Cardinals Fall Short in Super Bowl Classic

While the hype leading up to Super Bowl XLIII was endless, the two teams delivered an epic performance. The Arizona Cardinals put forth a valiant effort but came up short on the game's grandest stage. The Pittsburgh Steelers won their second Super Bowl title in four years and head back to the Steel City with a record sixth Lombardi Trophy. Brad Wilbricht wraps up an instant classic from Tampa.

After taking a 23-20 lead with less than three minutes remaining, the Arizona Cardinals thought they had shocked the world and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. However, a clutch drive by the Steelers' offense denied Arizona of its first ever Lombardi Trophy as Pittsburgh pulled out a thrilling 27-23 victory. The Steelers are now the first team in NFL history to win six Super Bowl titles.

Pittsburgh was led by yet another gutsy performance by QB Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger completed 21-of-30 passes for 256 yards and hooked up with WR Santonio Holmes on a 6-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winning score. Holmes earned Super Bowl MVP honors after hauling in nine passes for 131 yards.


Larry Fitzgerald
(Getty)

Despite a heartbreaking loss, Arizona proved it belongs after overcoming a sluggish start and erasing a late 13-point Steelers lead. Furthermore, the Cardinals outgained Pittsburgh 407-293 in total yardage and held a 23-30 advantage in first downs.

Arizona QB Kurt Warner came on strong in the second half and finished 31-of-43 passing for 377 yards and three touchdowns. After connecting with WR Larry Fitzgerald on a 64-yard touchdown pass to with less than three minutes left, Warner stood as the favorite to win his second Super Bowl MVP award. However, it was not meant to be as Pittsburgh secured the win with an eight play 78-yard scoring drive.

The Steelers' defense set out to slow down Fitzgerald and did just that early on, limiting him to one catch for 12 yards in the first half. However, Fitzgerald was not to be denied and finished with seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, WR Anquan Boldin managed eight receptions for 84 yards while WR Steve Breaston chipped in six grabs for 71 yards.

The Steelers moved the ball at will on their first two possessions, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the process. Following Pittsburgh's early success, the Arizona defense tightened up from that point on. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie broke up multiple passes and the Cardinals' defense held Pittsburgh scoreless on its final two offensive possessions of the initial half of play.


James Harrison
(Getty)

With just over two minutes left in the first half, Roethlisberger was picked off by LB Karlos Dansby and the Cardinals marched down to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. However in a sudden turn of events, LB James Harrison intercepted Warner at the goal line and returned it a Super Bowl record 100 yards for a touchdown. A 14-point swing propelled Pittsburgh to a 17-7 halftime lead.

Penalties plagued the Cardinals all game long as they racked up 11 infractions for 106 yards on the evening. On their first offensive possession of the second half, the Steelers took advantage of three 15-yard penalties by Arizona. Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged for a face mask penalty while Dansby was called for roughing the passer.

After the Cardinals' defense forced Pittsburgh into a field goal attempt, SS Adrian Wilson was cited for a personal foul after running into holder Mitch Berger. The penalty gave the ball back to Pittsburgh in point blank range but the Steelers were unable to capitalize and took a 20-7 lead after settling for another field goal.

Following an exchange of possessions, backup RB J.J. Arrington and WR Jerheme Urban helped spark the Arizona offense on an eight play 87-yard scoring drive that cut the Steelers lead to 20-14. After being shutdown for most of the game, Fitzgerald broke out on the drive with four receptions for 31 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass from Warner.

The Cardinals grew even closer when a holding call on Pittsburgh center Justin Hartwig in the end zone resulted in a safety. With the score now 20-16, the legend of Larry Fitzgerald grew even bigger as he scored his second touchdown of the second half. Fitzgerald took a pass from Warner and split the Steelers' defense on a 64-yard touchdown that gave Arizona its first lead of the game.


Ben Roethlisberger
(AP Photo)

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they left Big Ben and company too much time on the clock. While Roethlisberger was under constant duress, the Arizona defense was unable consistently corral the fifth-year signal caller. After compiling -2 yards on the previous three possessions, Pittsburgh's offense rose to the occasion and compiled 78 yards on the game-winning drive. Holmes was Roethlisberger's main target, grabbing four passes for 73 yards. Holmes is now embedded in Super Bowl history thanks to his outstretched catch in the corner of the end zone.

2008's matchup between the New York Giants and New England Patriots was a difficult act to follow but this season's game did just that. Similar to last year, the plot wasn't the greatest but the ending was spectacular. That being said, Super Bowl XLIII will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl history.


Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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