Feb. 6, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Forget Lombardi on Broadway. Green Bay has the newest Super Bowl hit: Aaron Rodgers.Capping one of the greatestpostseasons for any quarterback, Rodgers led the Packers to their firstNFL championship in 14 years Sunday, 31-25 over the PittsburghSteelers. The Packers reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named fortheir legendary coach who won the first two Super Bowls and is makinghis own star turn in New York these days in the play named after him.Rodgers, the game's MVP, thrilled hislegion of Cheesehead fans with a spectacular six-game string thatshould finally erase the bitterness of the Brett Favre separation inGreen Bay. He's now equal with Favre in Super Bowl wins, and heextended the Packers' record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the SuperBowl era."It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young," Rodgers said, "and we just won the Super Bowl."
The former Cal standout threw for threetouchdowns, two to Greg Jennings, and the Packers (14-6) overcame evenmore injuries, building a 21-3 lead, then hanging on to become thesecond No. 6 seed to win the championship. Coincidentally, the 2005Steelers were the other.
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Rodgers threw for 304 yards,including a 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for140 yards to make up for three big drops. Rodgers found Jennings,normally his favorite target, for 21- and 8-yard scores."Wow! It's a great day to be great, baby," Jennings said.Then the favored Packers held on as Pittsburgh (14-5) stormed back."We've been a team that's overcomeadversity all year," Jennings said, who noted injuries to CharlesWoodson and Donald Driver. "Our head captain goes down, emotional inthe locker room. Our No. 1 receiver goes down, more emotions are going,flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exertit all out here on the field."Few teams have been as resourcefulas these Packers, who couldn't wait to touch the trophy honoring theirgreatest coach -- and their title. Several of them kissed it as Cowboysgreat Roger Staubach walked through a line of green and gold."Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as the silver prize was handed to the team.After sitting for three seasons,Rodgers took the Packers to two late-season victories just to make theplayoffs as a wild card. Then he guided them to wins at Philadelphia,Atlanta and archrival Chicago before his biggest achievement -- againsta Pittsburgh team ranked second in defense.
CURRAN: Greatness eludes Roethlisberger on final driveThey barely survived a sensationalrally by the Steelers, who still own the most Super Bowl rings -- six ineight tries. But Pittsburgh failed to get its third championship in sixyears with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger's seasonbegan with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personalconduct policy. It ended with Roethlisberger standing on the sideline,his head down, hands on his hips, feeling something he neverexperienced: defeat in a Super Bowl. "I feel like I let the city ofPittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches and my teammates," Roethlisbergersaid, "and it's not a good feeling."
Not even a decidedly black-and-goldcrowd, with Terrible Towels swirling throughout the 1.2 billionstadium, could make a difference for the mistake-prone Steelers. Theirtwo biggest defensive stars -- Defensive Player of the Year safety TroyPolamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison -- were virtuallyinvisible. The offense didn't seem to miss outstanding rookie centerMaurkice Pouncey, who was out with an ankle injury, but Roethlisbergeronly occasionally made key plays until the second half.
RELATED: Polamaulu, Harrison silent in Super BowlThe biggest plays were left toRodgers, Nick Collins with a 37-yard interception return for a TD,Jennings, Nelson, and the rest of the guys in green and gold. In theend, they gave coach Mike McCarthy his first Super Bowl victory againstthe team he rooted for while growing up in Pittsburgh. BesidesLombardi, Mike Holmgren won a title in 1997 with Favre."This is a great group of men here, a lot of character," Rodgers said. "We went through a lot together."Even on Sunday, they did. Woodsonwent out late in the first half with a collarbone injury, a few playsafter Driver was sidelined with an ankle problem."It was very difficult to watch," Woodson said, "but it feels good now."Woodson saw the Steelers, whorallied from a 21-7 halftime hole against Baltimore three weeks ago,show the same resilience. A 37-yard catch and run by Antwaan Randle El -- an almost forgotten figure during his return season with just 22receptions -- sparked a quick 77-yard drive. Hines Ward, the 2006 SuperBowl MVP, had 39 yards on three catches during the series, including an8-yard TD when he completely fooled Jarrett Bush.A quick defensive stop and a 50-yarddrive to Rashard Mendenhall's 8-yard touchdown run made it 21-17. Butwith Pittsburgh driving for perhaps its first lead of the game,Mendenhall was stripped at the Green Bay 33 by Clay Matthews -- one ofthe few plays the All-Pro linebacker made. The Packers recovered, andRodgers hit Jennings for 8 yards and the winning points.Pittsburgh's last gasp was on a25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace and a brilliant pitchout byRoethlisberger to Randle El for a 2-point conversion.
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Mason Crosby added a 23-yard field goal for the Packers and the Steelers had no more comebacks in them."You play to be world champions," Matthews said, "and that's what we are today."
Feb. 6, 2011