Monday, February 2, 2009

Another One for the Ages

Yes, he was indeed in.

And with it, another frenetic 4th Quarter flurry of both teams simultaneously finding their rhythms saved yet another Super Bowl from unraveling into an unmemorable mess.

For the better part of the first 3 quarters, this Super Bowl seemed quite a bit like last year's version. That is, a rather unmemorable blur. Sure, there was a bit of excitement generated by James Harrison's electrifying 100-yard interception return, but for the most part, there wasn't anything memorable going on. Pittsburgh's defense had held strong, Arizona couldn't get into any sort of a rhythm offensively, and Pittsburgh's offense basically was doing the absolute minimum needed to win the game. With a 20-7 lead, it seemed more or less academic: Pittsburgh would grind out the rest of the game and win a rather unremarkable Super Bowl.

Then, rather quickly, something changed. Arizona suddenly found their feet, or rather, found their air, sending Kurt Warner back to pass and, and they were moving the ball, and Warner was threading the needle and Larry Fitzgerald was getting open, and the Cardinals were in the End Zone. Pittsburgh went into their Prevent Offense, sending their runner up the middle. Problem was, they hadn't been able to establish a running game at all to that point, and then when they really had to, they couldn't get it going. This would eventually screw them completely in a rather stunning turn of events within about a minute late in the 4th quarter. Pinned back at their own goal line, Pittsburgh couldn't run themselves out of it, and then managed to penalize themselves into a Safety that made the score 20-16 and gave Arizona the ball, and one more chance to try to strike.
And strike they did.

If Larry Fitzgerald hadn't already cemented himself as the premier Wide Receiver in the NFL, he certainly had to with his performance down the stretch in this game. And his 64-yard touchdown, in which he not only managed to split Pittsburgh's safeties to the point of embarrassment, but also turned on the jets and simply outran them to the End Zone could very well have been the enduring image from this game.

I watched the game at a rather sparse party, where beer was plentiful, but food was in short supply. By the 4th quarter, things had pretty much dispersed. Only 5 or 6 of us remained. I resorted to texting a friend, and we began talking about Kurt Warner, and his ubiquitous series of Chunky Soup commercials. I surmised that if the Cardinals held on to win, we would be subjected to Kurt Warner doing those nauseating commercials for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the alcohol had severly impaired my thought process. Or maybe I'd just had enough of Kurt Warner. Either way, I wasn't pleased with the prospects.

But Arizona's pass defense, which had been a liability late in the NFC Championship, and which I figured would be their downfall in this game, couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. Playing in an awful zone formation, the Arizona secondary basically allowed Roethlisberger to pick them apart, moving the Steelers smartly down the field despite an almost-deathly holding call, putting them in prime position to strike, and then hurling the dagger, a picture-perfect strike to Santonio Holmes to cap off their victorious march.
Thus, the enduring image from Super Bowl XLIII was not Fitzgerald. The aftermath would not be a lifetime of Kurt Warner's Chunky Soup. Instead, we're left with Santonio Holmes, his toes hanging onto the ground for dear life, catching the pass and capping off a fabulous game, the kind of Super Bowl that the Super Bowl should be, but rarely is; the kind of Super Bowl that this game almost wasn't for about 2 3/4 quarters.

Thusly, the NFL season comes to a close. Time to turn the page. In New York, I think Baseball season has officially begun.

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