Remembering Super Bowl XLV
The NFL post-season is in full swing and before we know it Super Bowl LV will be upon us. Reflecting what we did last year, in the run up to this years’ championship I thought it might be fun to do a series on the decade anniversaries of the big game.
This is the fourth in the series, following our look back to Super Bowl V , Super Bowl XV, Super Bowl XXV, & Super Bowl XXXV. Now we are travelling back 10 years to the culmination of the 2010 season and February the 6th 2011. For the NFL this matchup was a championship game with 103,219 fans on hand at Cowboys Stadium in Texas to see the 10-6 Green Bay Packers defeat the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.
The Run up to Super Bowl XLV
The winds of change had been blowing through the air for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2004 they had entered the Ben Roethlisberger era at QB. That year they had gone 15-1, losing the AFC Championship Game and Roethlisberger was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
That had been followed by Super Bowl XL in the 2005 season. After leading Pittsburgh through 15 seasons Bill Cowher had stepped down as Head Coach following the 2006 season. He left a 140-90-1 record and 2 Super Bowl appearances, including the above Championship as his legacy.
But the more things change the more they stay the same in some senses. The Steelers were looking for coaching stability. And found it in Mike Tomlin, who had gone 10-6 in his first season, and then led the Steelers on a 12-4 run that had brought them to a Championship in Super Bowl XLIII.
So by this point, Tomlin had gone 43-21 in his first 4 seasons. Winning a Super Bowl and leading Pittsburgh to another here.
Aaron Rodgers had arrived at the Packers in 2005 but did not become the full time starter under centre until the 2008 season.
Alongside that Mike McCarthy had arrived as Head Coach in 2006 and had varying levels of success. (From 2006-2009 he had led the Packers to a 38-26 record).
Now things were trending in the right direction for Green Bay. They had three winning seasons out of four including the 10-6 run in 2010 that had brought them to the Super Bowl.
Both QB’s and Coaches were still at an early stage of their careers, which promised to make this an interesting one.
The Steelers Run
Pittsburgh entered the postseason as the AFC’s No. 2 seed. So the Steelers began their playoff run at home in the AFC Divisional Round against their AFC North rival, the No. 5 Ravens having split wins in the regular season.
Despite the Steelers taking the lead however it was Baltimore who led 21-7 at the break. In the third quarter Roethlisberger hit his TE Heath Miller and WR Hines Ward on 9 and 8 yard TD passes to tie the game going into the fourth period. After trading Field Goals the Steelers won it on a 1-yard touchdown run from RB Rashard Mendenhall. The 31-24 win saw the Steelers prepare to host the AFC Championship game as the top seed had been knocked out.
The Steelers found themselves hosting the New York Jets. A team they had lost to 22-17 in Week 15 of the regular season. In a reverse of their Divisional game it was Pittsburgh who built up an early lead.
In fact the Steelers were ahead 24-0 before the Jets registered a Field Goal with 1:04 to go in the first half. The Jets held Pittsbugh scoreless from here on in.
But the men in Black and Gold held on for a 24-19 win and a berth in the Super Bowl.
The Packers Run
Green Bay had finished behind the 11-5 Chicago Bears in their Division. And were entering the Playoffs as the lowest seeded team in the NFC. Which meant they started out with a trip to the third seeded Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round.
The two had met in the regular season opener and the Packers had triumphed 27-20. In this one TD passes from Aaron Rodgers to TE Tom Crabtree and WR James Jones saw the Packers take a 14-3 halftime lead. The teams exchanged TD’s in the third, and although the Eagles scored again, an interception of a Michael Vick pass in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining sealed a 21-16 win.
In the Divisional Round the Packers traveled to Atlanta to face the top seeded 13-3 Atlanta Falcons. The game was tied at 14-14 when with 42 seconds left in the half Rodgers hit Jones for a 20 yard TD. On the very next drive the Packers got a pick six and found themselves 28-14 up at halftime. Green Bay dominated the second half. In a game where they never punted they ran out 48-21 winners.
The NFC Championship Game saw the Packers travel to their bitter rivals Chicago Bears. The two teams had won one each during the regular season. Despite their long rivalry this was only the second Playoff meeting between the two. The last had been a Bears 33-14 win way back in 1941.
Green Bay took a 14-0 lead into the half and led 21-7 in the fourth before holding on for a 21-14 win in the end.
The Game Itself: Super Bowl XLV
Going into Super Bowl XLV we saw the start of the NFL taking away some indivdual flavour to the games represented in the logo. Previous Super Bowl games used their own unique logo designs that changed yearly and featured imagery which reflected the host city.
But from here on in it all became very corporate and bland. From Super Bowl XLV onwards we have seen a standardized branding scheme for the NFL’s postseason games, including a redesign of the classic conference championship trophies.
Green Bay made the better start. After the opening three series resulted in punts, the Packers Offence got going. A 9 play 80 yard drive was capped when Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a 29 yard TD strike.
After scoring first the Packers would never trail in this game. But that belies how close the contest was and how much momentum shifted in the game.
On the Steelers first Offensive play following this, Roethlisberger was picked off and safety Nick Collins ran the ball back 37 yards for a pick six and 14-0 lead.
Pittsburgh responded, driving 49 yards in 13 plays and finished the drive with a 33-yard Field Goal to cut the defecit to 14–3.
They held the Packers and were looking to get going once more when Ben Roethlisberger was picked off for a second time. With great Field Position, starting at their own 47 thanks to the turnover, Green Bay went 53 yards in 4 plays. Capped by Rodgers throwing a 21 yard touchdown to Greg Jennings to make the score 21-3.
The Steelers could have folded. But instead with 2:24 on the clock they drove downfield to their first TD of the game. 7 plays went 77 yards and on the drive Hines Ward caught three passes for 39 yards. The last an 8-yard touchdown catch with 37 seconds left. It was 21-10 to Green Bay at halftime.
Green Bay got the ball first but the Steelers held them. Then they went on an all-run Drive. 5 Plays covered 5 yards and Reshard Mendenhall scored on an 8 yard TD scamper. 21-17 Packers, but the momentum was with Pittsburgh who had put up 17 of the last 24 points in the game. 14 of them unanswered.
They could have added 3 more but a 52-yard field goal attempt ws missed badly to the left.
The score remained 21-17 going into the final quarter. And Green Bay forced another turnover at just the right time. On the first play of the final period Mendenhall was hit and fumbled. Following the Packers D recovering the ball they got driving again. This time 8 plays took them 55 yards and Rodgers threw his final TD of the day. That was to Jennings again, this time from from 8 yards out. 28-17 Green Bay with 11:57 to play.
Super Bowl XLV remains in the balance
Once again, the Steelers could have folded butt didn’t. They went 66 yards in 7 plays. All through the air as Roethlisberger hit on 6 of 7 passes. A 25 Yard TD to Mike Wallace and 2 point conversion brought it back to 28-25 with plenty of time left.
It all really felt in the balance. Especially when, with around 7 minutes left Green Bay were facing third down and 10 after their first two plays in response. However, Rodgers hit Jennings for a 31 Yard gain and relieved the pressure. All told Green Bay ran a 10 play 70 Yard Drive. Resulting in a 23 Yard Field Goal and increased 31-25 lead. But more importantly they took 5:27 off the game clock.
The Green Bay D held firm and the win was finally assured. As mentioned above, the Packers had never trailed. But they had never felt secure in the win until the final drive either.
Rodgers Makes a mark
With this Super Bowl performance Rodgers joined Kurt Warner (2008) as the only quarterbacks to pass for more than 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns in a single postseason.
In all, Rodgers totaled 1,094 passing yards in the wins over Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
With 13 rushing attempts, Green Bay tied the Super Bowl record for fewest rushing attempts by a winning team. And the key really was the turnovers. Green Bay picked up 21 points off them, and whilst Roethlisberger threw 2 picks alongside his 2 TD’s, Rodgers threw none alongside his 3.
The Packers would follow up their Super Bowl with a franchise record 15 wins the following season (15-1). And Aaron Rodgers would follow his Super Bowl XLV MVP game by being named NFL MVP the following year too. However, Green Bay would be one and done in the Playoffs.
Following the Super Bowl win Green Bay would go on a 66-29-1 over the next 6 seasons. That would see them make the Post-Season on every occasion. But they could not make it back to the big game. They were on the doorstep but lost in the NFC Championship game to the Seahawks & Falcons in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Mike McCarthy was fired as Head Coach during the 2018 season. He left the Packers posting a 125-77-2 record, 4 NFC Championship Game appearances and 1 Super Bowl win.
Matt LaFleur was appointed to coach the team at the start of the 2019 season. Over the past 2 seasons the Packers have gone 26-6 and lost back to back NFC title matches. Their fans will be hoping they can take the next step.
Unlike Green Bay, Pittsburgh still have the same Head Coach. Mike Tomlin remains at the helm and has a 145-78-1 record Coaching the Steelers to this point.
Like the Packers, the Steelers have not been back to the Super Bowl since this game. They did follow their 12-4 season in 2010 with a matching 12-4 record in 2011 but this time were knocked out in the Wild Card Game.
Since appearing in Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers have gone 102-57-1, picked up 5 Division titles and made 6 Post-Season appearances in the last ten years. Like the Packers, fans of the Steelers will be hoping that their historically successful Franchise can get back to the big show.
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