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Top 10 Super Bowls in NFL History: #1


1.  Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23

Best catch in Super Bowl history? It’s got my vote

Best play?  No doubt, although James Harrison’s play is 1B

Drama right up til when the clock read all zeros?  Absolutely

Best Super Bowl in NFL history?  Check. And Mate. 

Indeed that’s why I’ve got Super Bowl XLIII as my best Super Bowl of all time. 

The tradition rich and one of the NFL’s blue chip franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers were within striking distance from becoming the first franchise in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.  All that was standing in their way was the upstart Arizona Cardinals led by a gray beard, named Kurt Warner.  Yeah, that Kurt Warner.  From stock boy to Super Bowl MVP, Warner knew the Super Bowl stage well.  The Cardinals, however, did not.  Mismatch on paper?  Yes.  And yes.  But as ESPN’s Chris Berman often proclaims, “That’s why they play the game!”

The Steelers raced out in front early 10-0, on a Jeff Reed field goal and a Gary Russell touchdown run. Warner and Arizona responded midway through the second quarter with a 1-yard reception by tight end Ben Patrick cutting into the Steelers’ lead, 10-7.   With 2:46 left in the first half, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby.

With new life and all the momentum, Warner drove the Cardinals down to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line with :18 seconds to go, but the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, proved to the entire football world why he was deserving of such an award. 

Harrison stepped in front of a slant pass from Warner intended for Anquan Boldin.  Harrison rumbled and staggered all the way down the sidelines, leaping for the pylon just before a pair of Arizona wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, could bring Harrison down.  With no time left in the first half, Harrison gave the Steelers a 17-7 lead at halftime.  His interception return for a touchdown was marvelous on numerous levels.  It was the longest play for a touchdown in NFL history and it was a backbreaking 14-point swing.  He denied Arizona the chance to go ahead 14-10, and it allowed Pittsburgh to make it a two score game heading in the second half.

The drama in the second half is the stuff that Super Bowls are made of.  The Steelers continued to build momentum and wear down Arizona’s resolve.  Roethlisberger and the Steelers embarked on a 14-play, 79 yard drive that swallowed up 8:39 of the third quarter.  But Pittsburgh couldn’t get six, and had to settle for another Jeff Reed field goal.  The Steelers led 20-7.

Like so many other Super Bowls in the past, this one reached that critical crossroad.  The Steelers were firmly in charge ahead by two scores and the Cardinals’ glass slipper was morphing into a pumpkin.  Time for Warner to muster up some of that old Super Bowl magic.

Warner and the Cardinals offense dealt Pittsburgh a taste of their own medicine, driving 87 yards in 8 plays in just under 4 minutes relying on the no huddle offense.  Warner hit Fitzgerald for a touchdown over Steelers corner Ike Taylor and the Cardinals were right back in the game, 20-14.

Backed up at their own 1-yard line after a fabulous punt by Arizona, the Cardinals continued to build confidence with a safety.  Pittsburgh’s Justin Hartwig was flagged for a holding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety.  Arizona inched closer, 20-16 and the Cardinals were getting the ball back with a chance to take their first lead in Super Bowl XLIII.

On the ensuing free kick after the safety, Arizona took over at their own 36.  Two plays later, on a slant route from Warner to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals seized control.  Fitzgerald took the slant pass 64 yards for a touchdown and with 2:47 left in the game, Arizona had their first lead in Super Bowl XLIII, 23-20.

Pittsburgh took one final possession at their own 22-yard line with 2:37 left.  After a holding penalty backed the Steelers up, Roethlisberger completed passes of 13 and 14 yards to wideout Santonio Holmes.  Roethlisberger  hit wide receiver Nate Washington for 11 yards and had a 4-yard run of his own.  On the next play, Roethlisberger connected on a deep pass to Holmes, good for 40 yards and the Steelers were in business at the Arizona 6-yard line.

Roethlisberger fired a perfect pass to Holmes in the back of the end zone, but Holmes was unable to hang on as the ball sailed through his hands.  Trusting his young receiver, the very next play Roethlisberger went right back to Holmes.  After what felt like an eternity for both teams, Roethlisberger was flushed from the pocket, scrambled to his left then back to his right and heaved a pass to the corner of the end zone.  Holmes, with the ball firmly in his grasp, made a beautiful tiptoe catch before falling out of bounds.  After an extensive review, the catch was ruled complete, the play was upheld and the Steelers regained the lead with :35 seconds left in the game, 27-23.

Warner and the Cardinals has :35 seconds to work with.  Warner hit Fitzgerald for a 20-yard pass and completed an 11-yard pass to running back J.J. Arrington.  With :18 seconds left from the Pittsburgh 44, Warner dropped back to pass, attempting one final shot into the end zone, but Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley came up with a sack and a forced fumble on Warner.  The Steelers recovered the fumbled and ran out the clock to become the NFL’s only franchise with six Super Bowl victories.

Sure there have been some other classic Super Bowl games.  There’s no denying Joe Namath’s gurantee, Adam Vinatieri’s game winning kick or Mike Jones’ Super Bowl saving tackle.  But I believe Super Bowl XLIII is the one that trumps them all.  Four scores in the final seven and a half minutes of the game.  The Cardinals rallying from a 20-7 deficit to an astounding 23-20 lead with 2:37 left on the clock, only to be outdone by Roethlisberger’s masterful command of the two minute drill, driving the Steelers 78 yards culminating with Santonio Holmes’ outstanding toe dragging, game winning catch with :35 seconds left to play.

This is the Super Bowl by which all others will be forever compared to.

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