After a slow start, Super Bowl XLIII finished with an explosion of big plays, capped by Santonio Holmes' incredible sideline TD grab to give the Steelers the 27-23 win, as well as Pittsburgh's sixth Super Bowl championship. Relive the big game with our live blog recap.
6:05 PM ET: It's go time, as they say. We've endured approximately 360 hours of pre-Super Bowl hype, and it's actually time to, you know, play the game. Novel idea, that. As for the story lines you haven't been beaten about the head with: Kurt Warner will sport two gloves while Ben Roethlisberger is going with the one-glove, Michael-Jackson-circa-'83 look. That will almost certainly be the difference.
6:10: Al Michaels is on the public address system announcing both teams. In a shocking development, there are actually Cardinals fans and they've made their way to Tampa. Weird.
Seriously, the Super Bowl is a notoriously stuffy affair, with some 30 percent of the tickets going to corporate sponsors and the rest divvied up among fans. As long as it doesn't snow, I don't imagine the crowd will much affect the Cardinals tonight.
6:15: Kurt Warner's munificence knows no bounds: he's just been named the 2008 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. He's then promptly ushered off the field to make room for Faith Hill (and approximately 150 backup singers), who's performing "God Bless America." (I guess Pink wasn't available.) And a few moments later, Jennifer Hudson sings the "Star-Spangled Banner." And Terrible Towels throughout the stadium were waved with much vigor.
6:28: James Farrior calls tails ... and it fails. Cards win the toss, defer, and the Steelers will get the ball first.
6:30: MDS is currently in the press box at Raymond James Stadium and weighs in with this: "A few hours before game time I noted that the fans tailgating outside the stadium were overwhelmingly pro-Steelers, so how about now? Using the highly unscientific process counting up all the fans who filed past me wearing jerseys, the Steelers fans in the crowd are a clear majority, with Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu the two most popular players. Larry Fitzgerald is the most popular Cardinal." Second-most popular Cards jersey? Neil Lomax.
6:28: Neil Rackers kicks off to Gary Russell, he takes it at the four, and gets out to the Steelers 28. The biggest thing to watch early: Big Ben's nerves. Don't know if you've heard, but he played like crap in Super Bowl XL.
Willie Parker goes for three yards on first down before Roethlisberger runs a naked bootleg and finds peg-legged Hines Ward for a 38-yard gain. That'll work.
6:38: After two Fast Willie runs and a 21-yard Big Ben pass to Heath Miller in the face of some serious Cardinals pressure, the Steelers have first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Gary Russell is dropped for a four-yard loss, which, if you've watched Pittsburgh this season, should look very familiar.
6:32: On second down, Parker gets back to the original line of scrimmage. A play later, Big Ben rolls right and finds his receivers covered before bull-rushing his way into the end zone. Seahawks fans don't think he got in. And neither does Ken Whisenhunt. Red flag on the field.
6:42: Upon further review, Roethlisberger was down at the one-inch line. In comes Skippy Reed, he stripes the 19-yard attempt, and the Steelers lead 3-0.
6:45: Here come the Cards. They'll start at their 27-yard line. Apparently, this Larry Fitzgerald fellow is pretty good. Might want to keep an eye on him. ... And Edgerrin James gets the ball on first down and gets about a yard. Obviously.
There's Warner to Steve Breaston on second down, and it's good enough to move the chains. A play later, Mike Gandy is cited for cheating (holding on James Harrison), and Warner and Edge almost lose a fumble on 1st and 20. Inexplicably, Arizona gives it to James on 2nd down and he goes for a couple. On third and long, the Steelers rush four but get a man free to Warner and he hurriedly throws incomplete. Bring on Ben Graham.
6:54: Pittsburgh starts their second drive from their own 31, and on the first play, Ben hits Santonio Holmes on a slip screen that is good for 25 yards. The Steelers come back with play-action to Nate Washington -- who was WIDE OPEN -- is underthrown by about a yard and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie is able to knock the ball away. Nice play.
Another quick pass to Holmes is good for five yards, and on third down ... center Justin Hartwig is flagged for a false start. After the penalty, Big Ben does what Big Ben does: runs around the pocket for what feels like minutes, avoids five or six would-be pass rushers, and finds Miller just beyond the sticks for a first down.
Good heavens, this is nuts. On the next play, Fast Willie lines up in the Wildcat, run wide right for a couple yards. And miraculously, the Steelers successfully run a screen pass to Miller for another first down. And that's followed by a Parker run for nine yards. On 2nd-and-1 from the Cards' 14, Ben throws to a slanting Holmes for five more. And that's that. The first quarter is in the books. Man, that flew by.
7:04: Arizona managed 13 yards of offense in the first quarter. Just pointing that out.
The first play of the second quarter is another quick pass, this time from Big Ben to Miller, down to the Cards' one-yard line. Both teams are a tad chippy early on -- after the play there's pushing and shoving, the second such instance tonight. Shockingly, Hines Ward is right in the middle of it.
7:07: After a timeout and facing third-and-goal, the Steelers set up in the I-formation, give it to Russell, and for the first time in a long time (all season?), the offensive line gets a goal line push, and Russell scores the touchdown.
7:10: In case you're busy stuffing your face with bourbon brownies and missed it, Brinson has a look at the early favorite for best Super Bowl commercial.
7:12: Inauspicious start for the Cards on their second possession. J.J. Arrington bobbles the kickoff in the end zone and is tackled at the 15. Warner has plenty of time in the pocket on first down, but throws incomplete just out of the reach of tight end Leonard Pope. A play later, Warner checks down to his safety valve James, and it's enough for a first down. No Fitz or Boldin sightings yet, but they're coming. You just know they just are.
Back-to-back completions to James and Breaston move Arizona to their 38-yard line. After a nothing James run, Warner goes back to him on a swing pass and it's good for 13.
Just a thought: maybe the Cards should quit running the ball. Even when they hold, they're only managing a couple yards. Tight end Ben Patrick is the latest culprit, pushing Arizona back to their side of the field. Warner hits Breaston for a 13-yard gain, setting up a very manageable 2nd-and-7.
Warner has days in the pocket and he dials up a nice sideline pass to Boldin. The pass and catch goes for 40-plus yards, down to Pittsburgh's two-yard line. A play later, Warner stumbles, gains his balance, throws a jump-ball in the back of the end zone to Patrick, and the tight end makes, well, a Fitzgerald-ian-type grab over linebacker Larry Foote. And just like that, we've got a game.
7:25: On a 2nd and 4, Parker juked Adrian Wilson in the backfield and turned a sure loss into a first down. You don't see that very often.
DRC isn't playing like a rookie. He's now made two big plays in the first half, including defending a sideline bomb to Holmes. On second down, a screen pass to Parker goes nowhere, and the Cards' D is starting to play with some confidence. Arizona blitzes on 3rd and 12 but Big Ben makes a typical Big Ben scramble-and-complete for a first down ... except there was holding on the play.
On the do-over the Cards rush three and Pittsburgh can only get back to the original line of scrimmage. Mitch Berger punts to the very dangerous Breaston and, right on cue, he takes it to the Steelers 42-yard line, a 35-yard return.
7:37: After a stalled Cards drive -- punctuated by a LaMarr Woodley sack -- Michael Adams makes a great special teams play to bring down Holmes about a half-milisecond after he caught the punt.
Steelers start on their own 16 with just under three minutes to go in the second quarter. Pittsburgh runs the longest developing draw play in the history of the sport and somehow Mewelde Moore gains seven yards. A play later, Big Ben's pass is deflected at the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Karlos Dansby comes up with the pick at the Steelers 34.
7:43: Earlier in the week, Big Ben told Deion Sanders that he'd need to avoid turnovers to give the Steelers a legit shot at winning this thing, so he can't be all that jazzed right now.
Arizona looks like they want to run the option on first down but it's well covered and Warner has to throw the ball away. A play later, Warner is decked by Woodley, but gets the ball out just in time. It should've been intercepted by Ike Taylor but, well, Ike Taylor can't catch. That could prove costly.
A dump-off to Tim Hightower on third-and-10 turns into a pretty impressive first-down jaunt. And, yes, that was Taylor who missed the tackle on Hightower there. Warner finally finds Fitzgerald with 48 seconds to go in the half. First and 10 from the Steelers' 14, and Warner finds Boldin for seven yards. Back to Boldin for three more yards and it's first-and-goal from Pittsburgh's two-yard line with 18 seconds to go.
From the shotgun, Warner throws ... a pick to Harrison that, after a booth review, is ruled a pick-six.
I mean, the Cards should be headed to the half up 14-10. Instead, Harrison has just set a Super Bowl record with a 100-yard interception return and we're headed to the break 17-7. I need a cigarette.
Commercial update, via Brinsanity: because we're a country of poor people, a lot of Super Bowl ads are movie previews. I suppose that's what happens when things like paying your mortgage is more important than dropping a few mil on, say, a Bud Light spot. The results: um, this. I got nothin'. Back for the second half after the Boss exposes his nipple.
8:19: Springsteen has just finished his set and no Courtney Cox sighting. I think I'm okay with that.
A quick recap before we get back to the game: Steelers started fast, went up 10-0, the Cards battled back, and were this close to going up 14-10 before Deebo Harrison took a Warner pass intended for Boldin 100 yards to the proverbial house. On the upside, Arizona will get the ball to start the third quarter.
8:29: On the very first offensive play of the quarter, Warner hits Boldin for a four-yard gain ... and Boldin goes off with what looks like a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Edge takes a handoff and turns it into a nifty 10-yard gain. And he goes for seven more a play later. I guess he didn't hear about how he can't rush the football.
Boldin's back, but the Cards are strictly a running team. Of course, that won't last. Maybe it should have though: Warner gets sacked, allegedly fumbles (no way that's upheld), and -- you guessed it -- Harrison recovers. Red flaggie pending, no doubt.
8:38: As expected, the call on the ol' field is overturned and the Cards have to punt. As for Warner, he's taken a few hits tonight, which a lot of folks didn't think would happen. There's still a long way to go, but I'm not sure how many steam-rollings the old-timer can take before it takes a toll.
8:43: Hines Ward went missing after the 38-yard reception on the first drive, but makes a nice third-and-one grab to move the sticks. A play later, Karlos Dansby gets flagged on a very questionable roughing-the-passer call. In fact, I think that's the first time all season Big Ben's gotten the benefit of the doubt.
The penalty allows Roethlisberger and Holmes to continue to play pitch-and-catch down the field while DRC plays a good 10 yards off Holmes. Mix in a Fast Willie 15-yard sprint and the Steelers have first and goal with 4:30 to go in the third quarter. On 2nd down from the eight-yard line, Ben throws incomplete. A play later, from the shotgun, Roethlisberger somehow avoids a sack and manages to throw the ball away. No idea how he pulled that off.
In comes Reed and he splits the uprights on a 27-yarder. Holy Bejesus. Adrian Wilson treads the holder Mitch Berger. That's a personal foul, automatic first down. (To Wilson's credit, he didn't spit in Berger's face.) That is a huge penalty on a drive chocked full of them for Arizona.
Parker goes for a couple on first-and-goal from the five. Big Ben has another pass deflected at the line of scrimmage and Antrel Rolle was very, very close from pulling a "James Harrison" and going to the house. Third down: Roethlisberger runs the draw and only gets a yard. Great play by Gabe Watson. Skippy's back on the field, this time 21 yards away. Same result.
Great stand for Arizona, but now it's a 13-point game.
9:02: After a 16-play Steelers drive, Arizona's offense gets the ball back with two minutes to go in the quarter. And unlike the previous three postseason games, Warner is having to settle for short-ish crossing patterns instead of going to Fitz deep. It looks like if the Cards are going to move the ball, it's going to require them to sustain a drive. And now they only have 15 minutes to do it.
A little something to distract you from Kurt Warner's mittens -- More Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Mr. Brinson.
9:10: After a stalled Cards' drive, the Steelers go three and out thanks, in part, to a Darnell Dockett sack. Berger has easily his best punt of the season, and William Gay plasters Breaston a half-second after he catches the punt. Arizona will try to get something going 90 yards from Pittsburgh's end zone.
9:21: Warner immediately goes to work, completing two passes for first downs. Arizona's now in the no-huddle and have the ball at midfield. Arrington takes a dump off for 22 yards, down to the Steelers' 28. It took three quarters, but Warner's warming up. Fitzgerald goes for 18 yards on the next play and the Cards are rollin'.
Fitz gets five more on first down before Pittsburgh burns a timeout. After the break, Hightower gets to the one-yard line. On third down, Warner to Fitzgerald, fade in the back of the end zone. That looks very familiar. Game on.
9:31: Pittsburgh starts on their 24 with 7:24 to go, up by six. Parker goes for four on first down before Big Ben gets blowed up, Dockett style a play later. That brings up third and forever. From the shotgun, Ben finds Miller, but he's six yards short of the pretend yellow line.
Warner and Co. went 90 yards on the previous drive. They'll need 75 more to take the lead, and they'll have 5:28 to do it.
9:34: Probably worth pointing out: when the Steelers have at least an 11-point lead, they're 10-0 in the postseason. Not sure how much longer that perfect record will last.
Warner find Boldin for 10 yards, and Ike Taylor gets a personal foul penalty after the play. Arizona, now at midfield, go to the no-huddle. After a run for no gain, Warner finds Breaston over the middle, and he's down to the 26-yard line. Like clockwork, Gandy's flagged for holding Harrison. On first and 20, Warner almost pulls a "Flacco" and Polamalu almost obliges. Incomplete.
Another play, another incompletion, bringing up 3rd and 20. Woodley pressures Warner, forcing him to get rid of the ball early, a third incompletion on the drive, fourth down. Graham's punt is downed at the one-yard line. Pittsburgh's up against it, but they have a six-point lead.
9:41: Roesthlisberger throws incomplete on first down and Parker somehow avoids taking a safety a play later. Big Ben finds Holmes on a spectacular third-down play ... but instead of a first down, center Justin Hartwig is called for holding. In the end zone. Which is a safety. I just had a heart attack.
9:46: Okay, crunch time. 2:53 on the clock, Cards start on their own 35. Boldin drops the first-down pass. On second down, Fitzgerald goes 65 yards to the house. HOLY CRAP.
9:50: Okey doke, let's see what Big Ben's got. He's been labeled a game manager most of his career. Now he'll have 2:30 to prove his critics wrong. Not a good start: Steelers are called for holding on first down. Big Ben runs around like a maniac and somehow finds Holmes just before the two-minute warning.
On third and 6, another improbable Ben-to-Santonio completion for a first down. Ben to Nate Washington moves the sticks again. Roethlisberger then scrambles for four yards and the Steelers use their second timeout. On second down, Big Ben continues to stand tall in the pocket, magically avoids the rush, and finds Holmes for a 40-yard gain down to the Arizona seven-yard line.
Pittsburgh takes their last timeout with 49 ticks on the clock. Incomplete to Holmes on first down. On the next play, Roethlisberger sheds the game-manager label after finding Holmes for six on quite possibly the play of the game. And given what's happened the previous 59 minutes, that's saying a helluva lot.
Kurt Warner has 35 seconds.
10:05: Alright, I'm hooked up to an oxygen tank for the final half-minute here. Not sure if I'm going to make it. We'll see. Warner finds Fitz, up to the Cards' 44-yard line. Timeout, Arizona (one left). Warner to Arrington for 12 more yards and another timeout. Fifteen ticks on the clock, Cards' down four.
On first down from the Steelers' 44, Warner has all sorts of time, can't find an open receiver, scrambles, and as he tries to throw the pass, he's sacked by Woodley and fumbles in the process. Brett Keisel recovers and that, thankfully, is that. I will now go shotgun a 12-pack to calm my nerves.
Steve Nesius, Reuters
Chris McGrath, Getty Images
Chris O'Meara, AP
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Mark Humphrey, AP
Charlie Riedel, AP
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Charlie Riedel, AP
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David J. Phillip, AP