Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Keeps Composure in 27-23 Victory over Arizona


Going into the Super Bowl many pundits and bloggers were saying the Arizona Cardinals, a 9-7 team suffering some late season blowouts, did not deserve to be in the Super Bowl. They certainly proved their critics wrong. But for an interception returned for a touchdown, the Cardinals very well may have won. Overall this was an impressive performance by both teams, although a bit sloppy and unnecessarily chippy at times. So my first thought is congratulations to both teams on a good game.

Even though I was fairly close on my prediction of the final score this game did not turn out like I thought it would. Pittsburgh’s offensive line dominated the first half of the game allowing them to build a 10-0 nothing lead early in the second half and keeping Kurt Warner and his offense on the sidelines and out of sync.

The pivotal play in the game, and the play I think cost Arizona the game, is James Harrison’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half. Instead of going up 14-10 at halftime, this 14 point swing meant the Cardinals went to the locker room down 17-7.

And what an amazing return for a touchdown it was. This play showed why the Pittsburgh Steelers have the best defense in the league and are Super Bowl champions today. It’s at the very end of the first half and Harrison catches the interception in the end zone and starts running. Do his teammates sigh in relief and stand around thinking, “oh good, we stopped them from getting a touchdown before halftime?”

NO – the defense sprinted down the field to block for Harrison who turned in an incredible 100 yard return for a touchdown with no time left on the clock. If the Cardinals could have just stopped this improbable sprint for pay dirt they might be taking the Lombardi Trophy to Arizona instead tears and “what ifs?”

You have to give credit to the Cardinals though. Often a team down 17-7 at halftime in the Super Bowl panics and ends up getting blown out. The Cardinals played much better in the second half. The Cardinals defense really stepped it up, particularly defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Dockett was handled by Pittsburgh’s centers and guards in the first half but he seemed like a different player in the second half.

The only problem was they let Pittsburgh go on a long drive, thanks to several personal foul penalties (at least one a bit questionable), and eat up all the time in the third quarter. The Cardinals took too long to get their offense going and put points on the board.

But the Cardinals played a brilliant fourth quarter, with their two drives resulting in touchdown catches for Larry Fitzgerald and recording a safety to go up 23-20 with 2:37 seconds left in the game.

And what can you say about Pittsburgh’s last drive for the winning touchdown? I’ve been critical of Big Ben all year but he was fabulous on this drive, leading his team down the field for the winning score. And Santonio Holmes’ catch for a touchdown was superlative.

Frankly I am very torn on who should get my Super Bowl MVP Award. While Santonio Holmes was the go to receiver all night and had 9 receptions for 131 yards and his brilliant, game winning catch for a touchdown, James Harrison also deserves consideration. Harrison’s 100 yard touchdown return really put the Cardinals in a hole and was a key factor in the Steelers’ win. He also kept getting holding penalties called against offensive linemen trying to block him (poor Mike Gandy).

But, given the Holmes had a great fourth quarter and made the game winning catch, I am going with Santonio.


Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII MVP

Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII MVP

MVP: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Player: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Defensive Player: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Offensive Lineman: Mike Starks, LT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams Player: Steve Breaston, WR/KR, Arizona Cardinals (for his one good punt return)



4 thoughts on “Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Keeps Composure in 27-23 Victory over Arizona

  1. Good point about the three holding penalties on Gandy. Harrison was a monster in more ways than one. He’s the MVP is Steelers win 20-16. At 27-23, I have to go with Holmes – just too many big catches.

  2. Nice recap. It’s amazing really that Harrison was released by Baltimore at one point in his career (as well as previously by the Steelers). Can you imagine Baltimore’s defense with Harrison? Scary to say the least.

    I think had Pittsburgh’s last drive not been necessary, I would have gone with Harrison for MVP. In the end it’s hard to argue with the selection of Holmes, who caught every pass on the final drive. I think a case could also be made for Roethlisberger, for it was partially his ability to keep plays alive on that final drive that made the difference as well.

  3. Thanks for the comment. That was an interesting game. And I agree you could make a case for Big Ben on that last drive. In fact, I thought he’d probably get it. But given Holmes was the main reciever earlier in the game and his catch was amazing, I leaned toward him.

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