Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Super Bowl 45 Review, Packers def. Steelers

Yes, yes. The game was over a week ago, and I'm barely getting to it? I wanted to take a week to think about it and process all the information and try to come up with something original. And I've had some computer difficulties the last couple of days. Or in other words, I was too busy to really write high-quality stuff, so I didn't write anything at all.

Here are my thoughts:

The Packers offensive line played extremely well versus the Steelers rush. Yes, Rodgers did get hit, but in crucial situations, he had time to find guys. Compared to the sack-fest you sometimes see from Green Bay (as recently as last season), this was a huge improvement and the exceptional line play was heightened by the challenge of facing a great opponent. They neutralized James Harrison and kept Rodgers alive when it counted. The Greg Jennings touchdown on seam? That was a long throw and a long route. The Jennings double move that scored? If there is no pass protection, that play is shut down because it required a great throw. The Jordy Nelson catches on 3rd down to keep drives alive? Those plays had to develop long enough (around 10 yards down field) for him to get to the middle of the defense. And finally, the 3rd and 10 that blew the final drive open? I know it looked like a quick slant, but Jennings had to have time to beat Taylor first. Which brings me to...

The Packers receiving corps played extremely well versus the Steelers secondary. The commentators spoke about the Steelers inability to defend the seam. It is extremely difficult for corner to play outside technique to cover the seam (because of the difficulty of getting balanced and knowing which way to turn), and Jennings is faster than the nickel and dime backs the Steelers have. Perhaps the Steelers thought their guys would do better, and I don't really have a solution for them. I was surprised, however, but how open the rest of the Packers receivers were. They didn't really have a safety over Jennings (Troy was late on the first touchdown), so you think the coverage wasn't built for him, but with Donald Driver out, the rest of the Packers wideouts consistently got open in space. I don't know what happened to the man coverage the Steelers were playing but the Packers were ready for it and their other guys stepped up. Particularly impressive was Nelson, who (beyond the drops) made a beautiful 3rd down conversion by recognizing the secondary blitz and signalling Rodgers to give him the ball (even after he dropped the 2nd down ball). I was surprised to see a team that handled Holmes and Edwards two weeks ago fare so poorly against the Packers receivers.

Aaron Rodgers played well versus Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron could have had five touchdowns if more of his precision passes were caught. But more than being accurate, Rodgers kept plays alive, avoided sacks (didn't go down until the second half), and checked down beautifully. After the Packers abandoned the run, the Steelers left the middle of the field open and Rodgers took great advantage of it by put balls in front of the safeties. As for Ben, I got the feeling watching this game that something was wrong with him physically. I don't know if it was the ankle or knee that he tweaked in the first half. I know he got up and ran for a first down right after, but something just didn't seem quite right (it's easy to run straight ahead on a bum knee). He hasn't played a great game in these playoffs, and I wonder if it's because of something wrong with his throwing base. Another thing to keep in mind: Bill Simmons noted this in his Super Bowl podcast, but aside from a few EXTREMELY DUBIOUS Seattle penalties and a GREAT catch by Santonio Holmes, Roethlisberger could be looking at an 0-3 record in the big game. I know he's a great quarterback, but you make the call.

Mike McCarthy outplayed Mike Tomlin just enough to win. McCarthy had his brain-fart moments, like challenging an obvious incompletion and curiously forgoing the run with the lead in the fourth quarter. I can understand the need to go with the hot hand, but I have to think that they got lucky when they were in the red zone and got completions (though not touchdowns) to keep the clock running. I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't completed, say, two of those, and Pittsburgh had another minute on the clock at the end of the game. I'm McCarthy specifically designed plays to be completions and let guys get to the end zone on their own, and I'm sure Rodgers was aware that he needed to complete passes to keep the clock rolling, but it's one of those iffy times, especially when the Steelers might have been susceptible to a run. On the flip side of clock management is whatever the Steelers were doing with two minutes left on the clock. First, they wasted the two minute warning. I know it wasn't much at that point, but it opened the field for that first play. And when they finally got into their offense, they took a minute to run just three plays. That's 20 seconds per play, hardly a hurry-up. They needed 60 more yards to score a touchdown, and guys were running all around, substituting, Mike Wallace wasn't getting the plays, and the whole offense seemed discombobulated the whole series. I can't understand why they weren't tuned in and why they didn't have a plan; after all, this is the same offense that drove down the field for the aforementioned great catch in the Super Bowl against the Cardinals. But it was one of those things that after the first minute, you could tell that this drive wasn't going anywhere. Sure, they moved the ball some, but I had zero confidence in their ability to put the ball in the end zone against this offense. That can't all be blamed on Tomlin, but it is his responsibility to own these situations.

Here's what I have for now. I'll continue to mull this, the offseason, CBA negotations, and other football-related news in my head. Why did the Packers win? You make the call.

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