Packers top sloppy Steelers to take home 45th Lombardi Trophy

Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson carries the Vince Lombardi championship trophy off the field after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL’s Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

1. Aaron Rodgers, welcome to history.
I distinctly remember a few years ago when some Green Bay fans said that it was a mistake for GM Ted Thompson to choose Rodgers over Brett Favre. Hopefully those fans will happily eat a serving of crow after Sunday night because they were dead wrong. In a game where mistakes were aplenty, Rodgers made very few. He misfired on a few throws, but that’s just being nitpicky. For the most part, he was great and he would have been even better had guys like Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Brett Swain bothered to hang onto the ball. Mike McCarthy barely ran the ball in the second half, instead relying on Rodgers to win the game. After the Steelers took all the momentum in the third quarter, Rodgers stepped up and led the Packers on two huge scoring drives. On a night when he threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, I wonder how much better his numbers would have been had his receivers not dropped so many passes. He didn’t have the game of his career, but he was excellent nonetheless. He now joins exclusive company as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and MVP. As many football fans know, that now makes him virtually untouchable.

2. Once again, Green Bay battles through adversity.
How fitting was it that in a year when the Packers lost so many starters during the season that they would have to battle through more injury issues to win the Super Bowl. They lost two of their three defensive backs on consecutive plays near the end of the second quarter, including Pro Bowler and team leader Charles Woodson. Yet once again, they pushed through and overcame the hurdles that were placed in front of them. Let’s stop for a second and think about what this team was able to accomplish this year. They lost starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley and Nick Barnett. They needed to win two games in Week 16 and Week 17 just to qualify for the playoffs. They had to win three straight games on the road in the postseason and then they suffered a couple of more key injuries in the Super Bowl and still won it all. Talk about a team of destiny. After they lost Woodson in the second quarter, it looked like they were headed for disaster in the second half. Yet they never trailed, which is a testament to the team that Ted Thompson built off the field and the team Mike McCarthy ran on it.

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Manning comes up short in the postseason once again

If one were to look up Peyton Manning’s stats from Super Bowl XLIV, they would assume that he did enough to propel his team to a victory. After all, he completed 31-of-45 passes for 333 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

But as has been the case his entire career, Manning’s numbers weren’t enough.

Football is a team sport and one play doesn’t settle the outcome of a game. But when Tracy Porter intercepted Manning (who forced a pass into Reggie Wayne in the face of a New Orleans’ blitz) and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth, it sealed the Colts’ fate. In essence, Manning delivered the nail in the coffin for his own team, although it isn’t a surprise that he failed in the postseason.

The Colts have been very average in the postseason with Manning under center. Don’t believe me? Even with their Super Bowl victory four years ago, Indy is just 9-9 in the postseason with Manning as their starter. Considering he’s referred to as one of the best to have ever played the game, is it a stretch to say that the Colts should be better than that? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong: Peyton Manning is brilliant. He’s always the most prepared player on the field at all times and he’s the definition of being a student of the game. But isn’t this always the same story with him? Aren’t we always talking about his numbers and forgetting the fact that he only has one Super Bowl victory despite countless appearances in the postseason? Something is wrong here.

Manning wasn’t the only reason the Colts lost tonight. Had they recovered the onsides kick to start the first half and scored, they would have stolen all the momentum from the game and probably would have won. Had they sustained the momentum from the first quarter (a quarter in which they absolutely dominated), they probably would have won. Had their defense produced more second half stops, they probably would have won.

But I can’t shake the fact that when the Colts needed him most, Manning threw a pick six to essentially ensure a Saints’ victory. That’s not to take anything away from the Saints because they played great, but if we’re going to talk about Peyton being one of the best ever, then he needs to win this type of game. (After all, Joe Montana was 4-0 in the Super Bowl and Tom Brady was 3-1.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if Manning won another Super Bowl before his career is finished. But until then, let’s slow down with all the “best ever” talk, shall we?

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Despite Payton’s mistakes, the Saints emerge victorious in Super Bowl XLIV

There’s a difference between being risky and being stupid and Sean Payton straddled that line all night tonight.

With the Colts ahead 10-3 late in the first half and his team facing a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line, I thought Payton did the right thing by winding the clock down to the two-minute warning before making a decision on whether or not to go for it or kick a field goal. Unfortunately for the Saints, he arguably made the wrong decision by going for it as Pierre Thomas slipped and was stopped short of the goal line.

Forget the fact that Thomas slipped – it was a dumb decision by Payton. Not to go for it mind you – one could debate that it was a decent call given the score and situation. But calling a running play out the single back formation when he has a quarterback like Drew Brees running his offense just wasn’t a smart decision by Payton. I could go as far as to say it was a horrendous play call and he was lucky that his defense produced a three and out on the Colts’ next series and wound up still getting a field goal to cut the Colts’ lead to 10-6 right before half anyway.

Then to open the second half, Payton called a surprise onsides kick and had the Colts player fielded it cleanly, the Saints would have been screwed with horrible field position and a total lack of momentum. Payton once again came up lucky that 1) the Colts player mishandled it and 2) the Saints jumped on it, or else Indy might have ran out to an early double-digit lead early in the second half.

But despite all that, the New Orleans Saints are Super Bowl Champions. Despite all of Payton’s mistakes, the Saints were still able to execute. Despite getting dominated in the first quarter, the Saints didn’t freak out and the wound up being victorious in the end. Despite having so much go against them early on, the Saints were the team that showed enough grit and determination in the end to beat an opponent that had just won the Super Bowl four years ago and that had the Hall of Fame quarterback.

And you know what? That’s a testament to Sean Payton.

The Saints have had their backs against the wall several times this season, including near losses in Miami and Washington during the regular season, as well as when they entered the postseason as losers of three straight. But their head coach never wavered in his confidence for his team and they repaid him by showing their confidence in him. Forget destiny – the Saints won because they all bought into Payton’s philosophy. Brees may be the face of the franchise, but Payton is the heart and soul.

A team that didn’t have as much trust in their head coach would have lost tonight. But because the Saints backed Payton, they were able to overcome his mistakes and dominate three of the four quarters to become Super Bowl champs. It takes a special team to do what Payton’s Saints just did.

I’ll be doing more Super Bowl XLIV recap posts, so make sure to click here for more coverage.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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