ARLINGTON, TX – During training camp last summer, Green Bay believed they could make the Super Bowl. The Packers reached the mountaintop and accomplished the mission.
The green and gold completed an unbelievable journey as the No. 6 seed in the NFC with a 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to win their fourth Super Bowl and their 13th NFL title, Feb. 6, at Cowboys Stadium, bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to the place where it belongs.
“It feels awesome,” head coach Mike McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native said. “It’s great to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay.”
Green Bay won the toss and let Pittsburgh take the ball to start the first half. It didn’t matter because the Steelers couldn’t move the ball. The Packers struck first on a 9-play, 80-yard drive that took 4 minutes 33 seconds. They sent running backs James Starks and Brandon Jackson through the Pittsburgh defense to wear down the Steel Curtain. Then quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered the knockout blow, finding receiver Jordy Nelson in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
On the Steelers’ next possession, which began near their 7 after a penalty on the kickoff, pressure from Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji forced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to under throw Mike Wallace. Packers safety Nick Collins played centerfield and intercepted the ball, running it back for another touchdown. Green Bay made two trips to the end zone and put 14 points on the board after one quarter.
“Oh man, that was the highlight of my day right there,” Collins said of his interception. “I was able to read Big Ben and got a nice jump on the ball. I made a couple of cuts to get into the end zone.”
Collins was so excited that he dove into the end zone. He was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct for his actions.
The Steelers got no further than the Green Bay 15 early in the second quarter. They had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham with 11:08 left in the half to cut their deficit to 14-3.
Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers turned the dogs loose on the Pittsburgh offense. Another ill-advised throw by Roethlisberger led to a second pick, this time by the Packers’ Jarrett Bush. Rodgers took advantage of it by hitting receiver Greg Jennings with a 21-yard strike for a 21-3 lead with 2:24 left. The Green Bay fans chanted, “Go Pack Go!”
Roethlisberger drove the Steelers down the field late in the half with a TD throw to Hines Ward with 39 seconds left.
Green Bay was a half away from being World Champions without Brett Favre as their leader. He was probably salty as he watched on the couch, if he watched the game at all. The Packers went into the locker room with a 21-10 lead.
That margin was narrowed by Pittsburgh, 21-17, early in the third quarter. They got an 8-yard rushing TD from Rashard Mendenhall with 10:19 left. The Pittsburgh fans waved their Terrible Towels and roared. The Steelers threatened to score again, but Suisham missed wide left from 52 yards out.
Back came the Pack. Jennings beat Troy Polamalu to the right corner of the end zone and caught his second TD from Rodgers to give Green Bay a 28-17 advantage at the 11:57 mark of the final quarter. The Packers couldn’t coast because Pittsburgh was a team that could come back from the dead. No team has ever come back from at least 14 points down to win a Super Bowl.
Mike Wallace beat rookie cornerback Sam Shields and Collins for a TD and Antwaan Randle El’s two-point run brought the Steelers within three at 28-25. It was panic time for Packer Nation. Green Bay drove down the field and put up three more points on a Mason Crosby field goal with 2:07 left in the game and a 31-25 lead.
Roethlisberger began Pittsburgh’s last drive of the game, which began at their 13-yard line. After a 15-yard completion to tight end Heath Miller and a 5-yard pass to Ward, Roethlisberger threw three straight incomplete passes and the Steelers turned the ball over on downs. A kneel down by Rodgers ended the magic ride by the Packers in a championship won by another quarterback not named Favre.
“It is a dream come true,” Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP said. “It’s what I dream about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young, and we just won the Super Bowl.”
Imagine being a guy like Rodgers who spent a summer as a college student washing windows. He kept his cool while being passed over by other teams and was chosen as the 24th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
“He played great,” McCarthy said of Rodgers. “We put everything on his shoulders. He did a lot at the line of scrimmage for us against a great defense. He did a heck of a job.”
“(Rodgers) made plays,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We didn’t get turnovers. He didn’t fold under pressure. We got to him as the game went on. I tip my hat to him for that.”
All the drama over which day to take the team photo, with or without the injured players, came to a screeching halt in Arlington with the prized trophy and the rings to follow.