On a night when gifted vocalist Christina Aguilera flubbed the lyrics to the national anthem, quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit all the right notes for the Green Bay Packers.
Taking advantage of three Pittsburgh Steelers turnovers and overcoming a case of the dropsies by his receivers, Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three scores as the Pack scored a 31-25 victory to win Super Bowl XLV.
And by doing so, he emerged completely from the enormous shadow cast by his legendary predecessor, Brett Favre.
Hard to believe, but a scant four years ago, many Packer fans didn’t believe Rodgers was a worthy successor to the throne of the man who had established himself as the NFL’s all-time leader in virtually every major passing category.
But all doubt has been removed after a superb post-season which saw Rodgers throw for 1,094 and 9 touchdowns and run for two other scores in a four-game run to Green Bay’s first championship since Favre guided the Pack to the title in 1997. Rodgers, who joined Kurt Warner as the only QBs to surpass 1,000 passing yards in a single postseason, was named Super Bowl MVP. The only other Packer to earn that honor was Bart Starr, who was named the top player in the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and ‘68.
Rodgers’ stats against the Steelers were even more impressive when you consider that he was victimized by at least six dropped passes, including a perfect toss to James Jones in the opening series of the third quarter that would have put Green Bay up 28-10. But the quarterback from Cal seemed unfazed by that play or the loss to injury of experienced receiver Donald Driver.
And each time it appeared the Steelers had wrested control of the game, A-Rod responded like a champion.
There were concerns he might suffer from a case of the jitters because he was making his Super Bowl debut. But he was flawless. Interestingly, his counterpart – two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger – was the one whose mistakes proved costly.
Early on, Big Ben threw two interceptions – one that was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Nick Collins and another that Rodgers cashed in for a score to put the Packers up 14-0.
Pittsburgh’s third turnover – a fumble by dependable running back Rashard Mendenhall – also was converted into 7 points. Three turnovers. Twenty-one points. Too much of a burden for even a team as talented and experienced as the Steelers to overcome.
To his credit, Roethlisberger bounced back and brought the Steelers to within three points at 28-25 late in the fourth quarter. But Pittsburgh’s last-gasp drive in the final two minutes ended with a Big Ben incompletion on a fourth-and-five in Steelers territory.
Greg Jennings wound up being the recipient of two of Rodgers’ scoring strikes, while Jordy Nelson had the other TD reception on a night when he let a few slip away but still managed a career-best 9 catches for 140 yards.
The win gave Green Bay its fourth Super Bowl championship and 17th NFL title overall. It marked the first Lombardi Trophy for coach Mike McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native who grew up rooting for the Steelers in the 1970s.
And it officially served notice that Aaron Rodgers has arrived, and can now be mentioned among the league’s handful of elite quarterbacks.
EXTRA POINTS: I thought Aguilera recovered nicely, but I read where she was devastated by her faux pas. The thing is, she had given rousing renditions of the anthem before, including at last year’s NBA Finals . . . Don’t know about you, but I thought most of the commercials were lame. The creative types on Madison Avenue are in a slump . . . Could someone explain to me why you have a flyover of fighter jets over a dome with a closed roof? . . . Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who should have won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, came up big when he forced Rashard to cough up the ball . . . It probably doesn’t mean anything, but NFC teams have won the coin flip in the last 14 consecutive Super Bowls . . . Another reason the Packers victory was so impressive is that it came despite the loss of veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, who left the game in the first half with a broken collarbone . . . Green Bay now has four Lombardi Trophies. Pittsburgh is still the all-time leader with six . . . I can see these teams back next season, if there is a next season.