Rodgers says defense delivered the knockout blows

The Super Bowl XLV Most Valuable Player trophy was given to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The part-time Del Mar resident was the obvious choice, his three touchdown passes obviously playing a big part in Green Bay's 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.


But the most valuable players for the Packers were on defense.

It was that side of the ball that won Green Bay its fourth Super Bowl title.


"Defense was incredible tonight," Rodgers said. "They've been great all season, carrying us, getting turnovers, scoring off turnovers. Unbelievable."

A mid-game resurgence by the Steelers, fueled by their running game and the absence of Green Bay cornerbacks Rod Woodson and Sam Shields, made it an interesting game.

But the Packers won because they made two first-half interceptions, bothered and battered Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at times, stole back momentum with a forced fumble to start the fourth quarter and made a stand to finish the game.

"All year, our defense made plays for us," Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said with a shrug.


It's not coincidence that none of the 11 teams that have returned an interception for a touchdown have lost a Super Bowl.

Nor is it coincidence that, including playoffs, the Packers won all eight games in which they took the ball away at least three times, including in their final three games.

"That's our game plan," said safety Nick Collins, whose 37-yard interception return for a touchdown was the 13th in Super Bowl history. "It we have an opportunity to make plays, we make them. It paid off this while year."

Player after player spoke of this game being business as usual for the Packers. And it was.

They ranked 10th in the NFL with 388 points this season, and almost a third of those came as the result of turnovers. Sunday night, three of their touchdowns came off takeaways.

The Packers were up 7-0 when Pittsburgh took over at their 7-yard line. On the first play, defensive end Howard Green hurried Roethlisberger and hit the quarterback's arm in the instant he threw. The result was the ball wobbling well short of intended target Mike Wallace on a deep pass. Instead, Collins circled under it as if it were a fly ball, grabbed it and zigzagged his way to the end zone.

After a Steelers field goal made it 14-3 and the Packers went three-and-out, the Steelers drove to midfield when Jarrett Bush intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the Green Bay 46.

Four plays later, the Packers were up 21-3.


"We needed that there," Matthew said. "We were able to get a turnover and turn it into points, and that was the key to the game."

The Steelers did drive 77 yards on their next possession, making it a 21-10 halftime difference. Seemingly just as significant at the time was that Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson (collar bone) and Sam Shields (shoulder) were injured during the drive. Woodson, the defense's veteran leader and possessing the penchant for the big play, would not return. Shields played just a few snaps in the second half.

The Steelers would pull to within four points on their first drive of the second half and continue to move the ball more effectively in the second half.

Pittsburgh worked to the Green Bay 33-yard line at the end of the third quarter, still trailing by four.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Packers linebacker Clay Mathews helmet speared Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall's arm, knocking the ball loose. Linebacker Desmond Bishop recovered it, and the Packers took over at their 45.

Eight plays later, Rodgers made his third touchdown pass, an 8-yarder to Greg Jennings.

The Steelers would drive quickly to another touchdown and — after a Green Bay field goal — get one more chance.

Pittsburgh took over with 1:59 remaining but went out on five plays, the final three incompletions.

"When we had to go out and make a play at the end of the game, we made it," said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who changed his defense from primarily man coverage to zone to account for the loss of two of his top three corners. "That's what we've been doing all through the playoffs."

That's why they're the champions.