ARLINGTON, Texasâ€”Someday theyâ€™ll be comparing the next Packers quarterback to Aaron Rodgers.
Whoever it is, heâ€™ll have big shoes to fill. Rodgers now can cement his name alongside the gameâ€™s other great quarterbacksâ€“especially Brett Favreâ€“after he and the Green Bay Packers put a bow on a stunning postseason with a 31-25 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.
The event had been labeled the Disaster Super Bowl for a series of weeklong blunders by host North Texas, Dallas owner Jerry Jones and the NFL.
But Rodgers put out a number of firesâ€“dropped passes, a leaky defense and injuriesâ€“and won the gameâ€™s most valuable player award. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns and did not toss an interception.
His counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, however, threw two interceptions and the two-time Super Bowl champion lost for the first time in the title game.
Green Bayâ€™s improbable run began with two regular-season-ending wins to get it into the postseason. The Packers then won three straight playoff games on the roadâ€“against the Eagles, Falcons and Bearsâ€“to get here.
With the Super Bowl win, the Packers become the first NFC sixth seed to win a championship. They matched the 2005 Steelers as the only sixth seeds to win a title since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.
It was their fourth Super Bowl and first since Favre led the Packers claimed a Lombardi Trophy following the 1996 season. Rodgers, who sat behind Favre for three seasons and had to deal with the future Hall of Famerâ€™s will-he-or-wonâ€™t-he retire act, is now also a Super Bowl champion.
It did not come easy.
The Steelers refused to die after Green Bay went ahead, 28-17. Pittsburgh trimmed the lead down to three with a touchdown and two-point conversion. The Packers struck back with an efficient 10-play drive that advanced them to the Steelersâ€™ 5 and drained the clock down to 2 minutes, 7 seconds. But they couldnâ€™t put the game away with a touchdown and had to settle for a 23-yard Mason Crosby field goal and a 31-25 advantage.
The fourth quarter opened with all the momentum on the Steelersâ€™ side, but they still trailed, 21-17. They had possession on the Green Bay 33 and were only yards away on second down from picking up another set of downs.
But Rashard Mendenhall, who had been so tough to drag down, fumbled the football when he was sandwiched by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and lineman Ryan Pickettt. Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop pounced on the loose ball and the Steelers had their third turnover of the game.
The Packers had none at that point. It was a devastating blow because Green Bay would turn the giveaway into seven points, as it did on the previous two turnovers.
Despite a dropped pass by Jordy Nelson, Rodgers went back to the receiver on a key third down and the result was a 38-yard completion down to the Pittsburgh 2.
Two plays later, Rodgers and Greg Jennings hooked up for their second touchdown when the receiver tiptoed in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard score and a 28-17 cushion.
Undaunted, the Steelers rebounded.
As great as both defenses played all season, they were exploitable in the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger and his offense continued to press the Packers in the second half.
The quarterback needed only seven plays and 4:23 to move Pittsburgh 66 yards.
And he narrowed the lead down to five when he hit receiver Mike Wallace for a 25-yard touchdown pass on a fade pattern.
The Steelers then elected to go for two and drew up a nifty play that had Roethlisberger on the option pitch to Antwaan Randle-El for the conversion. The Packers led, 28-25, with 7:34 to go, and it would be closest the Steelers would ever get to them.