Super Bowl has momentum shifts

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunday’s National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl XLIII had more momentum shifts than any other Super Bowl I have ever seen, and I’ve seen the majority of them.

Both the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who won 27-23 and became the first NFL franchise to win the Super Bowl six times, and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Arizona Cardinals, had their share of the momentum.

It appeared the Steelers were in control when they jumped out to an early 10-0 lead on an 18-yard first-quarter field goal by Jeff Reed and a one-yard, early second-quarter touchdown run by Gary Russell.

The Cardinals cut the lead to just three, at 10-7, when quarterback Kurt Warner threw a one-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass to Ben Patrick. The score was set up by a 45-yard pass from Warner to Anquan Boldin from the 46 to the 1.

The first of many momentum changes came with less a minute remaining in the first half. With the Cardinals apparently poised to go in for the go-ahead score and the halftime lead, Steelers tackle and NFL defensive player of the year James Harrison stepped in front of a Warner pass, picked it off, and ran 100 yards for a touchdown as time ran out to give the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead.

Instead of scoring a touchdown and going to the locker room with a 14-10 lead or kicking a field goal to tie it up 10-10, the Cardinals found themselves down 17-7 at intermission.

The only third-quarter scoring was a 21-yard Reed field goal, so the Steelers went to the fourth quarter up 20-7.

The Cardinals dominated the fourth quarter, which was full of momentum shifts. Warner completed all eight of his passes on an 87-yard, fourth-quarter scoring drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald that pulled the Cardinals to within three, at 20-14.

The momentum really began to swing in the Cardinals’ favor when Steelers center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone, giving them a safety and pulling them within one, at 20-16.

Then, with just 2:37 remaining in the game, the Cardinals took a 23-20 lead when Warner and Fitzgerald connected on a 64-yard touchdown pass and run.

With the momentum now all seemingly on the side of the Cardinals, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw to Santonio Holmes for six yards and the winning touchdown with just 35 seconds remaining in the game.

Holmes, who had nine catches for 131 yards, was named the game’s most valuable player.

Roethlisberger is a big man with a strong arm, but his game-winning touchdown throw to Holmes was one of the best passes I have ever seen.

Holmes was triple covered, but Roethlisberger laid the ball over all three defenders and into Holmes’ hands as he dragged both feet in bounds in the right corner of the end zone.