Joe-Pinions: Sports

7 Feb 2011 – Super Bowl XLV: A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 07/02/2011

Super Bowl XLV in the “Dallas Palace” is all done with.  The confetti has fallen, and the game’s heroes and goats have been named.

Not surprisingly, the big hero of the game was the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  He accounted for more than half of Green Bay’s points (three touchdowns = 18 pts out of 31 total) and the lion’s share of yardage gained (304 out of 338 offensive yards) by virtue of a strong performance in the passing game, nullifying the Packers’ glaring lack of a reliable ground attack and bucking one of football’s staple ideas (i.e., you need a productive running game to win).  In the course of it, Rodgers showed his considerable powers as a quarterback:  He was cool and completely under control throughout the game; his decision-making was superb, knowing when to attack the coverage and when to take what the defense gave him, when to take a sack as well as when to just throw the ball away; and he was accurate in his ball placement.  About the only criticism I’d make of Rodgers based on his performance last night was that he seems to need to develop a little bit of touch on some of his throws.  All of the passes designated as drops by his receivers were catchable as Rodgers hit them (the receivers) in their hands, but my dad observed (correctly, in my opinion) that if the balls were thrown just a little bit softer, the receivers would have had an easier time catching them.  That’s a small quibble in the grand scheme of things, and it’s not something that is impossible to learn.

If Aaron Rodgers was the game’s hero, then Super Bowl XLV’s biggest goat was probably the Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Roethlisberger didn’t have an awful game, per se; to me, he had a fairly good game, throwing for 263 yards (25/40) and 2 TDs, and running for an additional 31 yards.  He amazed me (yet again) with how he scrambled away from pressure in the pocket and ran for positive yards a couple of times, and I couldn’t help but admire how a man this big (6’5″, ~ 260lbs – though some local wags on the sports talk shows have actually put him at around 270lbs!) can move that well.  

However, Big Ben did throw two interceptions during the Super Bowl.  The first came as a result of extreme pressure in the pocket whilst standing in his team’s own end zone; Packers safety Nick Collins intercepted Roethlisberger’s first big errant throw (apparently a Packers D-lineman hit Roethlisberger’s throwing arm during his delivery) and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 14-0 lead (after the converted extra point, of course).  Roethlisberger’s second interception came during Pittsburgh’s final desperation drive for the winning score, ending the game’s competitive phase.

In contrast, Aaron Rodgers did not turn the ball over at all during the season’s biggest game.

Roethlisberger’s two interceptions were not Pittsburgh’s only turnovers (they also lost a fumble when Packerslinebacker Clay Matthews jarred the ball loose from Rashard Mendenhall’s clutches at the start of the fourth quarter), but he did account for two of the Steelers’ three.  Ultimately, turnovers of any kind are not just statistical facts; what they are are lost possessions.  In football, you can only score if you’ve got the ball, so the team that has the most turnovers usually loses the game (since they lose possession of the ball, and thus opportunities to score).

Where Aaron Rodgers played with poise, control, and accuracy, Big Ben just made two critical mistakes too many.  Considering the final points gap between the two teams was just six points (i.e., one touchdown’s worth), only one of Roethlisberger’s critical errors made all the difference.  Nick Collins’ “pick six” (interception returned for a touchdown) in the waning stages of the first quarter ultimately proved to be the nail in the Steelers’ coffin.

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2 Responses

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  1. Tim said, on 09/02/2011 at 05:17

    A very fair summary, Joe.

    Rodgers was mistake-free. I think I only saw him misplace one pass in the entire game, and he didn’t let the frustration of the dropped passes get to him. Possibly he could have added a bit of touch to a couple of passes, but against the Steelers’ D the desire to keep the ball in the air for as little time as possible is perhaps understandable!

    Ben, who had an OK but not great game, should bear some but not all of the responsibility. His first pick did appear to come as a result of an interrupted throwing motion – and if he hadn’t released the ball when he did, he was heading for at least a safety anyway. The second one was great defensive anticipation, but maybe he did try to force the ball in when he should have looked elsewhere. Fundamentally, I think the Packers’ defense was just too good for the Steelers’ mostly inexperienced receiver corps in the first half, and when they started to make headway against an injured secondary in the second half it was just a bit too much to do. Too often you could see Ben was having to look to his secondary and tertiary receivers, putting him under pressure. He’s still one hell of a big game QB, though.

    One note, though: the Steeler’s final possession ended on downs – Ben’s second interception came in the first half.

    • txtmstrjoe said, on 09/02/2011 at 08:48

      Hah, fair point about not keeping the ball in the air too long against a fast-closing Steelers D. I must admit I didn’t consider that in my analysis.

      Rodgers really was amazing with his ball placement. You see this most in the passes his guys dropped, ironically. I think every single one of those drops were passes where the ball hit the receiver’s hands. That was just amazing. The consistency with which this happened shows, too, that Rodgers’ accuracy is for real, and not some kind of fluke. The man really throws an accurate ball.

      While I’m not 100% willing to join the “Roethlisberger is great” camp, I won’t crucify him, either. In my opinion, he’s probably the team’s best-ever quarterback (even better than Terry Bradshaw, who I’ve always thought was flattered by his teammates). And you’re right: The Packers deserve 100% credit for Big Ben’s turnovers.

      “One note, though: the Steeler’s final possession ended on downs – Ben’s second interception came in the first half.”

      Hmm… I could have sworn the game ended on a Roethlisberger pick. Heh, if my memory is flawed, it won’t be the first time. Thanks for the fact check!


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