No. 5 Williams ends the game — again
In big games, you'd expect a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback to play with a much higher football IQ. Instead, with the game on the line, Ben Roethlisberger went at Tramon Williams. Why? Had he not noticed the incomparable Charles Woodson and the stellar rookie Sam Shields on the bench? Had he not seen Williams' exploits all season, and especially in the playoffs? Then again, maybe Roethlisberger was confused because there was no tape from this season of Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee playing cornerback. That Dom Capers, he's sneaky.
In all seriousness, if it's fourth-and-5, why on earth would you throw the ball to Mike Wallace against Williams when there are better matchups? Not surprisingly given his incredible postseason, Williams broke up the pass and the Packers could celebrate their first championship since 1996.
"If he would have thrown a better pass, I would have gotten it and really closed the game in style," Williams said after the game.
No. 4: Rodgers to Jennings on third-and-10
If Aaron Rodgers was going to be known as a great quarterback and not just a very good regular-season quarterback, he needed to make a play. Midway through the fourth quarter and with the Packers clinging to a 28-25 lead, the Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans were roaring. It was third-and-10, with the offense pushed back by a first-down sack and a false start a moment earlier.
Did Rodgers ever deliver.
In one of the great hookups in Super Bowl history, Greg Jennings beat Ike Taylor off the line of scrimmage and took off deep down the middle. Still, Taylor was in great position, about two steps behind Jennings and with both safeties providing help deep. Somehow, however, Rodgers fit the ball to Jennings. Only a great open-field tackle prevented a touchdown, but the 31-yard gain gave the Packers a critical first down, allowing them to burn more of the clock and eventually put a field goal on the scoreboard.
And if you want an unsung hero on that drive, don't forget Tom Crabtree's diving 1-yard reception on first-and-goal. Had Crabtree not made the catch, the clock would have stopped. Instead, the clock went from 3:47 to 3:01 at the second-down snap.
No. 3: Packers strike first
Nelson makes it 7-0.
Charlie Riedel/AP Images
In a scoreless game, the Packers faced a third-and-1 at Pittsburgh's 29-yard line. Coach Mike McCarthy could have taken the conservative approach — and tried to send a physical message — by lining up in the I formation and having John Kuhn lead the way for James Starks against the Steelers' rugged run defense. Instead, McCarthy called for a pass. Based on Pittsburgh's coverage, Jordy Nelson was supposed to go deep, with three short routes — including a screen — for Rodgers to choose.
Instead, Rodgers went deep to Nelson. The coverage by William Gay was good but the pass was perfect, and Green Bay was off and running with a 7-0 lead.
"I lined up and they came up and bumped me and Aaron gave me the signal," Nelson said. "I had the same route, but it was more a signal, ‘I am going to alert you if are open I am going to throw it to you.' I ran the route and he threw the ball out there and we started the game off right."
No. 2: Green and Collins for a pick-six
Moments later, the Packers grabbed a 14-0 lead on Nick Collins' 37-yard interception return. In what was typical of this season, a midseason addition made the key play. Big Howard Green — who was signed to bolster the run defense — got under standout Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu.
Green's bull-rush overwhelmed Kemoeatu and no doubt surprised Roethlisberger, who stood tall in the pocket and pump-faked to Wallace, with Wallace running a double move against Shields. As Wallace and Shields turned upfield, Roethlisberger let go of the ball but was hit by Green. The fluttering pass hung forever and allowed Collins to streak underneath it, grab it and wave his way through the Steelers' offense for the 13th pick-six in Super Bowl history. Teams with a pick-six are 11-0.
"I was able to get a nice jump on the ball, read Big Ben's eyes and shoulders, and I saw the ball floating there," Collins said. "I just made sure I was able to catch the ball. I rushed for over 2,000 yards in high school so I know what to do with the ball in my hands!"
No. 1: Clay saves the day
Matthews and Pickett
Kathy Willens/AP Images
The Packers hadn't had an answer for Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall for most of the night. In his 13 carries to that point, he'd had runs of 17, 15, 9, 9 and 8 yards — not to mention a 16-yarder by backup Isaac Redman. But on second-and-2 from the Packers' 33 to start the final stanza, Green Bay's defense struck — just like it had all season. Mendenhall got the ball and was met in the backfield by Ryan Pickett and Clay Matthews. Matthews' helmet hit the ball, the ball popped loose, and Desmond Bishop recovered.
"It's really film work and preparation," Matthews said. "I had a good feeling that play was going to come. I told my defensive end (Pickett) to spin it for me and wrap it around the outside."
Green Bay's offense parlayed the big break into a big touchdown, with Rodgers converting third-and-7 (12 yards to James Jones) and third-and-10 (38 yards to Nelson) to set up Rodgers' 8-yard touchdown to Jennings for a 28-17 lead.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.