Here are my 10 observations from the Steelers' 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII:
1. I'll be honest. I really wasn't excited about this Super Bowl. As I explained earlier, the Super Bowl isn't really for football fans. It's for everyone else -- people who like Super Bowl parties, betting pools, the commercials, bean dip, etc. But what an unbelievable game, and what an unbelievable fourth quarter. The Cardinals entered the final 15 minutes down 20-7 but stormed back to take a 21-20 lead. Kurt Warner's 64-yard connection with Larry Fitzgerald came about 30 seconds too soon though. Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes led the Steelers back on a perfectly executed two-minute drill, and just like that, Pittsburgh had its sixth Super Bowl win.
2. Holmes was the MVP. The final numbers: nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. But like everything else in football, Holmes will be remembered for the plays he made down the stretch. Four catches for 73 yards on the Steelers' final drive, including the incredible game-winning catch in the corner of the end zone. When the ball left Roethlisberger's hands, I thought for sure it was going over the receiver's head. Even when Holmes made the catch, I didn't think there was any way his feet were in bounds. But as the replays showed, Holmes touched his toes with control of the ball and instantly became a part of history. Ironically, Holmes was unable to make pretty much the exact same catch a play earlier in the other corner of the end zone. In fact, the first one was probably an easier catch to make, but the ball went right through Holmes' hands. By the way, the LeBron James celebration was a nice touch as well.
3. Before the final scoring flurry in the fourth quarter, the play of the game was undoubtedly James Harrison's interception and 100-yard return for a touchdown to close out the first half. Consider the scenario. The Cardinals were trailing 10-7 and had driven to the Steelers' 1-yard line with first-and-goal and 18 seconds left. Warner was looking for Anquan Boldin on the left side of the end zone when Harrison picked it off and went the length of the field. The Cardinals looked like they were hustling to catch up to Harrison but were not able to bring him down. A 14-10 lead turned into a 17-7 deficit. A 14-point swing in just 18 seconds.
4. For all the heat Donovan McNabb takes, he keeps a lot of plays alive by fighting off defenders and using his legs. But no one does that better than Roethlisberger, and Roethlisberger has probably never done that better than he did Sunday night. He did it time and again on the Steelers' final drive, pumping once, twice, even three times while avoiding Arizona defenders. And in the first quarter, he had a ridiculous play where he scrambled to his left, then came back to his right, spun and eventually found tight end Heath Miller for 11 yards on third-and-10. Roethlisberger has taken heat in the past for holding on to the ball too long, but his improvisation won the game for the Steelers.
5. It would be foolish to not hand out any game balls to the Cardinals. What a performance from Warner -- 31-for-43 for 377 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. And what a fourth quarter. He went 8-for-8 on one scoring drive and then found Fitzgerald for 64 yards on the next one. Two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough. That's why I think it's sometimes short-sighted to judge guys based only on rings. Warner rose to the occasion and did everything he needed to in the fourth quarter when the stakes were at their highest, but he came away on the losing end of the Super Bowl for the second time in three appearances. Fitzgerald was phenomenal also, catching seven balls for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He was bottled up in the first half but made plays when his team needed him.
6. And on defense, what an effort from Darnell Dockett. With the Cardinals down 20-7 in the fourth quarter, Dockett made back-to-back big-time plays. On the first, he stuffed Willie Parker for a 4-yard loss on second-and-four. On the next, he sacked Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss. He finished with six tackles and a pair of sacks. The Cardinals' defense did its part in helping Arizona come back, but they just couldn't close the deal in the final two minutes.
7. Growing up, I remember the Super Bowl always being a terrible game. But it will be hard to match the last two. Actually, looking back, we've been on a pretty good stretch. You could easily argue that four of the last six and six of the last 10 Super Bowls have been pretty good. Let's hope this trend continues.
8. Some betting notes. If you bet $100 that there would be a safety, you're cashing in $800. If you slapped down $100 that Holmes would be the MVP, you're on the receiving end of $1500. Feel free to chime in on any others that were big payouts. Earlier today, I listed five prop bets that I liked and only one hit. Another example that Vegas always wins.
9. Only one commercial note. They are disappointing every year, but this might have been one of the worst batches ever. I can't remember a single commercial I enjoyed. The one that I thought was the worst, or most annoying I should say, was the ad for CareerBuilder.com. Made me want to slam my head in my laptop. But then again, I'm writing about it here so maybe their campaign worked. Feel free to chime in on this front also.
10. Even though it was two weeks later, around 6 p.m., well before kickoff, my Dad still hadn't shook the feeling of the NFC championship loss. "Man, this could have been the Eagles," he said. I'm sure a different version of that sentence was uttered in hundreds of households in the Delaware Valley. After the game, a text from my buddy C-Nast: "wow. thank god that wasn't the Eagles." So I will ask you. Say the Eagles would have lost this game the same way the Cardinals did. Would you still have wanted them to make the Super Bowl? Or would you rather they lose the way they did so as not to subject yourself to even more heartache? Discuss.