By Andy Benoit, www.NFLTouchdown.com
This goes down as the second greatest Super Bowl of all time. Super Bowl XLII still has the edge because of the magnitude of the Giants upset and New England's perfect season.
At around the fourth quarter's 2:30 mark, I found myself praying that this game wouldn't go to overtime. The worst thing that could happen for the league would be to have the game go to an extra period and be decided on the first possession.
Santonio Holmes was spectacular Sunday, but Ben Roethlisberger was the Most Valuable Player. Just about every one of Holmes's catches was a result of Roethlisberger somehow extending the play. Big Ben was simply a magician. He has now joined Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the NFL's top tier of quarterbacks.
For the Cardinals…it was a great run. They had an opportunity to win this game, but their secondary wasn't able to manufacture any big plays. Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie was a huge reason this team reached the Big Game. On the surface, it seems that his struggles Sunday night were a huge reason his team came up short, as well. But thanks to Roethlisberger's magnificence, Rodgers-Cromartie was asked to hold his coverage for a drastically extended period of time. And he didn't get a whole lot of help from his safeties.
The Kurt Warner Hall of Fame debate is going to be extremely interesting. I think the fact that Warner has been insanely prolific in all three of his Super Bowl appearances will get him in. But there may be some voters who hold onto the memory of his to James Harrison interception at the end of the first half.
Speaking of that James Harrison interception….it was one of the greatest plays in NFL history. Earlier this year in a Monday Night game, Cleveland's Brandon McDonald picked off Donovan McNabb in the end zone at the end of the first half and nearly ran it back as time expired. But he didn't I happened to be sitting up in the Monday Night booth for that game and asked Ron Jaworski at halftime if he'd ever seen a play like that. I was surprised when he said No. That's the first thing I thought of when Harrison reached the end zone to end the half in this game. Not only was this an incredibly rare play for a Super Bowl – this was an incredibly rare play for a football game.
A little tidbit that no one seemed to notice after the game was Harrison saying to Andrea Kramer that the Steelers had called a max blitz for that play, but that he figured Warner would release the ball quickly, so he decided to drop back. Dick LeBeau was lauded for the play-call, but it sounds like the NFL Defensive Player of the Year just improvised.
You could easily make a case for Harrison as the Super Bowl MVP. Besides the huge interception return, he also collapsed Warner's pocket all night, and drew three holding penalties from left tackle Mike Gandy. LaMarr Woodley was equally as dominant on the right side.
A few more notes on the Steelers…
Ike Taylor was excellent for most of this game, though he slipped down the stretch once Arizona found its offensive rhythm in a hurry-up.
Heath Miller might be the best blocking tight end in football.
Credit Pittsburgh's defense for being flexible enough to alter its scheme. Troy Polamalu is normally a force in the box, but with the Cardinal receivers being as potent as they are, the Steelers moved their best player back deep in coverage. And, for the most part, the tactic worked.
Mike Tomlin is going to be a legend when all is said and done. He is so focused and preternaturally cool in his job. Even after the game, the youngest Super Bowl champion head coach maintained his "matter of fact" demeanor.
A few more notes on the Cardinals…
Arizona needed to get Larry Fitzgerald more involved early on. By the way, will there ever be a quieter two-touchdown Super Bowl performance than this one? Wait and see….Fitzgerald's output in this game won't be well-remembered in 10 years.
One more by the way…NBC missed it, but Fitzgerald's first touchdown should have been ruled incomplete. The ball hit the ground.
Steve Breaston was tremendous.
A lot of people will cite the penalties as a big part of the Cardinals' failures. But almost half of their penalty yardage came on the second half possession where Pittsburgh finished with only three points (to go up 20-7). In other words, the penalties weren't quite as costly as they appeared. Still, they were a factor.
If the Cardinals had won, you could have made a case for Darnell Dockett being the game's MVP.
A few final Super Bowl notes…
Great game coverage by NBC, particularly with their studio crew. Cris Collinsworth, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren and Matt Millen were awesome. And they even had a segment featuring Bill Belichick breaking down film!
I'm waiting for the rest of America to wake up and realize that 95 percent of the Super Bowl commercials stink. There's this fantastic lie that the Super Bowl ads are something special when, in fact, they usually come up short in their laborious effort at humor, and they usually target the more impressionable (i.e. stupider) members of society.
Great, great national anthem by Jennifer Hudson. I was nervous for her. It was a lot to ask to perform on such a grand stage in her first appearance back in the spotlight since her family tragedy. She was flawless.
I guess a lot of people were giddy about Bruce Springstein. I'm not a rock and roll guru. I found myself listening to his bizarre mini-anecdotes and asking, "Who does he think he is?" and "What the hell is he talking about?"
Visit www.NFLTouchdown.com for more from Andy Benoit