Green Bay Packers
In the afterglow of the greatest night of his young football life, quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledged Monday that he was second-guessing himself before taking to the field for Super Bowl XLV.
Rodgers referenced the bold move head coach Mike McCarthy made on the eve of the big game at Cowboys Stadium, having the players measured for their ring size after the team meeting late Saturday night at the hotel.
"I actually missed the little table there. I didn't get sized up," Rodgers said. "I was wondering when I was taking my pregame shower (Sunday) if that was a bad omen or not, to not get sized for my ring."
Rodgers then added with a knowing grin, "Hopefully, I can still get sized with that."
Indeed, the Super Bowl rings are on order after the Packers sweated out a second-half comeback by the Pittsburgh Steelers and prevailed 31-25 for their first league title in 14 years.
Since the Packers were going to get NFC championship rings regardless of the Super Bowl outcome, McCarthy didn't see the harm in what could be perceived as jumping the gun by lining the guys up for the ring sizing less than 24 hours before kickoff.
"I felt it was the right time to do it," McCarthy said Monday. "I talked to (New Orleans head coach) Sean Payton about some of the things he did from a scheduling standpoint" leading up to the Saints' Super Bowl victory last year.
"Scheduling is so important during the course of the week, and you want to do certain things at certain times, and I felt that was the appropriate time," McCarthy added. "I thought it would be special. I thought it would give us a boost of confidence to do it the night before the game. But, that's about as far as I took it."
Amazingly, especially after the Twitter-induced fiasco involving their Super Bowl team photo that the Packers endured for several days before they arrived in North Texas, word never leaked about the rings endeavor before or during the game.
McCarthy said the immensely gratifying feeling of being a Super Bowl-winning coach probably wouldn't sink in until after the team returned to Green Bay. In fact, he took a pass on sleeping with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as Payton and the Steelers' Mike Tomlin did after their crowning achievements the previous two years.
"My wife is too good looking not to sleep with her," McCarthy quipped.
Thousands of fans were expected to line neighborhood streets on a short parade route from the Green Bay airport to Lambeau Field to welcome the team home late Monday afternoon. A formal victory celebration will be held at Lambeau on Tuesday.
The youth-laden Packers are hoping this is the beginning of many title toasts in Titletown.
"As a kid, I always wanted to obviously win a Super Bowl," said Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP. "Now that I've got one, it's like, 'Now what?' Let's go get another one."
Yet, Rodgers isn't one to just settle for his 304-yard, three-touchdown performance that helped the Packers outlast the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
"You know what, I'm always looking for challenges," Rodgers said Monday. "I think the challenge now goes to repeating, scrutinizing this season, finding ways to get better. Obviously, being a perfectionist and having a quarterback coach (Tom Clements) who is as well, there's going to be plenty of time to work on things and plenty of things to work on."
Clifton, who has been plagued by knee problems the last few years, played and started every game for the first time since 2007.
He will be 35 entering next season but is under contract through 2012 after signing a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent to stay with the team last March. The Packers took Iowa's Bryan Bulaga in the first round of the 2010 draft to be Clifton's successor, but Bulaga wound up replacing an injured Mark Tauscher at right tackle in October and may be forced to stay there if Clifton comes back as healthy and strong as he was this season.
Wynn's wife gave birth to 7-pound, 4-ounce Jarius Jr. before daybreak Sunday at a Dallas-area hospital. Her water broke while the couple was having dinner at a restaurant in the team hotel Saturday night.
Wynn rejoined the team in time for the game and played.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who own a record six Lombardi trophies, will long remember one that got away after their comeback attempt came up short and they lost to Green Bay Sunday, 31-25, in Super Bowl XLV.
"You're always going to say, What if?" Hines Ward said. "On the losing side, you're always going to look at things in perspective and say, well, what if we didn't turn the ball over? But we turned the ball over three times against the Packers. Not too many teams are going to beat the Packers like that. That's really the difference in the game."
The Steelers prided themselves on protecting the ball all season and coming up with turnovers, but it was the Packers who dominated that one statistic on Sunday with two interceptions and a fumble recovery to Pittsburgh's none.
During the season, the Steelers ranked tied for third in the NFL with 35 takeaways and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had thrown just five interceptions during the regular season. Their three turnovers led to three touchdowns by the Packers.
"We made plays, they made plays," Ward said. "Their defense was solid, our defense was solid. Our offensive line was phenomenal. It came down to the turnovers."
One Roethlisberger interception was returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Rashard Mendenhall also lost a fumble at the Green Bay 33.
"We were unable to get any turnovers on defense," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said. "That was the difference. They made plays on defense and we didn't."
Pittsburgh had the edge on virtually every other stat, but that turnover figure and that has been the most dominant foretelling in Super Bowls. Teams with fewer turnovers are 33-3 in Super Bowls.
The Steelers had more offense than Green Bay, 387 to 338, more first downs at 19-15, better third-down conversions and even fewer penalties and yards. But those turnovers and the hole they put them in were just too much to overcome.
"Ultimately we got in too deep of a hole to start the game," tight end Heath Miller said of the 21-3 second-quarter deficit for the Steelers, "and we weren't able to climb out of it."
"I thought the officials did a really good job largely," coach Mike Tomlin said. "With 160 to 180 plays in a football game you can talk about instances, but I thought largely referee Walt Anderson and his crew did a really good job in this football game."
That's in addition to a refund at triple the face value cost of their $800 tickets.
The NFL was forced to scramble to attempt to accommodate 1,250 fans with tickets to the game who were affected by incomplete installation of temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium.
About 850 fans were relocated to "similar or better" seats, according to the league. The rest were given the option of watching the game on monitors inside the stadium or from standing room platforms in the corners of the stadium. Those 400 fans were also allowed onto the field after the game ended, in addition to being given free merchandise and concessions.
"The safety of the fans attending the Super Bowl was paramount in making the decision and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and City of Arlington officials are in agreement with the resolution, the NFL said in a statement. "We regret the situation and inconvenience that it may have caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter."
On Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there are "no excuses" for fans having to give up their seats due to structural issues with temporary seating.