Monday, February 2

Closing Out the NFL Season

Brenda Warner was only shown on TV 7 times, that is the only stat you really need to know about who won Super Bowl 43. The game was entertaining and ended in furious fashion as Arizona battled back from 13 down and scored 16 in the final quarter, but the Steelers made the winning pays at the end to take the game 27-23. Some thoughts on the game and the final recap of my lead pipe picks after the break.

The way Pittsburgh started this game, it seemed my two possesion score prediction would be correct, but the Cardinals finally had definitive proof that they are as tough as any team in the NFL. In a Super Bowl full of memorable moments, the end of the first half provided perhaps the biggest play. James Harrison dropped into pass coverage and intercepted Warner at the goal line and ran it back 100 yards for the TD. The 14 point swing led many to believe that Arizona could not fight back.

The third quarter was dominated by the Steelers and by one drive full of questionable calls. Fortunately, the Steelers were held to a field goal after Adrian Wilson was called for a personal foul for bumping into the holder Mitch Berger on a short field goal attempt. The Cardinals' defense made a stand that their offense fed off of. Larry Fitzgerald finally got into the game on the next drive, in fact he took over. His incredible touchdown grab on a fade route has become routine, as the ball floated over to him and he was well-covered, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he would catch the ball.

Ken Whisenhunt deserves props for punting the ball with just under 4 minutes left and pinning the Steelers deep. Justin Hartwig committed holding in the endzone which resulted in a safety. After the punt, Warner hit Fitzgerald on a short diagonal and then outraced the Steeler secondary 64 yards for the go-ahead score 23-20.

The game then rested on Big Ben and his offense. After Pittsburgh set themselves back with a holding call, they marched down and picked the Arizona zone apart. The coverage was not the entire downfall of the Cardinals. First off, Santonio Holmes made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history to score the go-ahead TD. But the Cardinals could have won the game if they could have taken down Roethlisberger at the end. I wrote this in my Super Bowl prediction post last week:

'Getting to Roethlisberger is not enough, they have to put him on the ground while he still have the ball in his hands. Baltimore got plenty of pressure on Ben, but with the protection he was seeing all year he knew how to escape it and make plays down the field. The Cardinals need sacks, not hurries.'

The Cards got pressure on Ben on the final drive, but their inability to take him down on that drive cost them the game. No doubt the Cardinals are not satisfied with a moral victory, but they truly played a tough, inspired football game and it is a shame they came away with nothing in the end. I get the feeling that this might be the only shot in a long time for Arizona, and that it should only increase the pain of the loss for the players and fans.

My Super Bowl pick of the Steelers was correct, although I was rooting the other way and the game truly was a toss-up in the end. My final pick standings for the 2008 NFL season:

Regular Season: 158-97 (.620)
Playoffs: 5-6 (.455)

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