Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The Super Bowl trophy is headed back to Green Bay, Wisconsin, thanks to Aaron Rodgers and an opportunistic Packers’ defense.
The Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 last night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to capture their first Super Bowl title in 14 years and a record-extending 13th National Football League championship overall.
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and the Packers’ defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, as Green Bay won its fourth Super Bowl title. The franchise’s first two came in 1968 and 1969 under Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named.
“It was just a tremendous effort,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during the trophy presentation. “Coach Lombardi’s trophy is finally going home.”
The Packers opened a 21-3 second-quarter lead and held on to deny the Steelers a record seventh Super Bowl title. Rodgers led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and Green Bay’s defense made a final stand, forcing a fourth-down incompletion by Roethlisberger with 49 seconds left.
“It was just like our season, a lot of adversity and guys stepped up,” said Rodgers, who passed for 304 yards and was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. “Now we’re sitting here as Super Bowl champs. It was a fun night.”
Touchdowns Off Turnovers
Three of Green Bay’s touchdowns followed Pittsburgh turnovers, including a 37-yard interception return by Nick Collins that gave the Packers a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Teams that give up an interception return for a touchdown are now 0-11 in the Super Bowl.
“We just turned the ball over (too much),” said Roethlisberger, who completed 25 of 40 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. “That’s my fault. We did some good things, we just didn’t score enough points.”
Rodgers, 27, gets his first Super Bowl title after a season in which quarterback Brett Favre, his predecessor in Green Bay, said he’s retired from the NFL for good after playing for two other teams. A first-round draft pick in 2005, Rodgers spent three seasons as a backup before taking over as the Packers’ starter in 2008 when Favre was traded.
Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, had led the Packers to their previous Super Bowl win 14 years ago.
“I never felt like there was a monkey on my back,” Rodgers said. “I told (General Manager) Ted (Thompson) in 2005 he wouldn’t be unhappy with that pick. And I told him in 2008 that I would repay his trust.”
Super Bowl Coach
The title is also the first for Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh as a Steelers fan. McCarthy, 46, joins Lombardi, Curly Lambeau and Mike Holmgren as Green Bay’s championship coaches.
McCarthy said the Packers’ Super Bowl win mirrored a season in which they overcame a 3-3 start and season-ending injuries to 16 players. The Packers made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and then won three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl.
Green Bay had its 18-point lead cut to 21-17 early in the second half last night after losing cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields to injury. Roethlisberger threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward 39 seconds before halftime and Rashard Mendenhall ran for an 8-yard score on the Steelers’ first drive of the third quarter.
Shaun Suisham missed a 52-yard field goal attempt on the Steelers’ next possession and Mendenhall had Pittsburgh’s third turnover, fumbling on the first play of the fourth quarter after a hit by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Rodgers to Jennings
Green Bay again took advantage, with Rodgers throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jennings with 11:57 remaining. It was the second touchdown catch for Jennings.
Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles, then directed a 66-yard drive capped by a 25-yard scoring pass to Mike Wallace. A two-point conversion by Antwaan Randle El got Pittsburgh within 28-25 with 7:34 left.
The Steelers got the ball back with 2:07 on the clock after Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal pushed the Packers’ advantage to 31-25.
The largest deficit ever overcome to win a Super Bowl was 10 points and the Steelers’ attempt to break that record fell short. When Roethlisberger’s final pass was off target near midfield, the celebration began on the Packers’ sideline.
“It means you’re now a part of greatness,” said Packers receiver Donald Driver. “We’re just glad to say it’s coming back where it belongs.”
As post-game confetti flew around Cowboys Stadium, not all fans who paid for seats were there to see it.
The NFL wasn’t able to seat 400 ticket holders last night because temporary seating wasn’t completed. While 850 fans were relocated, the other 400 received triple the face value of their $800 tickets and were taken to a club area inside the stadium to watch the game on televisions.
For the Steelers, it was the just their second loss in eight Super Bowl appearances.
“We weren’t able to get any turnovers on defense. That was the difference,” safety Troy Polamalu, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, told reporters. “They were able to make plays on defense. We didn’t.”
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