Whoa, Pack, whoa!
The team from the NFL’s smallest market came up huge Sunday, as the Green Bay Packers clinched their fourth Super Bowl victory with a wire-to-wire 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
Powered by the spectacular play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who rocketed passes into mailbox-sized openings, the Packers became just the second sixth-seeded team to win it all, joining the 2005 Steelers.
Rodgers, once doubted by many as a suitable replacement for legendary Brett Favre, now has as many rings as that future Hall of Famer.
Rodgers was selected the game’s most valuable player. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 111.5.
“Vince Lombardi is coming home to Green Bay!” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the awards ceremony.
Added Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: “It was the great resolve of our football team. We had some practice of guys going down and other guys stepping up. It was a very emotional halftime. We had some bumps in the third quarter, but just a tremendous effort, and Coach Lombardi’s trophy is finally going back home.”
Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defense -- without star cornerback Charles Woodson -- denied the Steelers another winning drive to match their breathtaking come-from-behind Super Bowl victory over Arizona two years ago.
Pittsburgh, vying for its record seventh Lombardi Trophy, had the edge in yards and time of possession, but had three turnovers compared to none by Green Bay.
It was a masterful performance by a Green Bay team that limped through the season and wound up putting 15 players on injured reserve.
The Packers, who hadn’t won a Super Bowl since Favre lifted them to one in 1997, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never surrendered it, although the Steelers got close.
“This a great group of men we’ve put together here,” said Rodgers, who had nine touchdown passes in the playoffs. “A lot of character, been through a lot together. It’s just great to be able to share it with them.”
The last Super Bowl without a lead change was when Baltimore beat the New York Giants, 34-7, to cap the 2000 season.
Pittsburgh cut the deficit to four in the third quarter, then to 28-25 with a 25-yard touchdown reception by Mike Wallace in the fourth.
But the Packers held their ground, getting an eight-yard touchdown reception from Greg Jennings -- his second score of the game -- and a Mason Crosby field goal in the final quarter.
Pittsburgh opened the second half the way it ended the first -- with an impressive touchdown drive.
Using the power running game for which the Steelers are famous, they marched 50 yards in five plays and scored on an eight-yard touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall. That cut Green Bay’s advantage to 21-17.
The Packers made their way to the locker room with a 21-10 lead, and a quarterback who had completed 11 of 16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the Steelers who scored last, however, marching downfield for a quick-strike touchdown after giving up their third to Green Bay and falling behind, 21-3.
Pittsburgh’s touchdown came on an eight-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward. Roethlisberger looked off at least two other receivers before looping a pass toward Ward, who contorted his body to make the catch.
That score came with 47 seconds to play in the half, less than two minutes after Rodgers fired a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jennings.
Jennings was the 11th Green Bay player to score a touchdown in the postseason, a league record.
Roethlisberger, who fought through a gimpy left knee early in the game, finished the half having completed 13 of 21 for 143 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
Late in the second quarter, the Packers cornerbacks Sam Shields and Charles Woodson left the game with shoulder injuries.
Green Bay took a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter with a pair of rapid-fire touchdowns.
Moments after Jordy Nelson caught a beautiful pass for a 29-yard score, Packers safety Nick Collins stunned the Steelers with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Collins’ touchdown was the 13th interception return for a score in Super Bowl history. Heading into Sunday, teams that had accomplished that feat were 10-0 in the league’s biggest game.
The second score was set up by a penalty that had pushed the Steelers deep into their own territory. Roethlisberger, who dropped back into his end zone, was hit by nose tackle Howard Green a moment before he released the ball.
The pass, intended for Wallace, fluttered well short of him and was plucked out of the air by Collins, who weaved his way back to the end zone.
The chants of “Go! Pack! Go!” grew ever louder.
Green Bay has scored first in each of its five Super Bowl appearances.
On his touchdown, Nelson beat cornerback William Gay, and Rodgers put the ball on the money. That Nelson made the catch was fitting, as he allowed an earlier long pass to fall through his grasp.