Turnovers are the most important statistic in football.
The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated Super Bowl XLV in almost every statistical category. The Steelers outgained the Green Bay Packers on offense, outrushed the Packers by a ratio of almost 3 to 1, had more 1st downs, possessed the football for almost 7 more minutes and had fewer penalties. But they lost in the statistical category that matters most: turnovers.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers were unable to overcome three turnovers on Sunday, and they weren't able to take the football away from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Give the Packers credit, not only did they force three takeaways, but they capitalized on those takeaways as well. The Packers were able to turn each of their turnovers into touchdowns, scoring a combined 21 points off of the Steelers miscues. What makes this statistic so impressive is the fact that in "sudden change" situations, the Packers were forced to come back onto the field against the #1 defense in the NFL, and each time they were able to march the football and score touchdowns (although Nick Collins did return an INT for a TD).
Every head coach in the NFL harps on turnovers being the most crucial component to any football game, and with every turnover lost, a team's chances of winning the game become greatly reduced. That is why I find it so incredible that even after losing the turnover battle 3-0, the Pittsburgh Steelers still had the opportunity to win a world championship on the final drive of the game!
Tour de Force
Aaron Rodgers had a "tour de force" performance in Super Bowl XLV. The final box score had Rodgers as 24 of 39 for over 300 yards and 3 TD passes. I sat in the stadium, and counted seven drops by the Packers' wide receivers! Rodgers easily could have been 31 of 39 with five TD passes, which potentially could have gone down as the greatest single passing performance in Super Bowl history!
To say that Rodgers was accurate is a major understatement; he was unconscious. He made throws that no other QB in the NFL could have made that night. His TD pass to Greg Jennings in the 2nd quarter will be put on coaching reels across America. His 3rd down completion to Jennings in the 4th quarter (following the Steelers' final score) won the game for Green Bay.
Taking a look back, it is fitting that Aaron Rodgers had his moment in North Texas this past weekend. It has always been a tumultuous road for Aaron Rodgers in his football career, which required him to overcome a lot of adversity. Going way back, Rodgers was not heavily recruited out of high school, and was forced to attend Junior College before transferring to play for Jeff Tedford at Cal.
Rodgers waited anxiously, hoping to hear his name called as the 1st overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by his childhood team, the San Francisco 49ers, only to be passed up in favor of Alex Smith. He would have to patiently wait, while America watched him slide to the 24th spot before eventually being taken by Green Bay. Rodgers would then have to sit for three years behind a living legend in Brett Favre before he would get his opportunity to be the man on Lambeau Field.
But it was all worth it. And make no mistake about it, Aaron Rodgers is officially out of the shadow of #4. While both Favre and Rodgers have won one Super Bowl in Green Bay, only Rodgers won the games MVP. My bet is that it's not his last.
Jekyll and Hyde
It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type of performance for Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV. Roethlisberger was not accurate on Sunday, often missing wide-open receivers, and forcing them to make difficult catches.
Roethlisberger got off to a very shaky start, having a miscommunication with his WR on the first 3rd down of the game. He then would miss TE Heath Miller on the next 3rd down, before missing him again on the following possession. The biggest miscue that everyone will point to was Roethlisberger missing a wide-open Mike Wallace in the 3rd quarter that would have been a sure TD, and potentially the difference in the game.
Having said all of that, I thought Roethlisberger did a lot of good things as well. As expected, he was able to scramble inside the pocket and buy time to extend plays. Playing on an injured right ankle that was obviously bothering him, Roethlisberger was able to use his legs to generate positive yardage and 1st downs. With the exception of one forced throw that led to an INT, I thought Roethlisberger did an outstanding job throwing the football over the middle of the field.
Roethlisberger's greatness may be his resiliency: his ability to forget bad plays and move on. That's exactly what he was able to do on Sunday, as he continued to compete even after two early INT's and put his team into a position to win the game. In fact I wouldn't have been surprised if Roethlisberger had led his team to a game winning 2-minute drive, because he already had accomplished that two years ago in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals!
Looking back, this is now the 2nd sub-par performance by Roethlisberger in a Super Bowl, and we will all debate how this affects his future chance at being inducted into the Hall of Fame. If I was Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, I'd be more concerned with how this will affect his psyche and potentially his performance next season.
In Aaron We Trust
Mike McCarthy has the upmost confidence in his QB. The proof: the Packers ran the football 12 times! McCarthy put the football into the hands of his Pro Bowl signal-caller, and Rodgers responded with arguably the best performance of his life. Simply put, Mike McCarthy was not afraid to throw the football against the best defense in the NFL.
McCarthy called passing plays on 1st down, and on 3rd and short (as evidenced by the TD pass to Jordy Nelson in the 1st quarter). He also chose not to move the pocket, in order to protect his QB from the Steelers' blitz packages.
In fact, I counted one time that the Packers ran a bootleg play to get Rodgers away from behind center. This proves that McCarthy trusted his QB in the pocket to make the appropriate reads, and to identify the pressures and get the football out of his hands.
Finally and most telling, McCarthy chose to continue throwing the football nursing a 3-point lead with under three minutes to go in the Super Bowl! Forget about running the football in order to bleed the clock! I was so impressed with McCarthy's confidence in his QB, and it made it all the sweeter that his QB repaid the favor with an MVP type performance. Well done, Coach McCarthy.