Monday, February 02, 2009

This One Goes to 11

1. Remember when there was serious concern about the Super Bowl being an annual blowout? For whatever reason, the last two Super Bowls have been classics and there hasn't been an uncompetitive game since the Tampa-Oakland Super Bowl ending the 2002 season. The only factor detracting from this game were the constant penalties, which annoyingly broke up the flow of the action. I prefer not to see every other pass play get called back for holding. That said, it would stand to reason that a Pittsburgh game would have a ton of holding penalties because the Steelers pair a bad offensive line with two unblockable outside linebackers. Beyond the holding penalties, there were several penalties in the game that resulted from players just being stupid and forcing the hands of the officials. Roughing the holder? Punching a prone blocker after a punt is away? Really?

2. I will never again listen to an NFL talking head pronounce that you can't win without running the ball. Arizona and Pittsburgh couldn't run their way out of paper bags. Pittsburgh was painful to watch in the red zone. The game wouldn't have been competitive if the Steelers could run the ball inside the five. Maybe they'll make some use of Dennis Dixon in those situations next year?

3. Troy Polamalu routinely makes plays that cause me to exclaim "how did he know that the ball was going there?" He has terrific instincts and uses those instincts to show up in places where he is least expected. That said, the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown to give the Cardinals the lead showed the flipside of Polamalu's freelancing. Pittsburgh was in cover-two and Polamalu decided to jump an outside route. Unless Dick Lebeau coaches the cover-two different than every other coach on the planet, Polamalu was not following instructions. Thus, the middle of the field opened like the Red Sea and Fitzgerald scored on what would have been one of the most famous plays in NFL history if not for Pitssburgh's subsequent heroics. Polamalu also whiffed on a couple tackles during the game. That said, I'd bet that he was heavily involved in the defensive effort that made Fitzgerald a spectator for three quarters.

4. Arizona seemed way too scared of Pittsburgh's pass rush in the first three quarters. I get that the Steelers' blitzes are hard to block, but what was with all the running plays and short passes?

5. Did anyone else see James Harrison's interception at the end of the first half and immediately think of Florida intercepting Sam Bradford at the end of the first half of the BCS National Championship Game? The scores were almost identical (7-7 vs. 10-7), the route was the same (slant to the left), and both passes were picked, swinging momentum away from the team with the ball. Arizona could not have enjoyed the two-hour halftime with the taste of that pick six in their mouths.

6. I've been watching the Sunday night English Premier League highlight show for months. The highlights of just about every game are followed by interviews with the two managers, which inevitably involve the losing manager bitching about a penalty, a free kick, a card, and/or the ref's lack of hair. (They all imitate Sir Alex, who is the master of this tactic.) With that context in mind, it was refreshing to watch Ken Whisenhunt acknowledge after the game that Santonio Holmes made a great catch to win the game, despite the fact that the winning touchdown was a close call.

6a. What is it with Steelers receivers and amazing catches in the Super Bowl?

7. Ben Roethlisberger is truly the perfect quarterback for this Steelers team. Specifically, he's great at making late throws after buying time with his feet and his size. This is a necessity with a suspect offensive line. The sacks that he takes as a result of holding onto the ball are more than outweighed by the big plays that he creates by forcing a secondary to cover for five seconds.

8. With every big play that Darnell Dockett and Lawrence Timmons made in the game, I was reminded of Greg Easterbrook proclaiming that Florida State linemen generally and Timmons specifically are not worth high picks in the Draft.

9. Jeff Hartings' holding call in the end zone mooted the issue, but Pittsburgh would have been smart to take an intentional safety if they would have been confronted with fourth down from their one one-yard line. The difference between a four- and six-point lead in that spot pales in comparison to 25 yards of field position. Given Mike Tomlin's strategic conservatism (see: the field goal on the opening possession), I doubt that he would have done so, but that would have been the right call in terms of risk and reward.

10. Pittsburgh's final play on offense was a catch by an Ohio State product and its
final play on defense was a sack and forced fumble by a Michigan product. Anecdotally, that's a piece of evidence against my theory that Big Ten teams need to coach as if they are operating with a talent deficit.

10a. Speaking of the final defensive play, there ought to be a rule that any celebration penalty should be ignored if the play that led to the celebration is overturned on review. Pittsburgh would have been put in a tough position if the call would have been overturned and Arizona would have gotten a 15-yard bonus tacked on to the play. And speaking of celebration calls, it was amusing that the refs called everything in the game, but missed Santonio Holmes using the ball as a prop (an automatic 15-yard penalty in the No Fun League) after his touchdown catch. You think that Arizona would have felt better about their chances if Pittsburgh were kicking off from the 15?

11. Can we pass a rule that Kurt Warner has to play in every Super Bowl?


hoodawg said...

Re: #5, I was actually reminded of the last play before halftime in the 2003 Georgia-Tennessee game. Clausen looked like he was taking his team in to score to make it a 1-point Tennessee game at halftime. Instead, he fumbled the ball and Sean Jones scooped it up and ran it back for a touchdown, putting Georgia up 20-7.

Anonymous said...

Michael - what say you on Harrison's "sucker-punch?"

Should he have been tossed?

Michael said...

Harrison could have been tossed for that, but it's not an international incident that he wasn't. The episode did seem a little roid ragey for my tastes.

JR Suicide said...

#10. the final Steelers td was made by a MAC quarterback...

the talent gap still exists in the Big 10.

Michael said...

Roethlisberger almost certainly would have been a Big Ten quarterback if his high school coach hadn't played his son at quarterback for years, condemning Roethlisberger to start one year in high school.

My fellow Stratford Academy '93 grads find this story especially poignant.

The question becomes this: would Ben be the same quarterback today if he had been tutored in Columbus by noted NFL quarterback developer Jim Tressel.

Hobnail_Boot said...

re: #2

Reshard Mendenhall