February 7, 2011

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Super Bowl Recap

By: Anson Whaley

Christina Aguilera may have gotten the night off to a rough start after botching some of the lyrics of the National Anthem, but after that it was smooth sailing.

Fans were treated to another competitive Super Bowl on Sunday, and for the third time in the past four seasons, the final score was within a touchdown. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, and this highly anticipated game definitely lived up to the hype.

The difference-maker was clearly the play of the two quarterbacks. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was crisp, and his passes were on the mark all game long. The final stats show that he completed 24 of 39 passes, but the quarterback suffered several drops by receivers, and in reality, his numbers should have been better. He also played much of the game without one of the team’s top receivers (Donald Driver, who left with an injury), and was constantly under pressure (a television stat shown during the fourth quarter indicated that Rodgers was hit a total of 16 times up to that point). His 304-yard, three-touchdown performance is even more impressive when you consider those factors.  Rodgers was the obvious choice for the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

Conversely, Ben Roethlisberger was sloppy and didn’t have his best game. While he made a few big scrambles and finished with a respectable 25-40 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, his two first half interceptions were a major reason the team had an 11-point halftime deficit. And with a chance to put together a potential game-winning drive as he had done two years ago in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals, he was unable to effectively move the ball down the field.

Heading into the game, it was expected that Green Bay would struggle to run the ball. The team has been without starting All-Pro back Ryan Grant most of the season, and the Packers’ rushing attack has been up and down ever since. But the Steelers didn’t have a sustained running attack, either, as Rashard Mendenhall, Issac Redman, and Mewelde Moore combined for only 19 rushes for a total of 95 yards. 5.0 yards per carry is above average, so Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin may look back on this game and wish he had run the ball a bit more. Mendenhall, though, also made a key fourth-quarter fumble tat was recovered by Green Bay as the Steelers were driving and down by only four points. That killed Pittsburgh’s drive and may have been the key play in Sunday’s game.

Despite holding a fairly comfortable halftime lead, things started unraveling for the Packers early in the second half. The defense gave up a late touchdown in the second quarter, but perhaps more importantly, the Packers had just sustained the potentially devastating injuries to Driver, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields, and safety Nick Collins. The Steelers immediately took advantage, scoring an early touchdown in the third quarter to bring the game to within four. But after the Mendenhall fumble, the two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers couldn’t get anything else going.

When fans look back at this Super Bowl, however, Rodgers will be the guy everyone remembers. After a great regular season, he has clearly cemented his status as a bonafide star, leading his team to its fourth Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s storied history. He had an outstanding game, and as frustrated as the Steelers are about this game, there’s another team that should be equally disappointed – the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners held the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and desperately needed a quarterback. Despite the fact that Rodgers held the franchise in high regard and had a successful college career, the team instead selected Alex Smith out of Utah. Granted, the 49ers weren’t the only team to pass on Rodgers, but they had the first chance to draft him. And we all know how the story goes from here – Smith has struggled in the pros, while Rodgers, at 27, is one of the league’s top quarterbacks and has an extremely bright future. In Rodgers, Grant, and wide receiver Greg Jennings, the Packers have a young nucleus on which to build and should be competitive for years to come.

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