Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamnnn, that was a game of MF football. I haven’t watched a ton of NFL games in my life but that was the best I’ve ever seen. An amazing four hours or so of remarkable athleticism and drama.
The favoured Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a commanding start, quickly showing their dominance and getting over the line on their first drive only to have the touchdown denied by the video challenge. The Steelers ended the possession with a 18 yard field-goal to take the early lead.
Early in the second, the Steelers muscled over the line to make the first touch-down and extend their lead 10-0. As the commentators told us that ten points was the largest deficit ever come back from in a Superbowl is when I started to ge the feeling that this was set to be either a blow-out or history. Arizona countered with a touch-down of their own and at 10-7 we seemed to have a game on our hands.
Pittsburgh drove and punted. Arizona drove and punted. Then things got exciting. At 2nd and 4, Roethlisberger’s short pass was deflected and intercepted. Arizona advanced finally getting the ball to the safe hands of Larry Fitzgerald. With a first down at the Pittsburgh 1, and Fitzgerald finally active in the game, the Cardinals seemed poised to strike. Kurt Warner, the quarter-back hero of the post-season, shot a pass to the corner only for it to be intercepted by line-backer James Harrison who made a miraculous run up the field, ducking and weaving like to big-man I’ve ever seen, to score a 100 yard touch-down, the longest in Superbowl history, leaving a litter of red jerseys in his wake.
With another field-goal early in the third, the Steelers were up 20-7 and things were looking grim for anyone hoping for some kind of competition. Were the naysayers right? Were the Cardinals just happy to be here and realising they were outgunned, would be happy to leave without too much embarrassment? The third quarter quietly rolled on and everyone at my house became more interested in the hot-dogs and beer (seriously – delicious).
Down 13, the Cardinals needed a miracle, and that miracle had a name – Larry Fitzgerald. Half-way into the last quarter Warner got a beautiful lob pass to Fitzerald for the touch-down (20-14). After a drive and a punt each, the Steelers are penalised for holding in their end zone and get called for a safety (20-16). This is where things got crazy. With two-and-a-half minutes to go, Warner finds Fitgerald in the middle who speeds of to a 64 yard touch-down. Man, this guy is fast. Had the Cardinals won, he would have been MVP for sure breaking all sorts of post-season records in the process.
With the Cardinals up 23-20 with 2:30 to play, Pittsburgh’s start quarter-back Ben Roethlisberger threw-out the playbook and took control of the ball game. On three of the next four plays, Roethlisberger paused and dodged and faked and ducked and somehow found Santonio Holmes for the catch no matter how open or covered he was. Roethlisberger to Holmes advanced the Steelers 67 yards to a 1st and goal at the 6. Roethlisberger played like a schoolyard genius, doing whatever he could do to stay calm, upright, and in possession until he saw the play click. After choking his way to a Superbowl win three years ago (it seems popular to say that the Steelers won despite him) Roethlisberger didn’t flinch at all in the final moments. It’s the big players making the big plays. And with 42 seconds to play, he made the biggest play, firing the ball to Holmes in the corner of the end zone despite him being covered by three men. Homes made the catch that will go down in history, barely managing to plant his pointed toes on solid ground and complete a balletic touch-down that was one of the calmed, most controlled, body movements from a man of such size that I’ve ever seen. Knowing exactly what he had to do with his toes to make the play count, resisting the urge just to jump a little bit higher. Football genius.
The Steelers made the conversion and took the lead 27-2. A desperate drive up the field lead to a Warner fumble and the game was over. The Pittsburgh Steelers had narrowly escaped a historic comeback in a Superbowl that will replay on highlight reels and ESPN Classics for generations to come.