mendenhall for his lone mistake, King should have called out Roethlisberger for his mediocre play. The two interceptions were of course costly, but let’s not forget the poor throw to Mike Wallace late in the 3rd quarter. A better throw and Pittsburgh takes a three point lead and grabs momentum heading into the final quarter of play. Instead, the throw missed, the drive stalled and Mendenhall fumbled on the ensuing drive with the Steelers still down four.
If Donovan McNabb or Philip Rivers miss that throw and then come up short on the game’s final drive with a chance to win, you better believe they’re getting ripped. But when Roethlisberger came up short King decided to call out the running back? Huh?
In a game where Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and the entire Steeler defense came up ridiculously small, it’s seems a little unfair to blame the loss on a running back. You can’t kiss superstars’ rear-ends all season and then choose to ignore when they have almost no impact on the biggest game of the season.
I’m just saying.