I recall that headline on a magazine after the Steelers beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, 35-31. Since I’m old enough to have seen and remembered all six of the Pittsburgh Super Bowl victories, I can say that last night’s come-from-behind win tops them all. In fact, it may top all previous 42 games for drama and gut checks on both sidelines.
Yesterday, I wrote that the Arizona Cardinals couldn’t keep up with the more experienced Steelers, but they proved something last night. They came back from 13 points down to take the lead against the top-rated defense in the league in the biggest game of the year. No matter what, that should make the Cards and their fans proud of their performance. On that penultimate drive, they looked like champs, and Pittsburgh fans started using those Terrible Towels as crying rags.
But a funny thing happened afterwards. People had written off the Steeler offense as a mere adjunct of the defense, and analysts talked endlessly how Ben Roethlisberger’s success came from not losing games. The defense last night got beaten for 400+ yards, although they scored a critical touchdown on their own with James Harrison’s 100-yard interception runback. When it looked like the Steelers had lost, Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes won the game with what will be a legendary 4th-quarter comeback drive, topped by an impossibly perfect pass and catch. In fact, it was so impossible that Roethlisberger told ESPN’s Chris Berman that he thought he’d thrown an interception into triple coverage.
The Steelers have won four-point victories in Super Bowls before, in X and XIII, but in both cases the Cowboys crawled back into the game after nearly being routed. Last year’s shocker with the Giants beating the undefeated Patriots had great drama as well, but no one wrote off the Giants nearly as much as people had the Cardinals. If Super Bowl XLIII isn’t the greatest Super Bowl of all time, it’s close to it, and both teams deserve the credit for that.
Update: Yes, Warner’s final fumble was reviewed in the booth. The announcers noted the review during the game, and the league put out a statement afterwards confirming it. Warner didn’t have control of the ball when his arm started moving forward, which makes it a fumble:
According to NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, the replay official upstairs did see the play clearly.
“We confirmed it was a fumble,” said Pereira. “The replay assistant in the replay booth saw it was clearly a fumble. The ball got knocked loose and was rolling in his hand before it started forward. He has to have total control.”
I’m not sure how the “no-review” meme got started, as Al Michaels reported that the review had taken place before the Steelers came to the line and upheld the call on the field. The rule is that the QB has to have total control of the ball after contact for it to be considered a pass and not a fumble, and that obviously wasn’t the case.