January 31, 2012 Leave a comment
The Cardinals shocked the football world following the 2008 season when they went from playoff also-rans to NFC Champions. After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game Arizona had a date with the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers of the AFC, who had just dismantled division rival Baltimore to earn a berth in the Super Bowl. Playoff vet and former Super Bowl winning quarterback Kurt Warner led a young Arizona offense against Big Ben Roethlisberger and the defensive minded Steelers.
Super Bowl XLIII – Arizona Cardinals vrs. Pittsburgh Steelers – February 1, 2009, broadcast on NBC, announced by Al Michaels and John Madden
Big Ben quickly took the Steelers down the field on the opening drive of the game. He was aided by two big pass completions, a 38 yarder to receiver Hines Ward and a 21 yard strike to tight end Heath Miller. Eventually the Steelers had 3rd and goal from the 1 and Roethlisberger appeared to score on a scramble on the 3rd down play. Arizona challenged the spot of the ball however and the call was overturned and all that the Steelers could manage out of their opening 71 yard drive was an 18 yard field goal by kicker Jeff Reed. Arizona went three-and-out and Roethlisberger and the Steelers went right back to work with the long passes. Big Ben hit receiver Santonio Holmes for 25 yards on the 1st play of the drive and hit Miller again for 26 more yards. The Steelers offense capped off the drive when running back Gary Russell scored from a yard out to make it 10-0 Pittsburgh. It was looking like the game would go the way the experts thought it would by the end of the 1st quarter. The Steelers had two commanding offensive drives and had scored on both of them and the Cardinals had managed only one 1st down for the entire quarter. It looked as if the Cardinals may not have been in the same league as the Steelers.
The Cardinals still had Kurt Warner, a veteran quarterback who had already started two Super Bowls while he was with the Rams. He got things going in the 2nd quarter for the Cardinals when he connected with receiver Anquan Boldin for a 45 yard throw down to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line. The very next play he found tight end Ben Patrick for a 1 yard TD throw to put the Cardinals on the board. The Cardinals defense had stepped up themselves and had forced the Steelers to punt on their next two possessions. After the Cardinals could not convert on their drive following the touchdown they punted it back to the Steelers. The Cardinals D continued to play big. They tipped a Roethlisberger pass at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Karlos Dansby grabbed the ball in the air for an interception at the Pittsburgh 34 yard line with 2:46 to go in the half. Warner took the Cardinals offense down the field on 7 plays and got all the way down to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line with :18 left in the half. Warner attempted to throw it into the end zone for a touchdown but linebacker James Harrison caught the ball at the goal line and then ran the ball all the way down the field for a 100 yard touchdown. It was the longest play in Super Bowl history and it was reviewed to see if receiver Larry Fitzgerald had tackled Harrison short of the goal line after he had caught up with him but the refs upheld the call and just like that the pendulum swung 14 or even 10 points in the Steelers’ favor. The score was 17-7 Pittsburgh at the half.
The Cardinals were their own worst enemy at the start of the 3rd quarter. After being forced to punt on their first offensive drive of the half the Cardinals defense committed three personal foul penalties on the Steelers’ next offensive drive. The Steelers used 14 plays and 8:39 of the third quarter clock but they could not convert on a touchdown and settled for another Reed field goal to give them a 20-7 lead. The Cardinals could not muster much more offense and they went into the final quarter trailing 20-7.
Warner finally got the Cardinals offense going in the 4th quarter. He took the Cardinals on an 8 play, 87 yard drive and connected with Fitzgerald, who made a leaping grab in traffic, to make the score 20-14 Pittsburgh. After the teams exchanged punts the Steelers were pinned back at their own 1 yard line. Center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone and that gave the Cardinals a safety and two more points to make it 20-16 Pittsburgh. The Cardinals took the free kick and only needed two plays to cash in. Warner connected with Fitzgerald again, this time on a catch and run of 64 yards for the game-leading touchdown. The Cardinals had erased the 13 point deficit in a little over 5:00 of game time and took their first lead of the game at 23-20 with 2:27 remaining. Pittsburgh started the next drive at their own 22 but a holding penalty quickly pushed them inside their own 15 yard line. Big Ben quickly made up the ground as he hit Holmes with back-to-back passes of 27 yards. After gaining 54 yards on two plays Big Ben hit receiver Nate Washington for 11 yards and then scrambled for 4 yards on the ground. Big Ben hit Holmes yet again for a big play, this time for 40 yards down to the Arizona 6 yard line. Two plays later Roethlisberger found Holmes again as Santonio made a miraculous diving catch in which he just tipped his toes down in the end zone to make a legal catch and give the Steelers back the lead at 27-23 with only :37 remaining in the game. Warner had an opportunity for a last ditch effort. He hit Fitzgerald with a 20 yard pass on the first play of the drive and then found running back J.J. Arrington for 13 yards. Warner had one more heave but linebacker Lamar Woodley sacked him and knocked the ball loose. The Steelers were once again Super Bowl champions and the Cardinals had come up just short on their miracle run.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
This was another game with a wild 4th quarter, much like the Panthers and Patriots game from 5 years earlier. Holmes made what could have been one of the best clutch catches not only in Super Bowl history but in the history of the NFL to secure the victory for Pittsburgh.