January 23, 2011
Old Dynasties Collide In Super Bowl XLV
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Vince Lombardi and Chuck Noll. Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw. Paul Hornung and Franco Harris. Willie Davis and Mean Joe Greene. Ray Nitschke and Jack Lambert. Willie Wood and Mel Blount.
Green Bay and Pittsburgh accounted for four of the first ten Super Bowl wins and six of the first thirteen. What makes Green Bay's dynasty more amazing is that the Packer domination went all the way back to 1961. Lombardi lost only one postseason game in his career, that being the 1960 NFL Championship Game, to the Eagles. The Packer wins in Super Bowls I and II were the tail end of one of the most dominating runs by any team in NFL history.
As things stand today, Pittsburghers will have you believe that their team blows the Packers out of the water in terms of long term NFL tradition. The Steelers have won the most Super Bowls of any team with six, and now have a chance to win a seventh. The Packers have a chance to win their fourth. The two teams together will inspire a lot from football bards and scribes, and lots will be made of this first ever postseason meeting between these two teams.
The Packers gained entry into Super Bowl XLV with a 21-14 win over their longtime division rival Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. This is the mother of all rivalries, going all the way back to 1921. Aaron Rodgers wasn't as near perfect as he was against Atlanta and Philadelphia, but he was more than good enough to get his Packer team to the big for the first time in the post-Brett Favre era. Meanwhile, Da Bears watch their season go down the tubes at home with a still anemic offense and in need of a few more Julius Peppers types to make up for the lack of offense.
The Steelers won the mother of all who-do-you-root-for games, NFL style. Getting to play at home instead of at Gillette Stadium, the Steelers ran off to a 24-0 lead, then sat back and watched the Jets respond with only 19. The Jets seemed almost indifferent until midway into the fourth quarter, having perhaps expended all their energy on insulting and beating the Patriots. All week long, you heard next to nothing adverse coming out of the Jets camp other than some crack by Antonio Cromartie. Maybe the Jets erred in not running smack on Pittsburgh like they did against the Patriots.
This sets up a great historical matchup in Dallas, hosting its first Super Bowl ever in new Cowboys Stadium. The Packers were the team of the sixties, the Steelers the team of the seventies. Both teams have won nine combined Super Bowls and have lost only one each. The Packers last won the big game at the expense of your Patriots, 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. They lost the next year to Denver, and haven't been back since.
The Steelers have had more recent success. They have won two Super Bowls in the Ben Roethlisberger era. What makes Patriot fans a little queasy is that if Big Ben wins this big game, he pulls even with Tom Brady with three Super wins. The Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL with a huge assist from the officials, then beat Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII in a thriller, completing an unbelievable late touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes to vanquish the Cardinals.
This Big Ben theory (actually, fact) is what made Sunday's AFC Championship Game hard for Patriot Nation to watch. Either Roethlisberger or Rex Ryan had to lose. But one of them had to win. In the end, it was Ryan eating crow and looking like the doofus he should have looked like last week at Foxborough. While that proved richly satisfying to Patriot fans, who seemingly had their team all set up for a trip to Dallas with Indianapolis and Baltimore neatly eliminated along the way, the Roethlisberger issue is a little disquieting.
So in these parts, most Patriot fans will likely be rooting for the Packers in two weeks. It seemed that many fans foresaw that a week ago, as Patriot fans seemed to be lining up behind the Packers a week before they even played the Bears. You no longer have Favre under center for the Packers, but Rodgers, who is on track to becoming the top dog in the NFL with one more win.
Without Rodgers, the Packers still almost beat the Patriots in a December Monday night matchup at Gillette Stadium. While you might think the Jets have a great wideout tandem in Holmes and Braylon Edwards, Green Bay has a better one in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Ryan will tell you that Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback in the NFL, but Charles Woodson is better. Bart Scott and David Harris are nice linebackers, but A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews are better.
Besides, how can't you root for BC's B.J. Raji? He runs back interceptions much like Dan Connally runs back kickoff returns.
The Patriots blew a big chance to get their foot further in the door of most celebrated teams in league history. This year, the Packers and Steelers get to go to the big show and add to their impressive playoff litanies. They are the ones who get to write new chapters in their history. They are the ones who will engender more "best team ever" discussions, not your Patriots.
And if you are older fans of either team, your pride in your team is well justified. Those Steeler fans who remember the Noll years and those Packer fans who remember the Lombardi years must be beaming with pride. Younger fans of either team have more vivid memories of Favre and Roethlisberger, but these fans need to understand their teams' complete legacies. This is what will make this Super Bowl special for all fans of pro football, and those who have the long range memories and experiences owe it to the fans of today to make the younger fans realize what this matchup means.
Look at the bright side. At least you don't have to listen to two weeks of Ryan vorating over the Packers and making all sorts of wacky sound bytes. He can head home and play with his wife's feet. Neither the Packers nor the Steelers will jump ugly on either team, especially with Joey Porter long gone from the Steelers. Ryan is the class clown of the league, who just happens to be good at gameplanning. Now he heads home, and won't likely be heard from until the draft.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady is recovering from foot surgery, secretly hoping that Big Ben doesn't win his third one.
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