Well, it may not exactly have been a game for the ages, but two solid franchises definitely delivered a solid Super Bowl. As is there custom, the Steelers did their best to come from behind and win it with last minute, desperate heroics, but it wasn’t to be this time around. The Packers, despite injury and disappointing drops by receivers, found a way to overcome adversity in order to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Title Town. Here’s how it all broke down in comparison with our Madden 11 prediction:
Packers 31, Steelers 25:
Credit the Packer’s D for some big plays, including a huge interception returned for a touchdown and a key forced fumble when it looked like the Steelers were going to drive down the field and take the lead. You also have to give plenty of credit to the game’s MVP. Rodgers stayed poised and focused even when his receivers dropped some big time catches that could have really blown this game open. Rodgers went 24 of 39 for 304 yards and 3 TDs, which is almost spot on with our prediction of 20 for 24 for 304 yards 2 TDs and an INT. Meanwhile Roethlisberger played a game that was the best of times and the worst of times. He did his best to rally the team behind a strong defensive effort that kept the Packers mostly in check, but his 25 of 40 for 263 yards 2 TDs and 2 costly INTs just wasn’t enough. However, it was more than he accomplished in our sim where he went 13 of 33 for 250 yards, no TDs and no INTs. Although Starks didn’t quite have the huge game he did in our sim where he had 133 yards and 3 TDs, he still made a difference in this game with 11 carries for 52 yards. That’s a 4.7 average per carry, and he converted some key first downs. Nelson, despite some big drops, was the main target for Rodgers with 9 catches for 140 yards and a TD. In many ways, the Packers played just as they did in our Madden sim, with both defense and offense helping them find a way to win. And while the Steelers put up more of a fight than they did in our sim, they still fell short due to some key mistakes. Our Madden sims haven’t had the best track record this season, but just like the Packers, it got it right when it really mattered most.
In typical Super Bowl fashion, things got off to a slow start. Green Bay ended Pittsburgh’s opening drive with the first of many sacks on Roethlisberger, but as soon as Green Bay got the ball, Rodgers threw an interceptions. The Steelers drove down the short field and hit a 26-yard field goal. The Packers quickly recovered and eventually were able to hit an 8 yard pass to Jone for the first TD of the game. And the first quarter ended with another sack of Roethlisberger.
The Packers opened the second quarter with a TD drive that ended with a 32 yard pass to Jones. After forcing the Steelers three and out, disaster struck as the Packers muffed the punt and the Steelers recovered it. Despite sacking Roethlisberger yet again on the ensuing drive, Pittsburgh found a way to get into the end zone with a 1 yard rush by Johnson. However, the Packers were able to get down the field in the final two minutes and hit a field goal from 22 yards out before halftime. Something worth noting, at the half, the Packers had a grand total of -1 rushing yards.
Green Bay opened the third quarter with the ball, and they wasted little time getting down the field and into the endzone with a 15 yard rush by Starks. After Pittsburgh was forced to punt, Starks tore off an 82 yard run for a TD. Pittsburgh tried to respond, but eventually their drive fizzled and they had to punt the ball away yet again.
Starks put the final nail in the coffin as the fourth quarter opened, capping off another Green Bay drive with a 4 yard TD run. After a slow start to the Green Bay running game, Starks exploded and made all the difference for the Packers in the second half. Meanwhile, the Packers D contained Roethlisberger and sacked him two more times before the game ended. Final score, Green Bay wins the Super Bowl over Pittsburgh 38-10.
Rodgers had a stellar day, cementing his own legend and casting off any of Favre’s remaining shadow. He went 20 of 24 for 304 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. Roethlisberger did all he could. In fact, one thing Madden 11 emulated remarkably well was his ability to get out of trouble and to make plays happen. He converted several third and longs on improvised plays. Still, Big Ben ended the day 13 of 33 for 250 yards, no TDs and no INTs. The real star of the show was Starks. After a horrible first half of running the ball, Green Bay found a spark in Starks, who ripped off 9 runs for 133 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile, the Packers D kept Mendenhall in check with just 12 carries for 25 yards. Jones had a huge day for Green Bay with 6 catches for 112 yards and 2 TDs, and Wallace was the big time threat for Pittsburgh with 3 catches for 131 yards, but he never found the end zone. Green Bay also had six sacks on Big Ben.
So a combination of excellent D, brilliant play by Rodgers, and an unexpected ground attach from Starks helped lift the Packers over the Steelers. While Roethlisberger was able to make plays, the Steelers just couldn’t find ways to get points against a stingy Packers D. Without a running game and playing from behind, the Steelers became one-dimensional and predictable, which made things tough for them. The Steelers D found a way to slow down Rodgers in the second half, but a suddenly explosive running game helped balance that out. We’ll see if the real game can be any where near as exciting come this Sunday.