During the coin toss, which included among others, the great Lynn Swann acting as an honorary captain on the field, I repeated to myself, ‘call tails.' But as I was willing James Farrior to call tails, Potsie forgot to say the most important part: "Tails never fails." All he called was "tails," and it came up heads. Potsie, since my playing days, all captains knew they had to call "Tails never fails." Don't these young guys know anything?
Bruce Arians had a great game plan to open the game. Moving the pocket to use the Cardinals' youth, inexperience, and exuberance -- like that of a hound chasing the craftier fox -- played out perfectly. Hines Ward took advantage of it to open the drive with that 38-yarder, while the Cardinals' defensive line did everything but bark and howl as they pursued Big Ben.
The offensive line looked good in that first quarter. Say what you want about them, but don't question their heart or fighting spirit. The O line is still a place where having a "Thick face, black heart" is the most important attribute to have. Key to the early success of the running game and Gary Russell's touchdown run was Darnell Stapleton and Willie Colon doing a great job of double teaming. Willie really banged the hip on a couple run plays on the double team, while Darnell kept his ham hocks pumping while driving Darnell Dockett into the end zone on the Russell plunge. Dockett though, is a force and would be heard from later on.
The later on came in the form of two sacks Dockett laid on Ben Roethlisberger. When center Justin Hartwig moves away on a wall protection, and Darnell knows this, he has to be aware that he's naked to his inside. Darnell has to sit a half-step to his inside to make up for Justin moving away. He didn't and wasn't as Dockett smoked him to his inside. Dockett is a freak of nature, fast-twitch through and through. If you sneeze, Dockett is already by you. Stapleton will learn.
James Harrison has attained legendary status. Everybody knows about the run. If ever anybody wrung every ounce of O2 and vitality out of their body for one play and left it on the field it was that 100-yard run. After the game he told me that he couldn't get any air. The doctors and trainers were all over him and all he told them was to get out of his face so that he could breathe. He also doinked his neck when he hit the ground. I asked James what was harder, the end zone turf or Casey Hampton's butt last year. No comparison, Snack's butt won hands down. While I was interviewing Harrison on radio the next morning, James described Larry Fitzgerald's fourth quarter catch and run that put Arizona on top. James said "I looked and saw Ike Taylor fall down. I said ‘Lord please let Ryan catch him.' He didn't. I said ‘Lord, please let Troy catch him.' He didn't. I said ‘Lord, please let him trip and fall down' ‘cause I ain't going to catch him."
James also picked up a trick from Troy Polamalu that helped him during the game. On the fumble that wasn't a fumble, (ruled by replay) James lined up over Mike Gandy, the Cards' left tackle. On the snap of the ball, Harrison flashed his back to the line of scrimmage as if he were dropping into coverage. After faking, Harrison came like a wolverine with his fur on fire. Seeing Harrison dropping into coverage, Gandy started to squeeze inside to help guard Reggie Wells thus giving the Silverback the edge rush. Harrison threw his patented uppercut on a late-reacting Gandy and turned the corner forcing Warner to step up in the pocket and catch a heaping, helping face full of a blitzing Potsie Farrior.
Hines Ward is, as the Turk in the booth likes to say, "Tougher than woodpecker lips." From the get-go Hines wanted to lay down the law. Stir things up a little. Antonio Smith had a handful of Chris Kemoeatu's face mask in a scrum at the end of a play, literally twisting his neck using the face mask. So Hines policed the pile and pulled Smith off "Big Juicy." Smith, honked off at Ward's intervention, turned and uppercutted Hines right in the bread basket. Hines, as he told me later, wasn't about to hurt his hand punching Smith in the helmet so he gave him the old Three Stooges eye poke. Moe, Larry ... the cheese!
The Fire X stunt that the Steelers liked to run with Farrior and Foote blitzing on the front side really hit home. They beat on Kurt Warner like he was a human piñata. I'll say this about Warner, he's a serious tough guy. How he got back up after some of those hits had me shaking my head.
All kinds of things were running through my gourd when Big Ben called the boys into the huddle on the last drive. And the first play resulted in a holding call. OK, let's see if No. 7 really has the magic, first and 20 from the 12-yard line. For some reason Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergrast called off the dogs; he didn't blitz like he had been. And 7 came through. What a throw and what a catch! Absolute bedlam!
I stood 15 feet from Hines and Santonio on the sideline as they stood together awaiting the replay result. It struck me that the torch was being passed from one great to another, one Super Bowl MVP to perhaps another. One thing was certain: They both appeared confident the catch was good. And they were right.
While chatting up offensive line coach Larry Zierlein on the Monday morning radio show, I asked him if he was a country and western fan, because I thought he should go play Toby Keith's song "How Do You Like Me Now?" It seemed rather fitting after all the criticism he and his boys endured all year that, as a world champion, he might like that one. I was right.
After all the hooting and hollering of the post-game on-field activities ceased, I boarded the players bus back to their hotel for the party. Seated a couple of rows in front of me was the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. On the TV, a few talking ESPN heads were flapping their lips and one of them said, "only 221 days before the 2009 season starts." Coach Mike laughed. "Can't I just get to the hotel and enjoy this one?" he said.
You betcha, Coach Mike. Enjoy it.