Posted on: February 7, 2011 12:24 am
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:23 am
Posted by Will Brinson
DALLAS -- How many times over the past week was this phrase -- the team who wins the turnover battle will win the game -- used to analyze Super Bowl XLV? My best guess is right around 5,345,042 times. That's hyperbole, of course, but there's a reason why lines like that are such go-to cliches for people who analyze sports: they're true.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't immune to turning the ball over, you'll almost never see them fire a couple of rounds into their own feet. But they did just that on Sunday en route to their first Super Bowl loss in the Ben Roethlisberger era.
Mistake-laden football isn't not a common sight because Pittsburgh's a well-coached team that's sustained success by making big plays on the defensive end and letting other teams force their own errors. But the script was flipped Sunday, and it led to the aforementioned typical results.
"Usually when you lose it's because of penalties and turnovers," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said.
Covered that already.
"When you turn the ball over like we did, you put yourself in a bad position to win the game," running back Rashard Mendenhall said.
And he's one of the guys who coughed the ball up.
"You can't turn the ball over and win football games in the NFL," center Doug Legursky said. "That's just Day 1 stuff."
Even a last-minute replacement knows that.
"No excuses," Roethlisberger said. "Regardless of the situation, you just can't turn the ball over."
Not if you plan on winning. Want me to keep going with these? Because I can -- every single Steelers' player who spoke with the media mentioned the turnovers and they know that despite being outplayed by the Packers, they didn't exactly help their own cause.
Just look at the final game stats: The Steelers finished with 19 first downs (to Green Bay's 15), they held the ball for 33:25 (to Green Bay's 26:35), they converted 54 percent of their third downs (to Green Bay's 46 percent), they piled up 387 net yards (to Green Bay's 338).
In other words, the either dominated the Packers or at least broke even with them on the stat sheet … with two major exceptions: Pittsburgh turned the ball over three times (to Green Bay's none) and committed seven penalties for 67 yards (to Green Bay's six for 55).
The penalties came at inopportune times (illegal block to set up Ben's pick six, and terribly-timed holding calls) for sure, but the turnovers were particularly brutal.
That was patently obvious to everyone, including the guys who made the biggest mistakes. Asked about his own game-changing fumble to start the fourth quarter, Mendenhall didn't make any excuses.
"I just got hit and the ball came out," Mendenhall said. "It just happened and it should not have happened."
This particular instance isn't exactly indicative of poor preparation, but the vibe around the Steelers after the game seemed to be one of stunned shock at their poor performance.
"I don't know, I had some opportunities to make some plays," Troy Polamalu said. "I was just a step off here or there."
He wasn't exactly alone, though, considering that the entire Steelers team spent 28 minutes of the first half doing their best impression of Robert Downey, Jr., at a wine-tasting, looking wobbly as hell, out of synch, and doing things the Steelers don't usually do.
Roethlisberger looked off most -- if not all -- of the game, repeatedly over-throwing receivers en route to racking up an embarrassingly bad 16.7 passer rating in the first half. It was the type of performance that will have people wondering what the hell Ben did in Dallas all week, his tradition of taking linemen out to karaoke bar to sing Billy Joel tunes notwithstanding.
Green Bay, on the other hand, looked as prepared as you can possibly ask a team to be. Even when they lost their defensive MVP Charles Woodson and saw Pittsburgh rally to within four points at 21-17, the defense managed to capitalize on a mistake by the Steelers as Clay Matthews tattooed Mendenhall in the backfield for a fumble that Desmond Bishop recovered.
"It's really film work and preparation," Matthews said. "I had a good feeling that play was going to come."
Could the Steelers really have been that predictable? Losing by just six and scoring 25 against a very good defense doesn't seem to indicate as much, but Packers safety Nick Collins -- a former high-school running back who scampered his way into the end zone for an early backbreaker of a pick six -- and his take on the play might show that they were after all.
"I was just reading [Ben Roethlisberger's] eyes," Collins said about the interception. "I was able to get a nice jump on the ball and when I saw it floating up there, I just wanted to make sure that I caught it."
Those eyes told a MUCH different tale after the game -- Roethlisberger limped around the locker room with red, puffy eyes that showed some an overwhelming amount of emotion even for a guy who's had his share of troubles this season and probably thought things would end better once he got this far.
They obviously didn't, but unfortunately, neither he nor anyone else in Pittsburgh's locker room has anyone but themselves to blame for walking off without a championship this time around.
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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 11:30 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
2. Effective running
3. The mismatch
4. Packers front seven (or eight) stepped up
5. Pass-rush forced turnovers
Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:22 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
DALLAS – The Super Bowl experience of the Steelers didn’t matter a bit to the Packers. Neither did Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness, the Pittsburgh defense’s resolve or Brett Keisel’s beard.
Green Bay wasn’t fazed by its youth, its receivers’ inability to make relatively easy catches, or the fact EVERYBODY seemed to pick the Packers to win this game (usually meaning the Steelers would run right over Green Bay). Hell, Green Bay wasn’t even fazed by the furious comeback(s) by Pittsburgh after the Packers took an 18-point lead in the second quarter.
None of it mattered.
Not when Aaron Rodgers, playing in the biggest game of his life, refused to be intimidated by a Steelers offense that never stopped scoring points and narrowing the lead he had built in the first half. Not when he led Green Bay to a 31-25 win.
The biggest drive in the biggest game of his life came after the Steelers cut the lead to 28-25 with 7:34 to play. He was sacked on first down, and on third down, LG Daryn Colledge was called for a false start penalty to make it third and 10. Rodgers’ response: a 31-yard laser to Greg Jennings for the first down to keep the clock running.
Later in the drive, he hit James Jones for a 21-yard pass, and the Packers eventually kicked the field goal. It wasn’t exactly what Rodgers (who finished 24 of 39 for 304 yards and three touchdowns) wanted, but it gave Green Bay some breathing room. Which, it turned out, was all they needed.
Despite an iffy second half on offense and despite the fact the Packers defense clearly was impacted by the loss of CB Charles Woodson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, Green Bay managed to win its first Super Bowl since the 1996 season, returning the Lombardi Trophy to the town that Lombardi put on the map.
After grabbing a 21-3 lead in the second quarter following a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch, a Nick Collins 37-yard interception return and a Jennings touchdown pass, the Packers seemed in control of the game. No, it didn’t just seem like it. The Packers WERE in control of the game.
But the Steelers made an important score late in the second quarter when WR Hines Ward caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to cut the lead to 11 before halftime.
Despite an extra-long halftime – an intermission show, mind you, that not even Slash could save – Green Bay couldn’t retake the game’s momentum.
The Steelers forced Green Bay to punt on the first drive of the second half, and five plays later, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall completed the five-play, 50-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run. The fact Green Bay didn’t gain a first down in the third quarter and the fact the Packers receivers couldn’t handle Rodgers’ passes didn’t bode well going into the last 15 minutes.
Until the beginning of the fourth quarter, that is, when Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett forced a fumble from Mendenhall to take possession at the Packers 45-yard line. And despite another terrible drop from Nelson, he redeemed himself with a 38-yard catch on a third down to keep the drive going.
After a Rodgers sack, he found Jennings, who had dominated Troy Polamalu on the route, in the corner of the end zone for the eight-yard score and the 11-point lead.
Rodgers, entering the postseason, had never won a playoff game. Now he’s won a Super Bowl. He might not be the best quarterback in the league. But he’s pretty damn close. And now he’s an NFL champion.
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Posted on: February 6, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 4:13 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:
1. Green Bay Packers (No. 6, NFC, 13-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 14-4)
At various points in the season, this Super Bowl matchup looked utterly silly. Like when the Packers lost to the Lions in Week 14. Or when the Steelers were facing four games to open the season without Ben Roethlisberger. Or when Matt Flynn looked utterly confused at the end of the Week 15 loss to the Patriots. Or when the Saints spooked the Steelers on Halloween.
Or, well, you get the point -- in the Packers and the Steelers both overcame a ton of adversity to get to Dallas. But maybe that speaks to exactly why Super Bowl XLV gets a pair of teams with immense talent, tremendous coaching and a knack for getting hot at the right time and winning games when they need to.
2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking
It's the Super Bowl. And it's in Dallas. And it features two of the most historic franchises in NFL history, who just so happen to be the two best teams in the NFL. In short, it's a pretty perfect matchup and it's for the whole lobster enchilada. (They make those here. And they're delicious.)
3. Key Matchup to Watch: Steelers offensive line vs. Packers front seven
The Steelers defense isn't the only unit charged with keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field, because Pittsburgh's offensive line is going to need to help that cause as well if Mike Tomlin wants his second Super Bowl ring in four years.
See, the Steelers are perceived as a running and defense team by stereotype only. The truth is that Rashard Medenhall only crossed the 100-yard mark three times this season, and twice were while Roethlisberger was suspended. That's not even taking into account his 3.9 yards per carry. So, even if they did have the offensive line to grind it out against Green Bay's defense in the running game, it might be tough sledding.
Problem is, with Doug Legursky replacing the injured Maurkice Pouncey, they definitely don't have the front five to handle that task.
Which means that if the Steelers want to keep A-Rod(ge) from hopping on the field and slotting his way to scores, they're going to need a Herculian effort from a makeshift group of guys up front in terms of pass protection. That's easier said than done against a Dom Capers defense, of course, because when he starts dialing up blitzes, things might get a little tricky, even though Pittsburgh's got a slew of talented wideouts in Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
But the collective skill with that group's worth nothing if the Pittsburgh offensive line can't keep B.J. Raji and the rest of the wrecking crew on the Packers front seven at bay in a straight-up matchup to start.
4. Potentially Relevant Video
For various sad reasons, The Band stopped playing back in the 1970's. They did so at their peak, and with one of the greatest live performances in musical history (the final scene and song from Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" is below). This year's Super Bowl is going to be equally as awesome. It just is. But if it's the last performance well, I'm begging you NFL people. Please, don't do it. Don't you break our hearts.
5. The Packers will win if ...
They can put Roethlisberger on the ground. It's not exactly easy to do despite Ben's insanely high sack per game total of 2.67 (second in the NFL to only Jay Cutler). But the offense can score, and if the defense can keep the Steelers QB from extending plays and allowing his wide receivers to get open, they'll stand a substantially better chance of bring the Lombardi Trophy home.
6. The Steelers will win if ...
Their linebackers can manage to handle the spread formations that Mike McCarthy will dial up. No one's questioning Pittsburgh's ability to keep James Starks from running the ball. Stopping Aaron Rodgers and the four-wide sets that Green Bay's sure to employ is a different matter altogether. James Jones and Jordy Nelson might not be the two biggest names in terms of NFL wide receivers, but if they can get open before LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison take advantage of their favorable mismatches against Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers will be in business.
Packers 24, Steelers 21
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Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 6:21 pm
STEELERS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
Charles Woodson defended Hines Ward
Early pass-rush prowess
Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:18 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
The Packers’ ground game doesn’t have a prayer against a Steeler run defense that ranks third all-time in the modern era. Center Scott Wells is a cagey veteran, but he struggled all season to hold ground against vociferous nose tackles. There may not be a more punishing run-stopping nose in the game than Casey Hampton. Even if the Packers can somehow neutralize that interior mismatch (and it’s doubtful they can), James Starks, decent as he’s been this postseason, lacks the speed and agility to elude Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh’s superb linebacking corps.
Green Bay’s best chance on Sunday will be to isolate their wideouts against the Steelers defensive backs. Don’t be surprised if the Packers spend most of the game in four wide receiver sets. That would force Dick LeBeau to play nickel or dime and keep either his leader (James Farrior) or most athletic player (Lawrence Timmons) off the field. It would also isolate at least one of Green Bay’s wideouts on one of Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks.
For Green Bay, the most attractive mismatch in the passing game will be inside. Steelers nickelback William Gay, who occasionally struggles in man coverage, will have his hands full against either James Jones or Jordy Nelson.
Also, expect the Packers to keep Greg Jennings on the right side of the formation, where he’s more likely to face Bryant McFadden. McFadden, like his counterpart Ike Taylor, is stout enough as a tackler to keep the catch-and-run happy Packer receivers from breaking a big one. But unlike Taylor, McFadden does not have great length or catch-up speed over the top. Jennings, one the crispest and most befuddling downfield route runners in the game, can exploit this.
Most importantly, spreading the field will create natural throwing alleys for Rodgers. This is critical because, with Chad Clifton going against James Harrison and Bryan Bulaga going against LaMarr Woodley, shaky pass protection will limit Rodgers to mostly three-step drops.
It will be fascinating to see whether LeBeau allows Rodgers to complete passes off three-step drops or whether he tries to counter the quick pass. Countering it likely means taking a reactionary defensive approach – something that is generally unfamiliar for LeBeau’s unit. Normally the Steelers love to blitz their inside linebackers (often this is what creates one-on-one scenarios for their potent outside linebackers). But to counter Rodgers’ quick strikes, the Steelers may drop eight into coverage and rush only three. Harrison and Woodley are both adept in space. If the linebackers are dropping back, Pittsburgh’s corners get to play zone instead of man. That helps appease the mismatch against Green Bay’s wideouts.
The X-factor, as usual, is Troy Polamalu. How LeBeau decides to utilize his most dynamic playmaker will determine whether the Steelers blitz or drop back. If Polamalu roves around the box, expect blitz. If he roves around centerfield, expect drop back.
Speaking of Polamalu, here's what LeBeau had to say about the legendary safety.
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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 2:53 am
Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit
Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?
Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.
*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 11:05 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit