Super Bowl 43 exceeded all expectations. The true-to-life classic showdown and clutch gamesmanship on the field trumped the paper match-ups, preceding commentary, and the Las Vegas line that called for another Pittsburgh Steelers blowout. The happenings leading up to this National Holiday predicted a pedestrian event.
The Big Game proved to be far from ordinary. Super Bowl XLIII served as the perfect end cap of a wacky NFL season that witnessed its top player felled by injury in Game 1, the San Diego Chargers left for dead and marching through the NFL Playoffs at 8-8, and Plaxico Burress ruining the New York Giant’s season by shooting his own self in the foot – off the field.
These very same Arizona Cardinals were mocked as a Super Bowl afterthought sparked by a has-been graybeard quarterback throughout this Miracle Season.
Both ball clubs were battle tested and performed valiantly. The fact that the event must ultimately finish with one team holding the lead as time expires is the only disappointment found amidst this thriller. Yes, the cliché holds. There were no losers at Super Bowl XLIII.
Super Bowl XLIII may be classified into Three Acts:
1: True to Form.
2: Arizona Shocks the World.
3: Ben Roethlisberger
1: Pittsburgh Steelers versus Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl XLIII Plays out to Form:
The opening stanza of this Drama played out true to form. Pittsburgh’s swarming defense, effective rushing attack, and the steady hand of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger controlled the game. Warner and Co. degenerated towards their paralyzing Arizona Football product roots. The group showed up, but exhibited no interest in execution – stumbling through the first quarter mired amidst a “happy to be here” daze.
The Pittsburgh Steelers controlled the football for 12:27 out of the 15 minute first quarter and rolled to a 10-0 lead early into the second period. Ben Roethlisberger had already made amends for his gruesome Super Bowl XL performance with his brilliant 7-8 118- yard first period quarterbacking clinic. Big Ben’s only miscue was the challenged reversal of his short touchdown dive and the subsequent goal line Darnell Dockett stop of his next attempt.
Meanwhile, the high-powered Arizona Cardinals offense had been shutdown. Penalty, miscues, conservative play calling, and one fumble by Kurt Warner marred the disastrous opening drive. Clearly, the Arizona Cinderella fairy tale was dead.
Pittsburgh would then ratchet up its top-ranked defense, control the clock with Willie Parker, and expose the Arizona Cardinals organization as hapless pretenders unable to thwart the inevitable sixth Super Bowl ring coronation of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the Greatest Franchise of All Time. Gritty Western Pennsylvania reveled with bloodlust – whipping the Black and Gold Terrible Towel into a maddening frenzy.
The Big Game was to indeed play to form.
2: Arizona Shocks the World at Super Bowl XLIII
The Cardinals prove to be down, but not out. Arizona takes possession down 0-10 at their own 17 and executes four consecutive pass plays. The play calling foreshadows the obvious fact that the ultimate Super Bowl XLIII Fate of this snake bitten franchise lands squarely upon the veteran 28,000-yard arm of Kurt Warner.
Kurt Warner delivers.
The gun slinging flurry of high-octane offense is an array of patient lobs to outlet receivers, one 45-yard connection to Anquan Boldin, and the resulting 1-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to seldom used tight end Ben Patrick. The scoring drive is vintage Warner and the Cardinal brain trust ditches the “establish running game” ruse in favor of the bold accuracy of their franchise quarterback.
The two offenses trade possessions with punts at 10-7, until a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage gift-wraps Karlos Dansby’s interception of Ben Roethlisberger deep within Pittsburgh territory. The Arizona Cardinals march to the brink of the goal line with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
The following play will transcend time as the ultimate example of coaching gamesmanship, athleticism, drama, and the absolute epitome of sheer momentum reversal timing.
Kurt Warner drops back, intending to hit Anquan Boldin in the clear on the basic short hitch pattern. Pittsburgh outside linebacker and NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison spies the action, feints to vacate the area via blitz, only to return to his original zone directly within Boldin’s path, and intercept the football.
The 250 pound man then begins to rumble, shimmy, and power his way for 100 yards towards the end zone as the first-half clock expires. The longest play in Super Bowl history results with the exhausted Harrison landing upon the legs of the hustling Larry Fitzgerald at the threshold of the goal line. Of course, the critical play is to be reviewed by officials.
The ruling: Pittsburgh 17 – Arizona 7.
The Pittsburgh defense saves the day, yet again. The momentum swings from a potential 14-10 Arizona lead to the improbable touchdown score and 17-7 hole in one fell, 100-yard swoop.
Still, the Cardinals have shocked the world simply by demonstrating the ability to compete at this level. Halftime analysts and commentators all rationalize that Arizona must continue to execute this very same game plan in order to claim the Lombardi Trophy.
UNC alum field goal kicker Jeff Reed then booted a 21-yard third quarter field goal to increase the Pittsburgh lead to thirteen points, shortly thereafter. Even this rudimentary score was not without drama as Pittsburgh put these three points back upon the board after a curious roughing penalty against Arizona bankrolled the Steelers with a fresh set of downs inside the Arizona 5 -yard line.
The Arizona Cardinals simply did not back down. The Cards refused to submit to the machinations of the powerful Pittsburgh franchise, replete with its stout defense, rifle-armed quarterback, rabid fan base, and opportunistic schemes.
After exchanging another round of punts at 20-7, Kurt Warner then rallied the troops into a Super Bowl fourth quarter that defies all explanation. Again, the wild finish parallels this wacky 2008-2009 NFL Season that is the result of legislated free agent-salary cap spending parity. The Arizona quarterback set off the festivities with an 8-play, 3:57 quick-strike touchdown drive to reduce the margin to 20-14.
Again, both defenses prevail in the clutch and trade stops. Arizona’s punt at 3:34 in the fourth quarter pins the Pittsburgh Steelers offense deep into their own territory. James Harrison’s unnecessary roughness penalty is marked off and buries the Steelers at the one-yard line. Pittsburgh’s ensuing possession plays out as a total disaster.
First, Willie Parker barely breaks the plane of the goal line to avoid a safety on second down. Ben Roethlisberger then throws a 19-yard strike to Santonio Holmes to apparently convert on third down. The play is called back.
#62 Justin Hartwig is flagged for offensive holding inside of the end zone. The shocking penalty generates 2 points for the opposition, infinite glimmers of hope for the formerly hopeless Cardinals, and one new Super Bowl goat and fresh entrant into the witness protection program at Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals, down 20-16, and with possession of the football at their own 36 aim for the jugular. Kurt Warner hits a streaking Larry Fitzgerald in-stride on the quick slant and the hot read glides untouched through the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary for a 64-yard touchdown. Kurt Warner throws for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns in this gaudy statistical performance.
The Arizona Cardinals have indeed shocked the world at Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona 23 – Pittsburgh Steelers 20.
1: Ben Roethlisberger solidifies Super Bowl Legacy with Fourth Quarter Comeback
Ben Roethlisberger is a Winner.
The quarterback already arrives as the youngest signal caller to win fifty games and the Super Bowl Trophy. This fourth quarter comeback drive effectively solidifies his rank as a top quarterback in today’s League and should lay the groundwork for his rightful bust at Canton.
Ben Roethlisberger played the perfect game at the perfect moment. Big Ben’s epic, two-minute fourth quarter his Houdini punctuated drill escape act inside the pocket, intelligent play calling, and rocket arm. The Steelers quarterback converted third downs and moved the chains with laser like precision in spite of being separated from the Lombardi Trophy by 88 yards and the 2:30 game-winning deadline.
Santonio Holmes emerged as Roethlisberger’s favorite target – tallying 9 catches for 131 yards and one touchdown during the Super Bowl. The speedy wide out torched the Arizona secondary on comebacks and curl routes, before his game breaking 40-yard catch and run. The Roethlisberger-Holmes connection set the table for arguably the Greatest Play in Super Bowl History.
Ben Roethlisberger rolls right and spots Santonio Holmes flashing towards the back corner of the end zone. Although three Arizona defenders blanket the Steelers receiver, Roethlisberger trusts his arm and fellow playmaker and launches a perfect strike into the area where only his man can make a play on the football. Holmes leaps for the reception, reigns in the catch, and contorts his frame to drag two feet in-bounds for the score. Big Ben’s Super Bowl XLIII line at 21-31 for 256 yards and 1 Td – 1 IN will never document this virtuoso effort with any accuracy.
The enraptured John Madden belts:
Santonio Holmes is your Super Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player.