Six Pack of Observations: Super Bowl XLIII

Here are six quick-hit thoughts from the Steelers’ 27-23 victory over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

1. Santonio Holmes saved the Steelers.
Santonio Holmes saved the Steelers tonight. He saved Ben Roethlisberger from erratic play. He saved the usually stingy Pittsburgh defense from getting torched by Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald in the second half. He saved several of his teammates that decided to make costly penalties down the stretch. And he saved the Steelers from almost blowing a game they had control of for three quarters. Holmes was an easy choice for MVP and he was brilliant in Pittsburgh’s game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. True playmakers go above and beyond and that’s what Holmes did tonight. His touchdown catch was absolutely phenomenal and what a throw by Big Ben.

2. Why wasn’t the final play reviewed?
I’m confused – can an attempted forward pass not be reviewed by the booth in under two minutes? Because while it would have been a close call either way, Warner’s arm looked like it was coming forward on the final play of the game, which would have meant an incomplete pass and one last gasp for the Cardinals. And while it still would have been a long shot for ‘Zona to reach the end zone and win the game, I’m shocked the most important play wasn’t at least reviewed. Maybe the officials would have still come to the conclusion that Warner’s arm wasn’t coming forward and the fumble would have stood. But you’ve got to at least review it.

3. Harrison’s interception cannot be overlooked.
How fitting was it that the defensive player of the year came up with one of the biggest plays in the Super Bowl? James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown before half changed the entire makeup of the game. Some may fault the Cards for not trying to run the ball in that situation because they were at the 1 yard line and had they got stuffed, they still would have had plenty of time to spike the ball and have one last attempt at a touchdown. But they were out of timeouts and with only 18 seconds on the clock, it’s hard to blame Arizona for throwing the ball; Warner just made a bad decision with the pass. But had the Cards at least kicked a field goal in that situation, it’s a 10-10 game at half and maybe the game plays out differently from that point on. Regardless, Harrison’s effort was outstanding and he truly wasn’t going to be denied. If it weren’t for the Cards’ fourth quarter comeback and Holmes’ amazing play down the stretch, Harrison would have been the game’s MVP.

4. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great, but he was once again clutch.
One of the post game commentators used the word “outstanding” to describe Roethlisberger’s play tonight. That’s a stretch. While it’s true Big Ben kept plays and drives alive several times by scrambling away from defenders, his indecisiveness and his penchant for holding onto the ball too long also led to a couple of key holding penalties against the Steelers in the fourth quarter, including the one that led to a safety. That said, he was once again clutch down the stretch. He zeroed in on his best playmaker (Holmes) and put the ball in his hands in order to make plays. Roethlisberger’s play wasn’t sharp by any means, but then again, it rarely is. But there’s no denying he makes plays when the game is on the line and he did so once again tonight. He now has two Super Bowl rings and he’s still only 26.

5. Get aggressive, Aaron Francisco.
On Holmes’ 40-yard reception to set up the Steelers’ game-winning touchdown, Arizona safety Aaron Francisco took a horrible angle on the play and it allowed the Pittsburgh receiver to race up the sideline and put his team in position for the go-ahead score. Granted Francisco eventually made the tackle down field, but it looked like he was playing not to make a mistake and it cost his team. It’s one thing to be caught out of position. It’s quite another to allow a receiver to easily make a catch in the open field, completely overrun the play and then allow him to race down the field. Safeties have one of the toughest jobs on the field because they have to play in so much open space. But Francisco’s effort on that play was questionable at best. (Outside of chasing Holmes down and eventually making the tackle, of course.) Francisco also was one of the defenders who was beat on the Holmes’ touchdown catch.

6. Do the Cardinals even need Anquan Boldin?
Anquan Boldin has been one of the most underrated receivers in the league for several years and there’s no doubt he deserves to get paid like a No. 1 receiver. But should Arizona bend over backwards in getting him a new contract when they already have Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston on the roster? How good was Breaston tonight? I realize he’s able to make more plays with Fitz and Boldin on the outside, but does anyone think Breaston doesn’t have the ability to be a No. 2 in this league after the way he played in 2008? Thanks to him, the Cardinals might be able to acquire multiple draft picks in a deal for Boldin this offseason.

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