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Old 02-02-2009, 07:40 PM   #1
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Default Super Bowl Judgements: Amid late-game heroics, who cheers for Harrison?

Super Bowl Judgements: Amid late-game heroics, who cheers for Harrison?
Feb. 2, 2009
By Clark Judge
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
http://www.cbssports.com/print/nfl/story/11327241/rss

1. Pittsburgh's defense sprung leaks in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, but let's be honest: The Steelers don't win without what defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau called "the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history."

I'm talking, of course, of James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown -- a game-changing act that was lost in the frenzy of the final three minutes.

Until Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and the Steelers' Santonio Holmes exchanged touchdowns, Harrison was in line to be the game's MVP for turning a sure Arizona scoring drive into one of the greatest runs in Super Bowl history.

Now it's Holmes who takes bows as the game MVP, and Harrison who answers questions about the game's second biggest play.

"I have never been so emotionally drained in my life," said Harrison. "I'm just so tired right now, man. I could go to sleep right here."

Harrison's play was a gamble, with the linebacker assigned to cover a back as the Steelers launched a full-scale blitz. But after faking a pass rush, he peeled off to step inside Anquan Boldin, make the interception and then make history.

"We were bringing everyone," LeBeau said. "I would've put (coach Keith) Butler in there if I could. We were all coming. The rest of us watched (Harrison's) football instincts. It was a tremendous individual play."

He did more than that: He saved the Steelers' skin.

2. I'll say it right now: Arizona does not reach the playoffs next year. Not because I don't think the Cardinals are worthy, but because history is stacked against them. Of the previous eight Super Bowl losers, seven failed to reach the playoffs the following year -- including this season's New England Patriots.

3. That Kurt Warner for Canton campaign just gained steam. He didn't lose this game. The Cardinals defense did. Warner produced a magnificent fourth-quarter rally. With 377 yards passing, he has the top three passing performances in Super Bowl history.

4. After what he witnessed in the fourth quarter, Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt must be kicking himself for not opening up things sooner. I know some people thought he might have started by going with three wideouts and a no-huddle offense. He should have.

5. The happiest guy in the world is Pittsburgh center Justin Hartwig. His holding call not only erased a critical first down when the Steelers were pinned at their 1 with three minutes left, it produced a safety that led to Larry Fitzgerald's go-ahead touchdown a half-minute later. Time to exhale, Justin.

Out of breath, James Harrison finishes the most memorable play of the game. (US Presswire)
Out of breath, James Harrison finishes the most memorable play of the game. (US Presswire)
6. Shame on Arizona’s defense. It committed three personal fouls -- including a roughing the holder penalty -- to escort Pittsburgh to its second field goal. The Steelers don't need help getting on the scoreboard, but the Cards were only too willing to lend it. "We made too many uncharacteristic mistakes," safety Adrian Wilson said. No kidding. They took 11 penalties (the Super Bowl record is 12) for 106 yards.

7. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be a star cornerback, but he blew it by not defending Holmes closer to the line of scrimmage. He had to get in his grill, and he didn't. And the Cards suffered for it.

8. There was a reason linebacker James Farrior didn't seem himself. He suffered a groin injury in the first half and played through it, despite the Steelers wanting to replace him in some packages.

9. Just in case you were wondering, yes, the Steelers would've taken a safety if they couldn't dig out from their 1 late in the fourth quarter. Arizona has a terrific punt-rush unit, and the Steelers were wary of Sean Morey, who blocked the punt against Dallas in OT.

10. Another great game by Arizona's Darnell Dockett, who produced the Cardinals' two sacks, but why should anyone be surprised? When these two played last season, he had six tackles, 2˝ sacks and a forced fumble. In two games, the Steelers never figured out how to block the guy.

11. No need to remind Arizona tackle Mike Gandy why Harrison was the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Gandy was called for holding three times.

12. You can't tell me Hines Ward wasn't hurting from that sprained knee he suffered in the AFC title game. After making a 38-yard catch on the game's second play, he had one reception. "I had a five-to-six-week injury," he said, "and I did it in two weeks. It was painful going through it, but I never made excuses on injuries." He did, however, make more blocks.

13. So the NFL moves the Pro Bowl to South Florida the weekend before Super Bowl XLIV. Great. Guess that rules out players from the top four teams, which means a substantial portion of each roster. Just how is this going to work?

14. NBC set a record for ad revenue, selling 69 spots for $206 million. Wait a minute, I thought we were in a recession. Why else do you think CNBC did its reports from the stern of the Buccaneers' ship?

15. Great job by NBC on the Holmes replay. There was no doubt after watching the closeup. Loved the closeups of Fitzgerald and Warner, too.
MVP

Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes. He made one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history, somehow keeping his feet in bounds as he reached for a Roethlisberger pass in the corner of the end zone. But that's not all. He had almost as many catches (nine) as the rest of the team (12) and did have more yards (131 to 125). Plus, on Pittsburgh’s final drive, he makes a 40-yard catch that takes the club to the Arizona 6, then follows with the highlight-film grab. How appropriate. In the history of the Super Bowl, receivers have been named MVP six times, with three of them from Pittsburgh (Lynn Swann and Ward were the others).
Offensive Player of the Game

It's a tie between Holmes and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. I couldn't ignore Fitzgerald, not after what he did in the fourth quarter. Held to one catch in the first three quarters, Fitzgerald erupted for six in the fourth quarter -- including a 64-yard TD.
Defensive Player of the Game

Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. That 100-yard interception return wasn't merely magnificent, it was a game-breaker. It was the best open-field run since Willie Parker peeled off a 75-yard TD in Super Bowl XL.
Best Play

Harrison's 100-yard touchdown return. First of all, he fakes out Warner with what looked like a blitz. Then he steps in to save a touchdown. Then he steps out of tackle after tackle to make it down the sideline -- somehow not stepping out of bounds along the way -- and not stopping until he reaches the end zone. And he does it on the last play of the first half in what was a 14-point turnaround. "I'm going to Disney World," Bruce Springsteen yelled at the end of his halftime show. He will have to get in line behind Harrison.
Worst Play

The Warner interception. If he completes that pass, the Cards go into halftime with a four-point lead. Instead, they fall behind by 10. "I slid over, and he threw it right to my hands," Harrison said. "And I took off. I just wanted to help my team win, that was it. That was all I was thinking about."
Best Call

Roethlisberger's game-winning touchdown pass. He said he started to dump it in the flat, but the pass was covered. So he looked to his left for Ward, but he wasn't open. So he turned to his right and figured he would throw it where only Holmes could make the catch. "Before that drive," Holmes said, "I told him, 'Ben, I want the ball in my hands no matter what. No matter where it is.' I wanted to be the one to make the play, and I did it for our team."
Worst Call

Kicking a field goal on Pittsburgh's first series when it was fourth-and-inches. "This is a percentage play," NBC's John Madden said. "This is a play you have to do." No, you don't. You have the league's No. 1 defense. So trust it. If you don't get a touchdown let your defense bottle up Arizona.
Just asking but ...

• Why did it take Arizona four quarters to find Fitzgerald?
• Why didn't Arizona go no-huddle earlier?
• Where does this game go down in Super Bowl history?
• What now for Edgerrin James?
• Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning?

Five Things I like

1. Ken Whisenhunt on challenges. He contested Roethlisberger's apparent first-quarter touchdown and won. He challenged an apparent Warner fumble in the third quarter and won. Next time you play the lottery, call Wiz first.

2. The halftime show. "Basically," Springsteen said Thursday at a news conference, "we want it to be a 12-minute party." Mission accomplished.

3. Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger and his U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crew honored before the game. "Next time I fly," one reporter said, "I want him driving the plane." Me, too.

4. Roethlisberger under pressure. Baltimore's Trevor Pryce said he thought he was more dangerous when dodging traffic, and you'll get no argument from Arizona. Roethlisberger was terrific extending plays with his legs. "That's just Ben," wide receiver Ward said. "He makes plays."

5. Budweiser's commercials. They were so good I would almost consider buying the beer.
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Old 02-02-2009, 07:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Super Bowl Judgements: Amid late-game heroics, who cheers for Harrison?

Five Things I don't

1. This pregame question to Warner: "Tell me what's been going through your mind, mentally." I don't make 'em up.

2. Arizona's play selection for three quarters. Too much running, not enough Kurt.

3. Aaron Francisco's slip that made Holmes' 40-yard catch-and-run on the last drive possible.

4. Too many Arizona penalties. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

5. No Radio Nowhere by Bruce.
Numbers, numbers, numbers

7 -- Drives of 64 yards or more, four by Pittsburgh
7 -- Fitzgerald TDs in the playoffs, an NFL record
11 -- Arizona penalties
12 -- Consecutive times NFC teams have won the coin toss.
13 -- Arizona yards in the first quarter
11:28 -- Pittsburgh's time of possession in first quarter
30 -- Playoff catches by Fitzgerald, an NFL record
1976 -- Last time someone kicked an 18-yard field goal in a Super Bowl
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Old 02-02-2009, 07:54 PM   #3
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Default Re: Super Bowl Judgements: Amid late-game heroics, who cheers for Harrison?

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10. Another great game by Arizona's Darnell Dockett, who produced the Cardinals' two sacks, but why should anyone be surprised? When these two played last season, he had six tackles, 2˝ sacks and a forced fumble. In two games, the Steelers never figured out how to block the guy.
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