Super Bowl Judgements: Woodson inspires, Rodgers delivers

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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1. It was Charles Woodson who got through to teammates when he delivered an emotional halftime speech, imploring them to win without him, and it is Charles Woodson we should pay attention to now. I mean, when he talks of what's ahead for Green Bay he has a clear idea, it's hard to argue with the logic. "We have the team, we have the nucleus and we most definitely have the quarterback," he said. Green Bay won the Super Bowl with 15 guys on injured reserve, including six starters, and played with a quarterback who suffered two concussions. They also snuck in as the NFC's last seed, qualifying only with a season-ending defeat of Chicago. Now imagine what happens when people like Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett and Morgan Burnett return. From where I sit it sure looks as if everyone else is playing for second in the NFC North. Maybe everyone else is playing for second, period.

2. Let me be the first to suggest a Super Bowl share for the Chicago Bears. It was the Bears who put Green Bay here, first by losing the season-ender, then by losing in the conference championship game.

3. All those who criticized Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson three summers ago for letting Brett Favre walk -- please raise your hand. "This is a real tribute to Ted," Packers' president Mark Murphy said of the Packers' victory, "and, obviously, the whole organization." No kidding. Thompson made the tough and unpopular decision, but he had the guts to pull the cord. It took three seasons for him to be vindicated, but take a bow, Ted. You deserve it.

4. Tell me Green Bay isn't a different team indoors. They're not only 12-6 in domes under coach Mike McCarthy, including 2-1 in the playoffs, but they have eight defensive TDs off takeaways there and 39 takeaways in all. They also have seven indoor games with at least three takeaways. Moreover, Aaron Rodgers has 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions inside.

5. Greg Jennings had two touchdown catches, but no reception was bigger than that 31-yarder on the Packers' game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter. It was third-and-10, the Packers clung to a three-point lead and a big play was needed. So Rodgers hit Jennings over the middle. "Huge," Jennings said. "Outstanding throw by Aaron. [Troy] Polamalu makes a great play getting me down. To God be the glory, that's all I can say."

6. Just a hunch, but Dallas is overjoyed with the results. With the victory, the Packers prevented Pittsburgh from getting a two-game jump on the Cowboys and 49ers for most Super Bowl wins ever.

7. Green Bay winning was no surprise. Ben Roethlisberger not cashing in on the last drive was. He did it in his last three playoff appearances, first in Super Bowl XLIII, then in this year's playoff defeats of Baltimore and the New York Jets. But he couldn't do it Sunday night, producing just one first down on the Steelers' last series. "They did a great job of taking away deep things and taking away the outside," he said. "You're kind of stuck with very limited options there with [one timeout] left. We just had to do what we could do."

8. Start the party in Berkeley. Rodgers became the first Cal quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Craig Morton was 0-2 and Joe Kapp 0-1.

9. The more I see of Tramon Williams the more I'm convinced that Charles Woodson may not be the best cornerback on the Packers. How in the world did Houston let this guy go?

10. No surprise the Packers scored first. They've done it in all five Super Bowl appearances.

11. No surprise they won, either. Teams that return interceptions for touchdowns are 11-0 in Super Bowl history.

12. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said he felt better than at any time in the second half of the season, but you wouldn't know it watching him play. He seemed out of position -- or in no position at all -- all evening. In short, he didn't look like the Defensive Player of the Year, and, yeah, I'd say that Achilles injury had plenty to do with it. "It was like I was a half-step off here and there," he said. I'll second that.

13. The weather here was horrific. There were power outages. Four of the 10 stadium entrances were closed. Seats were sold that weren't completed. Four hundred fans were sent home. Talk about a nightmare. So why could the Super Bowl ever return to Dallas? I'll tell you why: There were 103,219 tickets sold, and a bottom-line league won't walk away from a check the size of the one Jerry Jones wrote it Monday.

14. Maybe it's a good thing the NFLPA wants to litigate the upcoming CBA talks. It can prepare the NFL for the tsunami of lawsuits from angry ticket holders Sunday.

15. Look at it this way, Indianapolis, the bar is set low for Super Bowl XLVI. It's smooth sailing from here.

16. Tell me this didn't remind you of last year's Green Bay-Pittsburgh game when the Steelers took over with 2:06 left and down 36-30. Then they had to go 86 yards and won on the last play. This time it was 87 yards with 2:07 remaining ... only the Packers held. Typical. In 20 games this season Green Bay did not allow a touchdown in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime.

17. If you're going to be an MVP you might as well be a quarterback. Rodgers becomes the fourth in the last five Super Bowl MVPs (Santonio Holmes was the exception) and the 24th overall.

18. We made a big deal before the game about Doug Legursky replacing rookie Maurkice Pouncey at center, and we should have. It was Legursky's first start. But the guy played well and made a touchdown-saving tackle after Desmond Bishop picked up a fourth-quarter Rashard Mendenhall fumble and ran.

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19. Little known fact: In 1994, the San Francisco 49ers signed three unrestricted free agents who went on to the Hall of Fame. They were Deion Sanders, Richard Dent and Rickey Jackson. Don't tell me the team's pro personnel department wasn't doing its job because it was. Today's 49ers should pay attention.

20. Watching those videos of Hall of Fame linebacker Chris Hanburger, I can't help but think: If he were playing today, he'd either be broke or out of the league. There is no way he could survive with the head shots that were the trademark of his game.

MY MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. He made the plays Roethlisberger didn't. He threw for more than 300 yards for the third time in his playoff career; he had three or more TD passes for the fourth time in his playoff career and he won his first Super Bowl. Plus, he overcame the loss of Donald Driver and numerous drops by his receivers, including a potential TD pass to James Jones. "We put everything on his shoulders," winning coach Mike McCarthy said of his quarterback. "He did a hell of a job."

Offensive player of the game: Rodgers. He made the big plays when needed, with a 31-yard pass to Greg Jennings on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter one of the biggest. More important, Rodgers didn't make the mistakes that sabotaged Roethlisberger and the Steelers. In five playoff games Rodgers is 4-1, with 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 112.6. He's also only the third quarterback in Super Bowl history to throw for at least three TDs with no interceptions. The first two were San Francisco's Joe Montana and Steve Young. "It's a dream come true," Rodgers said.

Defensive player of the game: Nick Collins, S, Green Bay. His touchdown return of a first-quarter interception was the difference in the game. The Packers had standout plays from all parts of their defense, but Collins' return was the biggest and best."I was just reading Ben's eyes," Collins said. "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." Collins caught it all right. Then he ran through the Pittsburgh offense to find the end zone. "I played high-school quarterback," Collins said, "so I know what to do when the ball is in my hands. I made a couple of moves to get into the end zone.

Coach of the game: Dom Capers, defensive coordinator, Green Bay. The Packers defense made huge plays all through the playoffs, beginning with Tramon Williams' game-saving interception in Philadelphia, and it stepped forward again Sunday night with three takeaways -- all of which led to touchdowns. Nowhere, however, were the Packers better than in the second half when, without defensive back Charles Woodson for two quarters and Sam Shields for one, they withstood a Pittsburgh comeback -- holding on when Williams broke up Roethlisberger's last-gasp pass. "It was tough," Capers said. "We were scrambling for awhile because a big part of our game plan went out the window. We planned on playing a lot of 'man' coverage, and when those guys went out we had to become more of a zone team." Overcoming adversity is nothing new for Capers and the Packers. They made it through the season without four defensive starters. "It's crunch time," Shields said. "When someone goes down someone else has to step up. And that's what happened to us throughout the season."

Unsung hero: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay. With Donald Driver sidelined by an ankle injury, someone had to step in to make a play. That someone was Nelson, who produced a career-high nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Granted, he dropped a few, too, but in the end he made enough of a contribution to make a difference ... a big difference. "I can't say enough about Jordy Nelson," Jennings said. "He was able to take advantage of the matchups we thought he would be able to expose for us."

Best play: Nick Collins' touchdown return of that Roethlisberger interception. It put the Steelers behind by 14 and all but sealed their doom. "It is a childhood dream come true," Collins said of the score. "I knew if I had the opportunity to come play in this game that was one of my ultimate goals, and I did it."

Worst play: James Jones' drop of a potential touchdown pass to open the second half. If Jones makes the catch, he's gone ... just as if he had made the catch in the Philadelphia playoff game he was gone. More than that, if he makes the catch the Packers are back to an 18-point lead. But he didn't, opening the door for a Pittsburgh comeback.

Best call: The quarterback option on Pittsburgh's two-point conversion. Roethlisberger took the snap, faked an inside handoff to Rashard Mendenhall to freeze the inside linebackers, then ran left, pitching to Antwaan Randle El for the score. A smart and timely call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians that put the Steelers within a field goal.

Worst call: Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin having Shaun Suisham try a 52-yard field goal he wasn't going to make. Worse, it wasn't even close. I know the guy missed only one this season for Pittsburgh, but he stunk in the playoffs last season -- missing field goals of 48 and 49 with Dallas, both wide left (as he did Sunday) -- and he stunk during the regular season, too, blowing chip shots vs. the Cowboys (when he was with Washington) and New Orleans. So why try him when you can trap Green Bay -- on a respirator at that point -- inside the 10? Makes no sense to me. Apparently, I wasn't alone. "That was a terrible decision by me in hindsight," Tomlin said. "It wasn't even close. I took a calculated shot at it and failed."

Just asking but ...

  Where does this put Aaron Rodgers in the hierarchy of quarterbacks?

  Any chance of a refund on the over/under for the national anthem?

  What was with all the injuries?

  Who was missed more -- Donald Driver or Emmanuel Sanders?

  Where was Heath Miller?

Five things I like

1. Curtis Martin's chances to make the Hall of Fame in 2012. The list of candidates isn't as strong as it was last weekend, with Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher at the top, which should move Martin and center Dermontti Dawson forward. Good. They should.

2. Aaron Rodgers' first touchdown pass. William Gay's coverage wasn't all that bad, so the throw had to be perfect. It was.

3. Aaron Rodgers' second touchdown pass. This throw might have been better than the first, with Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark within inches of a deflection. How in the world did San Francisco choose Alex Smith over this guy?

4. The TV ratings. Guaranteed, they're through the roof.

5. The Black Eyed Peas' half-time version of Sweet Child of Mine. I'd not only rather see Fergie than Axl Rose; I'd rather hear her, too. The human glow sticks were a nice touch. This wasn't just a show; it was a spectacle. Bridgestone should be happy.

Five things I don't

1. Announcing the regular-season MVP the day of the Super Bowl. Talk about dumb. Tom Brady is the NFL's first unanimous choice, but he's no more than a paragraph in Monday's papers. Puh-leeze. Let's cut our losses, and do what's right: Next year make the AP announcements the week after the conference championship games, then reveal the MVP winner at halftime of the Pro Bowl.

2. The cost of Super Bowl parking. One lot was $60; another was $100. Recession? What recession?

3. The financial hit that downtown Dallas took from last week's winter storm. Super Bowl week is supposed to dump millions of dollars into the economy, not snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures on an area that couldn't handle it.

4. Green Bay opening the second half without defensive backs Charles Woodson and Sam Shields. Somehow the Packers overcame it, holding on long enough for Shields to return in the fourth quarter. "We probably had to adapt as much in the second half as we've had to for quite a while," Capers said. "This game we had to adapt on the run."

5. Pittsburgh's failure to keep the game within three points when the Packers took over, up 28-25, with 7:29 left and the ball at its 25. The Packers went 70 yards, scored and consumed 5:27. That's not supposed to happen to the league's best defense.

Five guys ... OK, people ... I wouldn't want to be

1. Those responsible for the Super blunder that cost 400 fans their seats. The NFL said they would triple the refunds, adding that it "regretted" the error, but it should go beyond regret. It should refund their trips. Talk about an equipment malfunction.

2. Christina Aguilera. Next time, try getting the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner right. Is it too much to ask that "O'er the ramparts we watched" be included? On second thought, never mind. There won't be a next time.

3. Ben Roethlisberger. He cost the Steelers two touchdowns with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a score. Granted, he missed Emmanuel Sanders, but this wasn't Big Ben at his best. I'm not knocking him; just saying I've seen him better. So has everyone. The guy is now 10-3 in the playoffs and 2-1 in Super Bowls.

4. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. He looked like anything but the Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday. He said he wasn't hurt, but the tape doesn't lie. You could've timed him with an hour glass.

5. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. His five-game winning streak in the playoffs ends, and so does his Super Bowl winning streak at one. "We created the bed [with turnovers] and we had to lie in it," he said.

Significant numbers

4 -- Straight Green Bay games with double-digit halftime lead
6 -- Green Bay rushes in the second half
$10-- Cheapest beer at the game
11 -- Packers with touchdowns in these playoffs, a postseason record
13 -- Interception returns for TDs in Super Bowls
14 -- Green Bay first-quarter points, tying a Super Bowl record
19 -- World championships shared by Pittsburgh and Green Bay
21 -- Green Bay points off turnovers
12-5 -- Mike Tomlin vs. the NFC

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