TAMPA, Fla. – It wasn't the greatest Super Bowl ever, but it was close and considering the game began as a gelatinous, toxic mess and collection of bad quarterback play, stupid fights and silly calls, it's a miracle we'll remember this one as a classic.
There were tantrums and poor play. And that was just during the Springsteen concert.
And nothing sexes up a Super Bowl like a roughing-the-holder penalty. Mmmm ... yummy.
Roughing the holder? What's next: illegal use of a kicking tee?
Did President Obama call the refs and order them to give all the calls to the Steelers or face naked human pyramid building at Gitmo?
For three quarters you wondered: What in the name of Brenda Warner is going on here?
For three quarters, the Steelers' 27-23 win wasn't a Super Bowl. That was an exhibition contest from 1974. If only Super Bowl XLIII could've received the same Botox that Bruce is receiving. For three quarters it was dog poop wrapped around pigeon stool and soaked overnight in Baconnaise.
Vin Diesel in Shakespeare in the Park would have more grace.
Then came that unbelievable fourth quarter. A fourth quarter in which neither team truly blinked.
That fourth quarter wiped clear all of the butt-ugliness from the previous three. It will probably go down as one of the better final few minutes in Super Bowl history.
"Oh my God," Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said when asked about those tension-filled final minutes. "You can't explain it. You are seconds away from me crying in the locker room and them being out here (celebrating). That's how amazing this game is."
|Larry Fitzgerald's 64-yard TD catch adds to the drama. (US Presswire)|
One swift, stunning and fast-moving quarter altered the complexion of the game and football history. The fourth quarter saved the Super Bowl from going down as one of the dog ugliest ever.
Thanks to Larry Fitzgerald we'll remember him and his Superman cape flapping in the wind instead of a horrid roughing-the-holder penalty.
We'll remember the tippy toes of Santonio Holmes instead of a safety in the end zone.
We'll remember greatness instead of play that at times bordered on malpractice. We won't remember the 18 penalties.
We'll remember Ben Roethlisberger's heroics and the refs getting that last call right instead of the long list of ones they got wrong.
The fourth quarter was so good it removed a foul stench and replaced it with fresh, Florida air.
This game is defined by a handful of plays, two of the biggest happening in the last quarter. Fitzgerald's touchdown was reminiscent of what Jerry Rice once did on this big stage so many times.
Like Rice, there were moments when you didn't realize what exactly you were seeing. You knew you were witnessing something spectacular, you just didn't know how spectacular. It turns out he was the best wide receiver ever.
The same thing is happening with Fitzgerald. He might not end up as good as Rice but in that delicious fourth quarter, he gave us a glimpse of a future that could put him on Rice's doorstep.
Roethlisberger's final drive of eight plays and 78 yards in just more than two minutes transformed his career just as it transformed this Super Bowl.
What was Roethlisberger thinking during the drive? "Please don't let this be the ultimate low," he said.
By the way, what was that last play called? The play that won the game? "Drop back, scramble right, scramble left, find someone open."
That's perfect for how this game went.
Far from it.
Now, because of that drive, Holmes is a household name. That image of him kneeling in wonderment after the catch will be synonymous with that fourth quarter.
"Santonio is a guy that loves to deliver," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
He helped to deliver a great last quarter.
"We're going down in history with one of the greatest games ever played in the Super Bowl," Holmes said.
It sure didn't look that way early on.
There are Super Bowls where the next day people say: Did you see that?
For much of this game, the only thing worth seeing was Springsteen's wife.
That's not how it ended. Once you uncovered your eyes, you saw a classic.
Even if it took some time to unfold.