It seems only fitting that the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the legendary Green Bay head coach, is going back to Wisconsin.
Close games have been the norm recently, and last Sunday’s 31-25 victory by the Packers over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, followed this pattern.
The outcome wasn’t decided until Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his short pass fall off the hands of wide receiver Mike Wallace on fourth and five from Pittsburgh’s 33.
When Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a knee twice, the Packers laid claim to their fourth Super Bowl title, and 13th NFL crown, the most in league history.
“You have to give credit to the defense,’’ said Rodgers, the game’s Most Valuable Player, who finished 24 of 39 for 304 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. “I’m just glad to share this with my teammates.”
The Packers (14-6) won primarily because they forced three Pittsburgh (387 total net yards) turnovers, which resulted in 21 points.
None was bigger than Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble after being crushed by linebacker Clay Matthews (three tackles), a one-time star at USC, with an assist from end Ryan Pickett. The ball was recovered by linebacker Desmond Bishop (six tackles and two assists).
Green Bay (338 total yards) took over at its 45, and Rodgers found wide receiver Greg Jennings with an eight-yard toss and 11:57 left in the fourth quarter.
The play gave the Packers a 28-17 lead, capped the eight-play drive and was a dagger.
“It’s a great day to be great,’’ said Jennings (four catches for 64 yards). “We faced adversity all year, and it was always emotional.”
Though damaging, it didn’t prevent Roethlisberger (25 of 40 for 263 yards with two interceptions and two scoring passes) from rallying the troops.
It took 66 yards and seven plays for the two-time Super Bowl champ to get the Steelers (14-5) within 28-25 after hitting Wallace (nine grabs for 89 yards) with a 25-yard strike and 7:34 left in the fourth quarter. Antwaan Randle El ran it in for the two-point conversion.
Rodgers drove the Packers 70 yards on 10 plays, and after stalling, Mason Crosby drilled a 23-yard field goal to make it 31-25 with 2:07 showing.
In three previous playoff games, the Packers bolted to quick leads. With 3:44 left in the first quarter, Rodgers found wide receiver Jordy Nelson (140 yards and nine receptions) with a 29-yard pass to make it 7-0, and when Roethlisberger was harassed and hit on his throwing hand, the pass was under thrown and intercepted by free safety Nick Collins (four tackles), who returned it for a 37-yard score 24 seconds later.
Shaun Suisham’s 33-yard field goal made it 14-3 early in the second quarter, but Rodgers responded with a 53-yard march that culminated in a 21-yard pass to Jennings in the same quarter after Roethlisberger was picked off by free safety Jarrett Bush.
Green Bay’s 21-3 lead appeared secure until Roethlisberger capped a 77-yard, seven-play trek with an eight-yard toss to wide receiver Hines Ward (78 yards on seven catches) and 39 seconds showing before the half.
Mendenhall (63 yards on 14 carries) made it 21-17 when he scored from eight yards out and 10:19 left in the third quarter, ending a 50-yard, five-play drive.
“We lost,’’ said Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin. “There are no moral victories. There wasn’t one play that cost us the game. We look at all the plays in all three phases.”
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.