Super Bowl 43 didn’t disappoint on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers edged out the Arizona Cardinals in dramatic fashion 27-23. This big game’s phenomenal finish has led to immediate debates about how this could possibly be the best Super Bowl ever, but it is easy for the general public to get way to attached and stuck in the moment when making such a bold statement.
First off let me say Super Bowl 43 was far from a disappointment. I was clearly as entertained as much as the next sports fanatic, but to say this was the best super Bowl ever is crossing the line, and just a knee jerk reaction. But I won’t get all negative and stuck in this common Monday morning subject, and just get to what happened in the big game. The first half was pretty much as ordinary as they come besides of course for the breath taking final play when Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 17-7. The argument that can definitely be made is that we might have seen two or three of the most exciting plays in a Super Bowl in recent years. There also was a suspenseful ending that will be remembered for years to come.
Kurt Warner had a rather ordinary fist half making a huge mistake in the previously mentioned interception heard round the world. As expected when he faced pressure he struggled, releasing inaccurate throws into pressure or getting sacked. But when given time he did manage to find the open receivers most commonly Anquan Boldin.
With 12 minutes left in the game Arizona trailed 20-7 and that’s when the Kurt Warner we expected showed up. Starting the drive from his own 13-yard line, Pittsburgh seemed to be forced to alter their defense a bit after Arizona picked up the pace in their offense. The no huddle was just what Arizona needed to get their blood pumping. Pittsburgh mistakenly dropped their two safeties deep and Warner picked this defense apart going 8 for 8 for 87 yards and a perfect touchdown pass to the previously absent star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This fade was picture perfect as the throw and catch was executed to perfection. The momentum surge continued on defense for Arizona as they went on to sack Big Ben and force Pittsburgh to a three and out in the process. Arizona then led a quick mini drive that didn’t result in immediate points but led to a tremendous punt, which was downed at the Pittsburgh two-yard line. Big Ben then proceeded to complete what was briefly thought to be a huge pass connection to Holmes on third down from his own endzone under pressure, but a flag on the play, holding by offensive lineman Justin Hartwig in the endzone resulted in a safety. The momentum didn’t end there as Kurt Warner then managed to hit Larry Fitzgerald in stride over the middle where the stud wide receiver preceded to make the defense pay for its two deep look taking it 64 yards to the house to give the Cardinals the 23-20 lead with just under three minutes to go in the game. Then Ben Roethlisberger took the field with two and a half minutes to go starting from his own 22-yard line and faced the task of picking apart this fully energized Arizona defense. As if any other obstacle was needed the first play of the drive Pittsburgh got flagged for offensive holding pushing them back to their own 12 yard line. Ben then went on to avoid pressure on the next play and roll out to hit his favorite receiver in this big game, Santonio Holmes, who did a great job to keep searching for space while Roethlisberger delayed the impact from the pass rush. On the first play after the two minute warning the Steelers faced a huge 3rd and 6 where the Cardinals brought the blitz and the Pittsburgh offensive line did a remarkable job at picking up the pass rushers and Ben calmly stepped up to throw in traffic to Holmes for a clutch catch that netted Pitt the first down. The Steelers entered Arizona territory and Just when field goal range was approaching the big play was produced. The Cardinals blitz was picked up again and this time after a pump fake Ben hit Santonio again, and he forced defender Aaron Francisco to slip and Holmes scampered all the way down to the six-yard line. On first and goal Ben was protected tremendously again, as he had enough time to long pump to one side of the field and then throw a tight spiral to Santonio in the corner of the end zone where Holmes made a nice leap but couldn’t make the grab with the ball going right in between his hands. Immediately after this slip up Santonio had the opportunity of a lifetime to make up for his previous mistake and he took full advantage of it. On the following play all four Arizona pass rushers were once again completely contained and Ben had time again to look through his options and continue to throw a perfect strike to the other corner of the end zone where three defenders loomed but Santonio Holmes was able to make a remarkable grab and astonishingly get both of his feet down for the game winning touchdown.
Santonio Holmes saved the game of his season for the biggest stage Sunday claiming the Super Bowl 43 MVP award. Of the 18 games Holmes played this season the Super Bowl was the only game where he topped the century mark in receiving yards. And it wasn’t all about the statistics either, as his playmaking abilities and clutch grabs fill the highlight reel in the biggest game of his career. Santonio deserves a lot of credit here as the guys who show up with the games of their lives when it maters the most are the ones that are remembered in the future years. Another huge performer from the Pittsburgh side in Super Bowl 43 was quarterback Ben Roethlisbereger. Big Ben made up for his horrendous performance from his first Super Bowl as he produced numerous clutch accurate throws and produced a huge dramatic late 4th quarter final touchdown drive to win the game.
It is sad that the officiating has to ever be a big part of such huge games in the sporting world, but it is definitely something that always needs to be spoken on. I have always felt that when the officials aren’t mentioned, that is the clear way to prove that they have done a good job. But this is a rare occurrence now a days. On Sunday though they did not interfere with who should have been crowned Super Bowl champions, like they did in Pittsburgh’s last Super Bowl appearance vs. the robbed Seattle Seahawks. That’s not saying they didn’t have their screw-ups though. There were some calls that did leave many audiences in dismay, especially when the calls came so close to each other.
The controversial calls brought up the most seemed to all have favored Pittsburgh unfortunately. The first slightly controversial complaint that was made from the Cardinal supporters was that James Harrison was down before breaking the plane on his 100-yard interception return. This argument can pretty clearly be shut down as the replay displayed the fact that Harrison’s knee was never down thanks to Larry Fitzgerald’s body being in-between Harrison’s and the grounds, as Harrison landed on the plane for a clear TD call. In addition to that if you watch the replay no one has stated the fact that if Harrison was ruled down Pittsburgh would have had one or two seconds put back on the clock for a final play from the inch line. The drive that sparked the most penalties in this game, many controversially was a Pittsburgh drive early in the 3rd quarter. The first penalty was a 15-yard personal foul Facemask penalty on Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. Not many agree with my opinion on this one, but this rule just doesn’t make any sense to me. On this quick pass to the sideline to Santonio Holmes, both players engaged with hands to the others masks. Santonio had a clear grasp on DRC’s mask and was tugging it, as DRC had Santonio’s mask with less viciousness. It didn’t warrant a personal foul because DRC didn’t tug and they were going out of bounds anyway, so it barely had an affect on the play. A couple of plays later, another personal foul penalized the Arizona Cardinals. This time it was a Roughing the Passer on Carlos Dansby. This was just another pretty bad call as the contact was far from fierce and it was a split second after Ben’s release. After forcing the Steelers to kick a field goal the Cardinals were once again hit with a personal foul giving Pittsburgh the chance to cash in for seven instead. This personal foul penalty was well deserved though and should not be complained about it any way. Adrian Wilson clearly was out of control and just barred right through the helpless holder. This might have infuriated Arizona supporters some more as they were getting the feeling that they were being demoralized by the officiating, but this was the clearest penalty of them all from the Super Bowl. Watching football for years and years most saw this clear infringement for the first time. These three vital penalties didn’t end up costing Arizona much though as the defense really stepped up to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal. Early in the 4th quarter a five yard holding penalty on Roderick Hood was also a bit ticky tacky, but it didn’t lead to anything for Pittsburgh, but it also added to the restless atmosphere for Arizona and its fans who seemed to not get any calls their way. On the biggest play of the Super Bowl Santonio Holmes made a breath-taking grab in the corner of the endzone Tipp toeing in play to secure the game-winning touchdown. Yes this was close but after seeing several slow motion replays it is quite clear that his second foot’s toes come in contact with the ground and secures possession and control throughout the catch resulting in a fair game winning touchdown. Santonio’s celebration after his game-winning touchdown has also received some scrutiny as it has been argued that he should have been flagged for excessive celebration. To be able to throw a flag for such an offense after a guy catches the biggest touchdown in his career and one of the biggest catches in NFL history would have been absurd. I can see if he taunted an opponent, but the fact he was just joyous for his accomplishment in the SUPER BOWL with under ONE minute to play tells me to let it be. And the last but not least controversial moment was that people wanted the final Arizona offensive play reviewed further. They announced that the did review it in the booth, but it was decided so quickly that not many felt it to be fully true, but in the end the call was correct as the ball was jarred loose before Kurt’s arm went forward. So in the end despite the numerous controversial calls, I don’t see them deciding the winner in this Super Bowl as the Pittsburgh Steelers earned their sixth Super Bowl crown.