Best, worst of journey to Titletown
Grading the highlights from the Packers' dramatic win over the Steelers
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As the confetti falls on the Green Bay Packers' 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, here is our highly subjective top 10 list of the best and worst from Super Bowl XLV, judged on a 10-point scale:
1. Lombardi Trophy goes home: Green Bay likes to call itself "Titletown." For a span of 42 years -- after victories in the first two Super Bowls -- there was only a single NFL title, at the end of the 1996 season. The Packers' victory sends the Vince Lombardi Trophy back where it belongs. Thanks to Aaron Rodgers' brilliance and Tramon Williams' great play on Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, Green Bay is "Titletown" again. Best rating: 9.6.
2. Barbarians at the gate: For the last week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been hyping his bright and shiny $1.2 billion stadium as the greatest Super Bowl venue -- ever. As Super Bowl XLV unfurled Sunday, some angry fans in the parking lot outside begged to differ. When the crowds began descending on Cowboys Stadium, four of the 10 gates were closed because of lingering ice issues from the two storms that hit North Texas last week. And that wasn't the worst of it; some 400 fans arrived only to discover the seats they had paid $800 for, uh, well, didn't exist. Yes, that has to qualify as the worst of Super Bowl XLV. Or, maybe -- be careful what you wish for, Mr. Jones -- ever? Worst rating: 9.5.
3. Big Ben's big "faux pass": When Packers defensive lineman Howard Green obliterated Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu, it set off a chain of events that dramatically altered the game. Green penetrated the pocket and his hand crashed into Ben Roethlisberger's right shoulder pad as he released a pass toward Wallace. Safety Nick Collins easily fielded a woefully underthrown pass, with what was essentially a fair catch. He took it to the house for a 37-yard touchdown to give the Packers a 14-0 first-quarter lead -- those points coming in a startling span of 24 seconds. Ironically, Roethlisberger's pump fake drew Collins to the left sideline, in the vicinity of Wallace. Coming in, Roethlisberger was 10-2 in playoff games, 2-0 in previous Super Bowls. Worst rating: 8.6.
4. A real hero: We've all heard the heavy-handed comparisons between war and football. Not even close. One of the game's most sustained, sincere rounds of applause came when U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was acknowledged for recently being awarded the Medal of Honor. He was the first living soldier who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan to receive America's highest honor given for valor. Best rating: 7.5.
5. It's A Fummmble! Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who only fumbled two times in 347 touches this season, put the ball on the ground when he was sandwiched by Ryan Pickett and Clay Matthews. Green Bay middle linebacker Desmond Bishop recovered at the Packers' 45-yard-line early in the fourth quarter. The Packers ripped down the field and Rodgers' touchdown pass to Greg Jennings put Pittsburgh in a gaping 28-17 hole. Worst rating: 7.0.
6. The perfect pass: On the Packers' second possession, Rodgers, spying nickel corner William Gay lined up opposite No. 3 wideout Jordy Nelson -- a delicious matchup if you are Green Bay -- feathered a beautiful ball down the field. Nelson reeled in with an equally gorgeous over-the-shoulder 29-yard catch and tumbled into the end zone. It was the game's first score, and it signaled that these inexperienced Packers just might be able to cope with the big stage. Best rating: 6.6.
7. Steel Curtain shredded: On third-and-10 from the Packers' 25 late in the game, Rodgers threw a dart that found Jennings running across the middle. Steelers corner Ike Taylor, leaping, just missed the ball with his left hand, but the play was good -- very good -- for 31 yards. Pittsburgh had to have a stop, and failed. The Packers kicked a 23-yard field goal to take a 31-25 lead with 2:07 left. Worst rating: 5.9.
8. Best screen available: Usually, they provide television monitors for the media in the auxiliary press box, but this year there was no need. The hulking $40 million, 600-ton Mitsubishi "Diamond Vision" HD screen suspended over the field at Cowboys Stadium is spectacular. It measures 160-feet wide (53 yards, or precisely the width of a football field) by 71-feet high, representing 11,393 square feet. There are 10,584,064 LED lights. The media section in Section 327 was a pretty fair seat, but there were times when you, almost unconsciously, caught yourself watching the game on TV -- like 150 million other Americans. Best rating: 5.6.
9. Steelers misfire: It's a horrific cliché, but turnovers are usually the critical statistic in football games. The Steelers gave it up twice in the first half -- and the Packers promptly turned them into 14 points. Roethlisberger's second interception (by safety Jarrett Bush) allowed Rodgers to hit Jennings with another sweet ball for a 21-yard touchdown. Amazingly, the Packers held a commanding 21-3 lead. Worst rating: 4.3.
10. That's entertainment: "Glee" actress Lea Michele gave "America the Beautiful," a fresh, almost bouncy tempo. The Black Eyed Peas had a tight, arresting conceptual halftime show that was pleasing to the eye, along with a cast of hundreds, aerial hijinx and lots of glow sticks. Better than last year's 60-something rockers from England. And Christina Aguilera, despite a flub of the lyrics, still delivered a throaty-yet-stately acapella version of the national anthem in her second Super Bowl performance (she also sang during halftime at Atlanta in 2000). Best rating: 3.7.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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