Arlington, Texas • Apparently, all the Green Bay Packers needed was more of a challenge.
Every time they seemingly were in danger of allowing Pittsburgh to complete the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the Packers responded. By forcing a critical fumble, driving for a touchdown and adding a late field goal in the second half Sunday night, Green Bay secured a 31-25 victory in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
For those just tuning in, this was the story of the Packers' season. Nothing came easily for this team, which lost six original starters to injury and had to win its last two regular-season games to make the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed. That meant having to win three postseason road games just to reach the Super Bowl.
The Packers overcame even more injuries in this game, with reserves such as former Utah State defensive back Jarrett Bush playing key roles. They steadied themselves just when it appeared that Pittsburgh was about to overtake them.
The solution? "You just keep playing," said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. "We had some bumps in the road in the third quarter, but our guys are resilient and tough. We've done it all year."
When the momentum shifted in the second half, this was the feeling among the Steelers: "Here we go," said defensive end Brett Keisel.
And there it went.
Rashard Mendenhall lost a fumble in Green Bay territory, with Desmond Bishop recovering. That's when quarterback Aaron Rodgers earned his MVP award.
Having struggled through a third quarter in which the Packers gained only 36 yards and his receivers were dropping passes, Rodgers just kept firing. He found Jordy Nelson for 38 yards to the Pittsburgh 2. After being sacked, Rodgers came back with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings for a 28-17 lead.
Rodgers finished 24 for 39 for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while the Packers picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice.
Green Bay barely bothered trying to run the ball against Pittsburgh's defense. "We put this game on [Rodgers'] shoulders," McCarthy said.
He delivered, and so did the Super Bowl, once known for producing anticlimactic games. This was the fourth title game in a row decided in the last few minutes.
Having once trailed 21-3, the Steelers continually threatened to become the first team to come from more than 10 points down to win a Super Bowl. But the Steelers never could take the lead.
In the first half, interceptions by Green Bay's Nick Collins and Bush helped the Packers take control. The Steelers drove for TDs to close the first half and begin the second half, though, cutting Green Bay's lead to 21-17 and ensuring that another Super Bowl would go right down to the end.
Roethlisberger's 25-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace and a two-point conversion later made it 28-25. But the Packers answered with a clock-eating drive for a field goal and halted Pittsburgh's last drive that began with 1:59 remaining.
"We've seen them come down the field and make plays to win games; they did it to us last year," said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, remembering a 37-36 defeat in the 2009 regular season.
Indeed, this one could have ended 32-31. But the Packers made one last stand, with Tramon Williams deflecting a fourth-down pass.
Besides denying the Steelers a seventh Super Bowl win, the Packers re-established their own tradition. "It's named the Lombardi Trophy for a reason, because we play and live in Titletown," Rodgers said.
R IN SHORT • The Green Bay Packers charge to a 21-3 lead and hold on to win, giving them a 13th championship overall and fourth title in the Super Bowl era.
KEY MOMENT • With Pittsburgh down 21-17 and gaining momentum, Green Bay's Desmond Bishop recovers Rashard Mendenhall's fumble.
KEY STAT • The Packers' three takeaways each lead to a touchdown.