Aaron Rodgers outduels Ben Roethlisberger as Packers beat Steelers to win Super Bowl
ARLINGTON, Texas - Mike McCarthy put the game, the season, and the Super Bowl on Aaron Rodgers' right shoulder, and he did not disappoint.
Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Greg Jennings, as the Green Bay Packers became only the second No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl with Sunday night's 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It is a dream come true," said Rodgers. "It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young, and we just won the Super Bowl."
Jordy Nelson had a career-best nine catches and 140 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown that opened the scoring late in the first quarter.
"You never know who is going to make the big play or have a big game," said Nelson. "It is all about opportunity."
Green Bay (14-6), which finished the season on a six-game winning streak, also become the second team to ever defeat the Steelers in a Super Bowl.
"Wow, wow, wow. It's a great day to be great, baby," said Jennings.
Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes and led the Packers to their first Super Bowl title since 1997, and fourth overall in franchise history, despite being sacked three times. It also is the 13th NFL championship in Green Bay's franchise history.
"We put the game on his shoulders and he delivered," said McCarthy, whose team attempted only 13 runs, including the two kneel-downs at the end of the game by Rodgers to run out the clock.
Officially stepping out of the Brett Favre shadow, Rodgers outplayed two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers' quarterback went 25-of-40 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions, one of which Nick Collins returned 37 yards for a touchdown.
"Oh, man, that was the highlight of my day right there," said Collins. "I was able to read Big Ben and got a nice jump on the ball."
Former Donaldsonville High and LSU standout Howard Green applied pressure on the play, making contact with Roethlisberger's arm during the throw.
Green Bay took control late in the first quarter when they scored two touchdowns in 24 seconds and built a 21-3 lead in the first half.
Nelson's touchdown preceded Collins' return, then Jarrett Bush's interception near the end of the first half set up the first of Jennings' scores.
"We just kept our poise," said Collins. "We played for 60 minutes tonight."
However, Pittsburgh (14-5) stormed back and got within four points in the third quarter and as close as 28-25 midway through the fourth.
"This is a heavyweight fight and they delivered blows to us," McCarthy said. "We just kept fighting and scratching."
Pittsburgh, seeking its seventh Super Bowl title in team history and third in six seasons, made it 21-10 at halftime when Roethlisberger connected with Hines Ward from eight yards out. Then on Pittsburgh's first possession of the second half, Isaac Redman, an undrafted rookie out of Bowie State, had a 16-yard run to set up Rashard Mendenhall's eight-yard touchdown run to make it 21-17.
"We're not into moral victories," said Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin. "We were just trying to make a play in any of the three phases to win the football game."
Shaun Suisham missed a 52-yard field goal late in the third to maintain Green Bay's four-point lead, but perhaps the biggest play of the game came when Clay Matthews forced a Mendenhall fumble near midfield and Desmond Bishop recovered for the Packers.
"I just got hit and the ball came out," said Mendenhall, who finished with 63 yards on 14 carries. "It just happened and it should not have happened."
Green Bay would make the Steelers pay, as Nelson made up for a drop on the previous play to haul in a 37-yard reception to set up Jennings' second touchdown - from eight yards out - to make it 28-17 with just under 12 minutes left.
"This is just like our season," Rodgers said. "A lot of high-character guys who've stepped up, played huge roles for us, and now we're sitting here as Super Bowl champs."
Pittsburgh did answer the score with Mike Wallace's 25-yard touchdown catch and Antwaan Randle-El's two-point option run to make it 28-25 with under eight minutes to go.
"We were going to fight all the way to the last second, which I think we did," said Roethlisberger. "If I had played a little bit better, I feel like we would have had a better chance to win the game."
However, Jennings' 31-yard catch to convert a 3rd down set up Mason Crosby's 23-yard field goal to give Green Bay a six-point lead.
Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers back in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLIII two years ago, had one more chance to deliver again, but fell short. Bush broke up a 4th-and-5 pass intended for Wallace and the Packers' celebration began.
"We're going back to title town baby," said Collins. "It's coming back home. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming back home."
Super Bowl notes
Due to what the NFL called "incomplete installation" of 1,250 temporary seats in Cowboys Stadium, four sections were unusable. Of those 1,250 people affected, 400 could not be accommodated and were refunded triple the face value of the $900 tickets. The other 850 people affected were relocated to other seats in the stadium. The 400 people who were not accommodated were allowed to watch the game from inside the stadium on the big screen from the platforms or in the standing-room only sections. ... The Packers set a new NFL record by having 11 different players score a postseason touchdown. ... Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot), Green Bay CB Charles Woodson (collarbone), and WR Donald Drive (ankle) all left the game in the first half and did not return. ... James Starks rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries for Green Bay ... Wallace and Ward combined for 16 catches and 167 yards for Pittsburgh. ...Pittsburgh LB LaMarr Woodley extended his own NFL record by getting a sack in his seventh straight postseason game.