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The little things mattered in SB XLIII

Super Bowl XLIII was a game of inches and sleights of hand. It wasn't just the tiptoes of Santonio Holmes or the inches forward Kurt Warner's arm failed to take, though.

It was the three inches Ben Roethlisberger didn't get on a first-quarter dive and the inches James Harrison did get with no time left at the end of the half. It was the step backward by an offensive lineman that nearly tripped Warner on what ended up being his first touchdown pass, and the step that Justin Hartwig didn't take quickly enough that led to a game-changing safety.

It was the glance and the pump fake that sent Troy Polamalu careening toward a decoy route and left Larry Fitzgerald with the ball and a glorious expanse in front of him. The divot -- very possibly a leftover from the halftime show -- that Aaron Francisco slipped on that set up the winning play. The extra step Adrian Wilson took at the end of a field goal attempt that ended up giving the Steelers three more plays and took two minutes off a clock that eventually bled the Cardinals dry. The yard that Anquan Boldin failed to get the play before Harrison picked Warner off on the goal line.

In the end, we just remember the most important inches -- we forget the ball Holmes failed to grasp on first-and-goal and remember the brilliant catch on second down -- because time fades all the other plays. Without those inches going exactly the way they had, though, the opportunity for Holmes' huge play would not have existed.

Of course, labels have been shaken off as well. Roethlisberger washed the stench of Super Bowl XL off of his reputation as a clutch quarterback, while Holmes laid the memories of his suspension for possessing marijuana earlier this year to rest.

Warner solidified his case as a Hall of Fame quarterback, and Fitzgerald his as the best receiver in football, if not the best player altogether. LaMarr Woodley confirmed his status as an elite pass-rusher, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie confirmed that he was not (yet) the cornerback he has been hyped to be.

The only disappointing thing about a game so great is that it's the last one we'll see for seven months.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Super Bowl XLIII, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) statistics.



Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.