I’ve got to say, he’s no David Tyree, but Santonio Holmes knows how to make a statement.
I wouldn’t be characterized as a Steelers fan, especially being from Cleveland, but I do respect them, and Holmes helped fortify that “respect.” And I obviously have had extra time to think about this, since I’m blogging about it on Tuesday, two days after the fact.
One of the things I love to do while watching a Super Bowl is to look for that one moment in the game that will be remembered forever. You know, like John Elway getting hit and spun around in midair, the Marcus Allen run against the Redskins and the classic catch of Lynn Swann.
Holmes’ catch that was the decisive touchdown in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII win might not be as glitzy as say, the Tyree grab against his helmet that helped the New York Giants down the New England Patriots last year, but his ability to catch the ball and get his feet down in that situation will be shown for quite some time.
And by the way, how good was Ben Roethlisberger’s throw, looping over three Arizona defenders to cleanly get to Holmes in the first place.
There are a few other (and possibly quite long-winded) observations that came to mind during the course of this Super Bowl, like:
• Ones to remember – Holmes was one of three plays that could have gone down in history as the play to remember in the 43rd version of the NFL’s championship game.
It all depended on the outcome of the game.
If the Steelers would have held on without giving up the lead, I think James Harrison’s 100-yard return would have been the one everyone would be telling their grandkids they witnessed. It was an amazing return, considering the time on the clock and how many obstacles he worked around to travel that 100 yards.
He pushed one of his teammates out of the way, cast Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner aside like a fast-food wrapper and moved like a man possessed to the goal line. It was a run that is usually reserved for players a lot smaller and quicker than the mammoth linebacker.
That would have been it until Larry Fitzgerald broke has 64-yard catch and run up the middle of the field to put the Cardinals ahead 23-20 in the final three minutes of the game. That erased Harrison’s effort and put Arizona on the brink of a championship. It was a play that showed this receiver’s talents all in one play – his speed, power, determination and ability to get the ball.
But then, along came Holmes to change destiny.
• Coming-out parties – Still the playoffs introduced us to a new wave of stars to keep the NFL exciting for a few more years.
Two players – one from each team – who may have solidified their star status were the two receivers – Fitzgerald and Holmes.
Fitzgerald was known as a weapon because of his size and the other attributes mentioned earlier. He may have been overlooked by most because of the Cardinals’ also-ran image.
But during these playoffs, he showcased his abilities with the catches and scores he made in the playoff games leading to the Super Bowl. He was the one player and factor that had even the staunchest of Steelers fans questioning if Pittsburgh’s defense could cover him.
It took a superior effort by the Steelers to keep the Cardinals’ go-to guy out of the mix for three quarters, but great players show up in crunch time.
As far as Holmes goes, he was huge for the Steelers in the playoffs. The last drive and final touchdown culminated three playoff games – and maybe five games in a row – where he had a huge impact on the Pittsburgh outcome and success.
Start with the disputed touchdown catch at Baltimore in Week 16 of the season, which gave Pittsburgh the No. 2 seed in the postseason. Add to is the punt return against San Diego and the big reception and near touchdown against the Ravens in the AFC Championship.
Those were all huge plays in the playoffs and may have started to make Holmes a household name and one of the new breed with Fitzgerald.
• Pittsburgh geography – OK, Pittsburgh fans. Brag all you want about your superiority and the six rings and all that.
But you wouldn’t have been able to start accessorizing the other hand on Sunday if it weren’t for the play of three OHIO boys.
Consider – Roethlisberger played at Miami of OHIO. Holmes played at THE OHIO State University and Harrison is from Akron, OHIO and played at Kent State, 40 miles from Cleveland. I have a personal affinity for him since he’s from my alma mater.
• Scenic route – Speaking of Harrison’s interception return again, did anyone watch the background of the play as he was rumbling down the field.
Fitzgerald, who started way out of the play, nearly made a touchdown saving-tackle in the end.
In short, Fitzgerald did a Rosie Ruiz impression.
If you get a chance to see one of the 20,000 replays of Harrison’s return that are yet to come over the next few days or if you jump over to You Tube, watch what happens behind the linebacker in the head-on camera angle in the end zone.
At about the spot where Warner’s tackle attempt gets tossed to the side, Fitzgerald is coming into the picture. He takes a route down the wide white stripe which considered out of bounds and the lane for the officials to work. He ran about 50 yards, away from every block on the field, and cut back in at about the 8 to jump on Harrison.
It looked like Ruiz from that classic Boston Marathon when she left the course, caught a cab and then jumped back into the race.
Rules allow defenders to leave the playing field and come back to make the tackle, as long as they are not intercepting a pass or recovering a fumble. It comes out as being a heady move by Fitzgerald.
This instance made me thing of the legendary play when a substitute standing on the sideline came from on the field to tackle an opponent on a breakaway touchdown run.
That white line is the closest thing the NFL has to a landmine. You just can’t step on it while carrying or catching the ball. But consider two things.
One – If Harrison would have taken that route – running on any part of the white line – the play would have been over and there wouldn’t have been the historic touchdown.
Two – If Fitzgerald would have ran a conventional route in the field of play, he might not have even reached Harrison, who would have scored without the need of replay conformation.
There are boundaries on the field for a reason, aren’t there? It hardly seems fair, even though it didn’t matter.
• Super math – With their sixth Super Bowl win, the Steelers have won 14 percent of the championships … That’s a little over one out of every seven games.
But, Pittsburgh has won six of the last 34 Super Bowls, meaning they have got a ring one out of every 5.667 championship games or 17.6 percent of the time.
And if you combine Pittsburgh, Dallas and San Francisco, the three teams have acquired 37.2 percent of all Super Bowl titles.
That’s real good, considering there are 15.8 percent of the teams – five of 32 – in the NFL that have never had the chance to play in a Super Bowl.
• Arizona’s great game plan – The best part of Arizona’ offensive plan was patience.
The Cardinals knew coming in that the Steelers would try to find a way to neutralize Fitzgerald. For three quarters, Pittsburgh held the Cardinals’ major weapon to one catch and 12 yards.
The Cardinals threw short passes from side to side and ran the ball, trying to bring the Pittsburgh defense up closer to the line. The Steelers were content on giving the short passes and making hits to prevent big plays and keep the ball away from Fitzgerald.
But in the fourth quarter, it all changed. Pittsburgh scored the field goal to go up 20-7 and Arizona needed some urgency. No more patience.
The Cardinals moved to the no-huddle attack. That tactic, along with a tiring Pittsburgh defense, rejuvenated Arizona. The faster pace made Fitzgerald more dangerous because the Steelers had less time to send in personnel and packages to defend the situations.
It led to 16 points and 224 offensive yards in the fourth quarter.
It almost allowed the Cardinals to snatch a ring from the jaws of defeat.
• Instant replay – Did you realize that four of Pittsburgh’s five scoring drives came under review?
Instant replay is far too overused for my taste. Yes, we should get the play right, but the way the technology is used right now makes the referees look like clowns in striped shirts. They are labeled as cheaters because they didn’t see something that happened in a split second as compared to a crowd who gets to look at the play from five different angles for the 30 seconds on a screen while the teams are huddling up for the next play.
That goes for the coaches, too, who get signaled from their coaching booth after the assistants are afforded the same luxury.
In this case, let’s use Roethlisberger’s overturned touchdown for an example on how different the replay calls are compared to the rest of the game.
In replay situations, the play is considered over at the precise moment a knee (elbow or butt) hits the ground. The player basically becomes a jart sticking out of the ground and the ball is placed at that precise spot that is frozen in time and video (i.e. Roethlisberger’s denied touchdown in the first quarter).
Yet on typical plays not in the replay scope, referees place the ball where it generally ends up after a tackle. I mean, it isn’t where the knee hits, it is placed where the carrier lands at the point where he is holding the ball in the arms of his prone body. Sometimes that is as much as a yard further downfield.
The point is replay or not, the same rule should apply. All runs should either be gauged by where the ball is at the point of impact to the ground when the play officially ends like the Roethlisberger instance or rule it at the end like 95 percent of the rest of the plays are called.
Call it the same all the time and don’t change it because it is deemed an important play because of the way it was caught on TV.
If Roethlisberger’s run was treated like any other play, the placement of the ball should not have been stopped until his body was stretched prone.
And if that were the case on Sunday, Ben had that first touchdown.
The way replay is used needs an overhaul.
P.S. No, I didn’t have a bet on the game and lost because of the four points taken away by that call (Steelers ended up with their first field goal and not a touchdown).
And P.S.S – If that was a touchdown, it would have spoiled my chance of having the closest prediction out of our sports staff. I said 27-20. No one else got that close.
I guess I have to thank Santonio bailing me out.