The Green Bay Packers are the champions of the NFL right now thanks in equal parts to the mastery of Aaron Rodgers in carving up a weak set of Steelers cornerbacks and to a series of Pittbsurgh gaffes not seen in a Super Bowl since Neil O’Donnell helped Larry Brown steal $12.5 million of Al Davis’ money.
Rodgers was the clear choice as the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, after completing 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in Green Bay’s 31-25 win. His numbers should have been even better, but a slew of dropped passes cost the Packers QB much bigger yardage and at least one more touchdown.
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson may have contended for Rodgers’ trophy after catching nine of his passes for 140 yards and the game’s first touchdown, but his three drops helped keep the Steelers in the game, making Rodgers an easy selection.
For the Cal player once best-known for his torturous wait in the green room after slipping to the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Super Bowl became his personal showcase — his "breakout" game. Sure, he had already thrown video-game stats on the board in the Packers’ playoff win over the Falcons three weeks ago, and was widely regarded as the hottest quarterback in the league going into the playoffs, but Sunday’s performance was different. In dominating one of the great defenses in recent NFL history — largely without a running game to balance him out — the former Cal star catapulted himself into elite status as one of the game’s top five quarterbacks, and in the process etched his name on city-limit signs surrounding Green Bay. Yes, he now has proof that he — and not Brett Favre — finally owns Titletown.
As for the Steelers, they were undone by a string of errors that called to mind O’Donnell’s performance against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX 15 years ago. In that game, the Cowboys turned both of Brown’s interceptions of the Steelers QB into touchdowns that ultimately sealed the Cowboys’ 27-17 win.
This time, it was two interceptions thrown by two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — including a pick-six, as well as a costly second-half fumble by Rashard Mendenhall that turned the tide as Pittsburgh rallied from a 21-10 halftime deficit — that allowed Green Bay to take, and then resume, control. The Packers ultimately turned all three Pittsburgh turnovers into touchdowns.
Still, the Steelers trailed by just six when they took over with 1:59 to play, but Roethlisberger was forced to begin his final drive from his own 13-yard line after a personal foul on backup linebacker Keyaron Fox following the kickoff after Green Bay’s final field goal.
Aguilera looked on with an empathetic smile.
There would be no miracle drive this time, as Roethlisberger could generate just one first down before yielding the stage to Rodgers for two kneel-downs into history.
In the end, some may argue that justice prevailed Sunday night in Dallas. In one locker room, a quarterback who began the season serving a four-game suspension for inexcusable personal behavior off the field was denied a trophy that would have pushed his transgressions even further into the background. In the other, a quarterback who waited patiently behind an egomaniacal NFL legend for his shot — and then succeeded without so much as a helping hand from the bitter would-be mentor — celebrated a championship with his team.
At 27 years of age, and just entering his prime, it will likely not be Rodgers’ last.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. -E-mail him at email@example.com.