What was predicted to be a less-than-stellar showdown between the AFC Champion Steelers and the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, turned into a fourth-quarter thrill as the game came down to a few spectacular plays in the last minutes of the game. In the end, the Steelers stood atop the NFL, winning the Super Bowl for a record sixth time, and twice in the past four years.
As the clock wound down in the first half, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison ran 100 yards for a touchdown after catching an end zone interception thrown by Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. A game full of exciting plays and spectacular performances included a rare end-zone safety for Arizona in the fourth quarter, when Pittsburgh center Justin Hartwig was flagged for holding in the end zone—resulting in an automatic safety for the Arizona defense.
Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald nearly sealed the deal for the Cardinals, catching an incredible 64-yard touchdown pass thrown from Warner with less than three minutes left in the game, which put Arizona ahead 23-20. Fitzgerald scored two touchdowns Sunday, while Warner passed for 377 yards. Arizona put up 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
But the Steelers were not down for long. The game-winning catch came with just over 30 seconds left in the game. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard pass into the end zone, and wide receiver Santonio Holmes just managed to get his feet down for the touchdown. Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards in his Super Bowl MVP-winning appearance Sunday.
Roethlisberger, still healing from a rib injury, completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown. At age 26, he now sports two Super Bowl rings.
Aside from the game itself, the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday included Jennifer Hudson’s first public appearance since the highly publicized killings of several close family members last year. Although the performance was pre-recorded and lip-synced, Hudson proudly and convincingly returned to the stage, singing The Star-Spangled Banner before the game. Faith Hill also performed a lip-synced America the Beautiful, and the legendary Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band rocked Raymond James Stadium at the halftime show.
Heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the flight crew from US Airways Flight 1549 were honored in a pregame ceremony, along with the head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus. Petraeus participated in the pregame coin toss along with NFL legends Lynn Swann, John Elway, and Roger Craig.
Of course, the much-anticipated Super Bowl commercials did not disappoint, with Anheuser Busch and Pepsi leading the retailers with airtime and revenue paid for time spots. One of the most famous commercials of all time, the 1979 Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola ad, was remade with Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu as an ad for Coke Zero, with a new and more comedic spin put on the 2009 version. Miller put up a one-second ad, and the Doritos contest winner came from brothers who produced a “Free Doritos” ad that won them $1 million dollars for their effort.
During this time of economic woe and fear of job and financial security, Super Bowl XLIII turned out to be a great escape from the worry. The game kept us on the edges of our seats, the celebrity appearances were touching and thrilling, and the commercials continued to remind us to laugh.