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Cover-3: Drive All Night

Cover-3: Drive All Night
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Doug Farrar

Super Bowl XLIII, as my illustrious colleague Bill Barnwell recently wrote, was a game of inches. Actually, it felt more like a game of fractions -- the smallest thing deciding this or that twist or turn as the fourth quarter drew us into an amazing drama. Three drives stood out to me, and they're the ones I'll detail in the final Cover-3 of the season. We start at the beginning of the second half, where the Steelers lead the Cardinals, 17-7, on the strength of the 100-yard interception return by James Harrison that ended the first half.

The Three Deciding Drives

Pittsburgh: 16 plays, 79 Yards, Field Goal

The Cardinals started the second half with a few effective Edgerrin James runs, but stalled at the Arizona 49 with 10:57 left in the third quarter. Punter Ben Graham booted the ball down to the Pittsburgh 18, where Santonio Holmes fair caught the ball. The Steelers had a shot here to salt the game away, and a marathon drive upcoming.

On first-and-10 from the 18, Pittsburgh went single-back with Willie Parker, and the Cardinals loaded up with five on the line. Hines Ward motioned from right to left presnap, and Parker started left before trying to cut back as defensive end Antonio Smith pushed guard Chris Kemoeatu into Parker's lane. Unfortunately for Parker, Adrian Wilson had cut off his cutback lane with a run blitz, and Parker lost three yards on the play with nowhere to go.

On second down, Ben Roethlisberger went shotgun, empty backfield, and the Steelers had four receivers to the left and only Holmes to the right. The Cardinals played four at the line and four on the loaded side, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing off against Holmes. Roethlisberger threw Holmes a quick out, and Holmes gained six yards. This is something I've noticed about the Steelers before -- not just that they'll do a lot of bunch formations, but that they'll use them creatively. You might see two run-blocking receivers and a flanker running a go route to deceive the secondary on a pitch to a running back, or you might see what the Cardinals got here. Pittsburgh will load up a side and go the other way. Add a 15-yard facemask penalty on DRC at the end, and the Steelers were sitting pretty at their own 36. Big Ben followed that with a quick pass over the middle to Matt Spaeth out of a two-tight end set for 6.

On second-and-4, Parker tried again to find something up the middle (this time out of an I-formation), but Chike Okeafor was there to stop him after three yards. Third-and-1, and the Steelers went bunch right with the Cards loading that side again. This time, Big Ben wasn't for trickeration; he just hit Hines Ward on a little 5-yard out and kept the drive going.

The next play was the controversial roughing the passer call on Karlos Dansby, and all I'm going to say about that is that it didn't appear to me that Dansby was making any extra effort to go after the quarterback. I'm not entirely sure that Roethlisberger shouldn't have been penalized for intentional grounding, and when you've got a quarterback who extends plays like Big Ben does, it seems to me that you might want to give the defense a bit of a lead on those judgment calls. So the Steelers had the ball at the Arizona 35 now, and they went back to the bunch right. This time, it was the handoff to Parker, but Okeafor sniffed it out and stoned Parker for a loss of one.

On second-and-11 from the 36, Big Ben shot a quick screen to Holmes to the right out of a three-wide set, and Holmes juked DRC right out of his shoes to get 15 yards upfield. As athletic as Rodgers-Cromartie is, he got schooled a lot in this game. DRC was playing off while the Arizona defense brought seven at the snap, and the kid was due a bit more help.

Pittsburgh went with three tight ends on the next play, but Parker found nothing up the middle; he was taken down after a yard by Dansby and Monty Beisel. But Parker finally broke out of his two-yards-per-carry frustration in the next play. The Steelers lined up in what looked like a three-wide set with Ward and Nate Washington to the right and Heath Miller in an H-back look. Ward motioned inside Washington presnap, and it was Washington who sealed cornerback Rod Hood outside as Miller and the pulling Kemoeatu dealt with the inside. Parker blew through the lane for 15 yards before Adrian Wilson brought him down. Again, great creativity with the bunch stuff on running plays. Other teams would do well to work this in.

However, a 4-yard loss and two Big Ben incompletions later, the Steelers were forced to try a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Arizona 9. Or so they thought. When Wilson was called for roughing the holder, Pittsburgh got a new set of downs. That they couldn't put the ball in the end zone with those new downs, after a two-yard Parker run, another incompletion and a Big Ben try up the middle, gave the Cardinals new confidence and set up one extremely improbable comeback. 16 plays, 79 yards, 8:39 elapsed, and only a field goal? Not all scoring drives are successful.

Arizona: 8 Plays, 87 Yards, Touchdown

The two teams traded punts to overlap the third and fourth quarters, and Arizona started their first drive of the final quarter down 20-7 with 11:30 left in the game. Beginning at the Arizona 13 after William Gay poleaxed Steve Breaston for no gain on a punt return, Kurt Warner threw to Breaston over the middle for 13 yards on a quick slant. From shotgun to shotgun, the pace was frenetic as Warner went no-huddle and hit Jerheme Urban over the middle in a zone pocket for 18 more.

Another shotgun, no-huddle (three four-wide, single-back formations in a row), and Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald to the left just as James Harrison got past Mike Gandy on the outside and made contact. Fitzgerald gained 6, and the Cardinals had the ball at the 50 after a dizzying array of plays.

Warner didn't let up. Out of another shotgun, no-huddle, he made the Steelers pay for playing their safeties 20 yards deep with a quick pass up the middle to J.J. Arrington. The backup running back zoomed for 22 yards before safety Tyrone Carter tripped him up, and by this time, it was obvious that Warner had managed to turn this amazing Dick LeBeau defense into some flavor of vanilla.

No time to rest, no time to stop. Time ticking inside ten minutes, and the Cards at the Steelers' 28. Another shotgun, no-huddle. Warner threw an absolutely perfect pass to Fitzgerald 10yards downfield between Ike Taylor and Tyrone Carter, and the best postseason receiver I've ever seen rumbled through the Pittsburgh defense for 8 more yards. First-and-10 from the Steelers' 10. More shotgun, no-huddle (Somewhere, Jim Kelly was smiling and nodding). An out to the left to Fitzgerald, and Taylor came up to clamp down at the 4. The Steelers had been leaving stuff open in the flats, and Warner took what was there.

A Pittsburgh timeout stopped the merry-go-round, but only for a moment. Then, a little dump-off to Tim Hightower for 3 yards as James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons vacated the middle to cover outside, and then ... the play everyone was expecting. Fitzgerald wide right, one-on-one with Ike Taylor, jumping up to catch the fade for the touchdown. It was automatic. Astonishing. And all of a sudden, the Cardinals had life on the low end of a 20-14 score.

Pittsburgh: 8 Plays, 78 Yards, Touchdown

With 2:30 left in the game and another Larry Fitzgerald touchdown later, the scene was quite a bit different for our intrepid Steelers. Down 23-20 and starting from his own 22 after a 21-yard Carey Davis kickoff return, it was now up to Big Ben to throw off all the doubters, overcome an obstacle just as formidable as Warner had done, and -- in the immortal words of Jake Taylor in Major League -- "Win the whole f**in' thing."

The drive didn't start out auspiciously. First, there was a short pass to Mewelde Moore for a loss of 1, and a holding penalty on Kemoeatu, which put the ball back on the 12 with 2:24 left. Then, Big Ben went shotgun, three-wide, and remembered his sucker bet: the pass to Holmes with DRC covering. Fourteen yards later (and after yet another ridiculous effort to avoid a sack), the Steelers were almost out of the doghouse. A second-and-6 snap from the 26 just at the two-minute warning saw Roethlisberger throw deep and incomplete to Nate Washington, as Aaron Francisco made a great play to break it up.

On third-and-6, Ben went all Houdini again, somehow finding room to step up in the face of a blitz to get a pass off to Holmes over the middle with Dansby covering. A 13-yard gain, and Pittsburgh was alive. No-huddle time for the other side. The Cardinals backed off and brought four, which allowed Roethlisberger to hit Nate Washington for 11 yards and another first down at the 50-yard line. All the adrenaline that had been used on that Warner drive was now re-used and re-focused. Could we actually have two drives like this in the final 15 minutes of a Super Bowl?

Another no-huddle, and Big Ben rambled for 4 yards out of the shotgun. Time out at 1:01. Francisco traded in his halo for goat horns on the next play, as he slipped when Holmes ran by him on a quick out (DRC playing off again), allowing Holmes to gain 40 yards down to the 6. That one slip -- that one missed tackle -- will haunt the Arizona Cardinals for a very long time.

On the next play, from the Arizona 6 with 48 seconds left, the Steelers went shotgun, empty, trips right, twins left. Holmes got by DRC once again, and only an overthrow prevented this play from deciding the game. Good luck for us, because we were all about to see something decidedly more interesting.

Second-and-goal. Shotgun, four receivers, single back. Holmes on the right side this time. Cromartie covering (shudders) off again. From inside Ward on the right side, Holmes hit the edge of the end zone, and Roethlisberger threw an absolute missile of a ball -- over Cromartie, Francisco, and Ralph Brown -- where only Holmes could catch it. No officiating controversy could overcome what Roethlisbeger did on that last drive. He stamped his ticket to the Pantheon, and the first touchdown pass he threw in a Super Bowl turned out to be the most important of his life. It was, in the end, a great game. And that's how I'd prefer to remember it.

Wrapping It Up

And that, as they say, is that. It's been tremendously enjoyable and educational to write "Cover-3" this year. Following the venerable Michael David Smith and his "Every Play Counts" column was never going to be an easy ride. I would like to thank everyone who read the columns for your thoughts, suggestions, corrections, and overall feedback, both negative and positive, and all constructive.

Now that the offseason is here, it's time to start up our "Four Downs" series again, and a couple of us are prepping for Football Outsiders' fourth annual trip to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. We'll have more reports and a few neat surprises. Once that's done, it'll be time to satisfy the game-film addiction with in-depth studies of a few intriguing draft prospects. It's never "goodbye" at FO; merely a short break until we meet again...


36 comments, Last at 13 Apr 2009, 3:45pm

1 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I hate to point out a mistake as (one of the) first posts, but it was Graham who punted to Holmes. Berger is the Steelers punter.

2 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Punter Mitch Berger booted the ball down to the Pittsburgh 18, where Santonio Holmes fair caught the ball.

Wrong punter.

3 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Cover-3 has been consistently good all year.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

5 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

So the Steelers had the ball at the 50 now, and they went back to the bunch right.

The 35?

6 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

"Again, great creativity with the bunch stuff on running plays. Other teams would do well to work this in."

Wouldn't something like that demand a bona fide blocker like Hines Ward? I mean not many teams are blessed with that. And bunching three TEs might be hinting a bit too much.

7 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

"16 plays, 79 yards, 8:39 elapsed, and only a field goal? Not all scoring drives are successful."

Is this a mis-write? Up ten in the second half and taking 8:39 off the clock and while adding to your lead - I would call that pretty succesfull, no?

9 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Even as a Steeler fan I'd have to say this drive was not a success. Going from 17-7 to 20-7 is still only a two score game. 24-7, on the other hand, is a three score game and much tougher to come back from. They had too many chances inside the 5 to score a TD. This has been a weakness all year with the Steelers - a total inability to lineup and score inside the 5 running the ball. For whatever reason they used their 3 TE set here quite often, and most of the time Matt Spaeth cannot hold his block long enough. I don't know why they haven't tried the Ravens scheme of lining up an extra tackle.

29 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

They regularly used an extra tackle at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately that was Max Starks who was unavailable as he actually had to play left tackle. It seems they never trusted Trai Essex enough to put him in.

8 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

The first down pass from the 6 was not really overthrown. TV showed it went right between Holmes' hands. Holmes says he was concentrating on keeping his feet inbounds and lost focus on the ball.

But the "Good luck for us" was also good for the B&G as it took a few more seconds off the clock.

Nice season, FO Guys.

11 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

"The next play was the controversial roughing the passer call on Karlos Dansby, and all I'm going to say about that is that it didn't appear to me that Dansby was making any extra effort to go after the quarterback. I'm not entirely sure that Roethlisberger shouldn't have been penalized for intentional grounding, and when you've got a quarterback who extends plays like Big Ben does, it seems to me that you might want to give the defense a bit of a lead on those judgment calls."

The call on Dansby was obviously BS but that's been a problem all year in the NFL. However, the rules are the same for everyone. You don't get to hit one QB more or later because of who he is or how he plays.

On the intentional grounding, I am confused. On the TV they graphically showed Ben was outside the pocket and could therefore throw it any where he wanted as long as it went past the line of scrimage--which it clearly did. So, they could only call it intentional grounding if they wanted to be wrong. Right?

12 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

You're thinking of a different intentional grounding. The article refers to the same play as Dansby's penalty. It looked like Roethlisberger was throwing the ball away from within the tackles, but NBC never showed a replay for that one.

14 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I was one of the people who was confused before they did the graph. To recap - the rule is "Outside the tackle box" which is SIMILAR to, but not the same as "Outside the hash marks." In this case, the ball was snapped from over toward the right hash, so he was inside the hash, but outside the tackle box.

13 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

"And that's how I'd prefer to remember it."

Is that giving the refs a pass on the blown 15-yarder following the TD? And the blown booth review at the end of the game (which was NOT a fumble!). You would rather remember a borderline catch to win a game than Larry Fitzgerald beating 6-man coverage on a jump ball to win the game? And really, if they had GOTTEN the 15-yarder from the Holmes penalty, they could've realistically been around the Steeler 20 yard line. You can't tell me that Fitz, Boldin, and Breaston are very low% from the 20! It was ridiculous. The entire officiating of the night was ridiculous (sometimes for both sides, but usually not). Tomlin never had to make a challenege, and Whisenhunt WON two challenges. Shows just how the on-field calls were generally going: in Pittsburgh's favor. Yes, there were a couple clunkers/ticky-tacks against the Steelers. But they are FAR outnumbered by the travesties the Cardinals had thrown their way.

It was an incredible game. I loved every minute of it. But I really feel that the officiating cost it a little bit of its glory. I'd like to remember it as an incredible game with no officiating problem, but I cannot. The specter of poor officiating will hang over this game forever in my mind (and probably in a lot of other peoples' minds!). As good as it was, it could've been a bit better.

16 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I think its unfair to the players that participated in this awesome game to constantly harp on the officiating. Let's look at some of the common "controversial" calls.
-That fact that Tomlin didn't have any challenges says nothing about the quality of officiating. Whisenhunt's 2 challenges were great calls on his part. Even after multiple TV reviews, it was not completely obvious the original call was incorrect. They were just close plays that the refs wound up getting right.
-Holmes' winning catch was "borderline"? Maybe you'd like to argue with some prominent sportswriters that are calling it the greatest catch in a Super Bowl. Ever.
-The NFL has repeatedly said that Warner's fumble WAS reviewed. So now the NFL has to go through the motions of an on field review for every call that a casual fan thinks is close?
-The roughing the passer was VERY suspect. But its already been said that drive ended unsuccessfullly for Pittsbugh. Its not like it extended the game on a 4th and long.
-Roughing the holder was insane. Insane for Wilson to do something so stupid at a critical juncture. Clearly its a penalty as stated in the rule book. And again it cost the Cards 0 points as Pittsburgh kicked a FG anyway.
-Maybe Holmes should have gotten a celebration penalty on his TD. But who wants one of the greatest Super Bowls ever to end on a "no-fun" penalty? There was no taunting involved, no obscene gestures. Chances are just as good that Warner fumbles 15 yards further down field as they are that Cards get a 20 yard jump ball to win.

18 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

So explain to me again how a team winning its challenges is somehow a sign of a "...poor officiating..."? One could just as easily point out that Tomlin could have used some of his challenges at certain points and chose not to. If we are going to subject every critical call to over analysis what about the fact that it appeared that on TD pass to Fitz in the corner of the endzone he juggles the ball on his way to the ground and a portion of the football hits the turf? I don't hear anyone screaming for that call to get reviewed. The Holmes penalty for celebration fine, but what about Warner removing his helmet to argue a call earlier in the game? Is that not a 15 yarder as well? I mean at some point this all just gets ridiculous. One team made more plays than the other. That team won. Happens almost every NFL game.

19 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

One of the challenges Whiz made was on a what appeared to be a strip sack but ultimately ended up being ruled an incomplete pass. As you will remember there was a little game in week 2, where a quick whistle on something that may have appeared similar foreclosed an opportunity for review. With this as the backdrop, does it maybe make sense on plays where the ball comes out and looks like it may be a fumble, for the refs to swallow the whistle, let the players play and then let the coach challenge if he sees something he doesn't like? It seems to me that if Ben had done something similar, and there was a quick whistle, you'd be howling that the Cardz Wuz Robbed. And wouldn't the fact that he WON his two challenges contra-indicate that there's a conspiracy to screw the Cards. I mean, the official that reviews on a challenge is probably the one that made the call in the first place, right?

21 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I was not going to make this column about officiating. As it was, I had second thoughts about even mentioning the Dansby penalty, figuring I had to because it was an integral part of the drive. If I decided to make it about the calls, I would have had another 2,000 words, easy. If I had an obligation to write about the Cardinals now as I had an obligation to write about the Seahawks in February of 2006, you'd probably see that article somewhere (though almost certainly not here). I probably wrote 10,000 words about the calls in the last Pittsburgh Super Bowl, and I don't want to do it again. People know that I live in Seattle. People know that I wrote for a Seahawks site for five years. I don't have much percieved credibility on this issue, through no fault of my own. Just the way it is.

So, when I say that's how I prefer to remember the game, that's what I mean.

22 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Doug, if you wrote about the calls, the additional 2000 words you would have added would have paled in comparison the the additional words that the commenters would have added.

24 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

"If I decided to make it about the calls, I would have had another 2,000 words, easy."

Passive aggressive journalism? You stay bittter Seattle. What calls, aside from the Dansby call do you disagree with? Do you:

1) Think DRC didn't grab and twist Santonio's facemask? Check the tape, he did.

2) Do you think that James Harrison should have been ejected for punching Francisco? Watch the tape, Harrison hit Francisco with an open palm on all occasions. The unnecessary call was because it came after the whistle, not because it was a closed fist. Additionally striking with a fist is not an automatic disqualification, unless you happen to do it to a ref. I have no idea what the penalty is for ramming your helmet into a player's groin is but if there is one, it went uncalled on Francisco.

3) Do you think that the final strip sack should have been reviewed by the official on the field? Again look at the tape. It's a fumble. And due to having to spot the ball after a turnover and a foul (called on Woodley for removing his helmet, I think Kurt took his helmet off too, and no foul was called on him...ooooh conspiracy!) I'm willing to believe the replay assistant had more than enough time to review the call properly.

4) Do you think Santonio didn't get both feet down? Fine, the video evidence and DRC, one of the three CBs covering him on the play disagree with you.

5) Do you think Woodley illegally blocked Hightower on THE RUNBACK? Have a look at Fitz's block on McFadden on the Boldin catch and run that set up the Cards first TD and tell me how they were different. The answer is not that lowercase god can do no wrong.

6) Do you think Harrison's knee/shin were down before he got into the endzone on THE RUNBACK? I'm sure Larry Fitzgerald's groin would disagree. It unfortunately was used as a toboggan after he tried to make the tackle.

7) I'm really not sure what else there is to disagree with from an officiating standpoint but I am sure someone will let me know.

Seriously? Stating how you don't want to make it about the officiating, and then coming in and say that if you did want to you'd really have a lot to say. Don't be surprised when it veers further to the officiating angle, which is a shame, as most people that I have spoken to really just thought it was one hell of a football game.

25 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

1) Yes, the facemask penalty was the correct call.

2) Seriously, you're trying to defend what Harrison did? I'm stunned by this one.

3) Would a replay have overturned the call? Probably not. But from a PR perspective, the call should absolutely have been reviewed. Like it or not, the Steelers are perceived to receive every close call; not reviewing a close call that ended the game doesn't help with that perception.

4) Holmes definitely got both feet down.

5) The block in the back on Woodley was really close, I made sure to watch for it on Inside the NFL last night. Usually, that gets called, but I can't blame the officials for not seeing it or letting it go. I can't speak to the block on the Boldin catch.

6) He definitely broke the plane. I didn't even understand why that was reviewed. If it was only to confirm a close call, why didn't the Warner fumble get reviewed, too?

Look, if, as a Steelers fan, you want the complaining to go away, just ignore it. Long posts like this only incite further discussion.

26 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

2) Seriously, you're trying to defend what Harrison did? I'm stunned by this one.

No, I'm not defending what Harrison did. I'm saying the call on the field was correct and that people saying he should have been ejected are not familiar with either his actions or the rules. He didn't strike with a closed fist, which is illegal and may potentially result in ejection. He struck with an open palm after the whistle. This was unnecessary roughness and was correctly called as such. The fact that Francisco hit him in the balls with his helmet doesn't excuse his actions, I was just pointing out what may have been a potentially uncalled penalty on the Cardinals. It's fun to point out penalties that the other team didn't get.

Also, I've tried keeping my mouth shut on this topic before. It really doesn't make it go away any faster.

34 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

You know the stuff that comes out of a horse's rear end? That's what you're full of. You would have to be the world's most biased person to call what happened between James Harrison's groin and Aaron Francisco's helmet "hit[ting] him in the balls with his helmet". It was a tap, a minor one, and again, you'd have to be the world's most biased person to assume that it was an intentional act on Francisco's part.

You've simply got no credibility on this issue.

15 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Lots of people commented in Audibles that the Steelers were playing a very loose Cover-2 in the 4th quarter, including the Arizona drive you describe above.

Is that true? Was that part of the reason Arizona was so successful on that drive?

I wish, since we lay people will never get access to coach's tape, that you guys did. As great as these columns are, they could be soooo much better!

17 re: the play everyone was expecting

the fade to fit in the endzone- is this unstoppable? And if it is, why didn't the cards run it every single time?

20 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

The first 2 touchdowns by the Cards were great plays by the receivers. In each case a defender was in prime position to prevent the TD. In the first case, Larry Foote simply lost balance, perhaps his feet got entwined with the receiver's, and is unable to make a controlled play for the ball. Still his arm is up between the receiver's arms, but Patrick made a great play to pull the ball in anyway.

On the first Fitzgerald TD, Taylor was again in good position. Unlike Foote he was not off balance, but, also unlike Foote, he wasn't looking for the ball. Fitzgerald again makes the great catch. Taylor's biggest fault is a failure to hold on to possible interceptions. His second is probably that he frequently doesn't look for the ball, missing opportunities for deflections or picks at times. For much of the game Polamalu was playing the underneath coverage on Fitzgerald, and in that situation I have to wonder if he would have been a better choice than Taylor.

31 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I read that Lebeau and Tomlin teach their DB's not to look for the ball because it slows them down and makes them susceptible to double moves. They are trained to get their hand between the receiver's hands as they go for the ball and try to knock it away.

27 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

In the spirit of talking about the game and not the officiating, I am going to rate any comment about the officiating with 0 stars.

Cause, y'know, I'm sure that all of you are deeply affected by how many stars your comments get.

Just saying.

Speaking of the game, did anyone else notice who was down there at the eight yard line trying to make a play on Harrison's runback? Number 69, Mike Gandy, all 314 ever-lovin' pounds of him. He may have been getting handed his towel all game by Harrison, but you gotta give the guy credit for hustle.

28 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

DRC playing off again

This is mentioned several times in the article, but I do not believe it to be true. I believe DRC was drawn into the flat to defend Mewelde Moore on swing passes out of the backfield. DRC releases Holmes to DB's behind and goes forward into the flat when Roethlisberger pump fakes to Moore. All those pump fakes by Roethlisberger were to get DRC to move off of Holmes. That they worked some of the time doesn't mean DRC made mistakes, though. The Cardinals defensive scheme for that game might have been for DRC to cover Holmes and watch the flat on his side.

On the officiating; It would have been very easy for the refs to not call holding in the endzone resulting in the safety for the Cardinals. It would have been very easy for the refs to not call holding on the Steelers final drive resulting in a first and twenty from the twelve. I think all the whining about officiating diminishes what the Cardinals accomplished this season, and what the Steelers accomplished. I know a Raiders fan that still is mad about the tuck rule game. He never mentions how much time was on the clock, or the fact that the Raiders got another possession after that call. He never mentions those things. Sure, there are Seahawk fans still whining about Super Bowl XL, but they never mention the sixteen un-called holds on the Seahawks from that game. I believe there was an article on this very site about that. ( Sixteen un-called holds on the Seahawks, vs. six un-called holds on the Steelers. So, Doug Farrar write your two thousand words, or twenty thousand word essay about Super Bowl XL, and I will read it, but make sure you mention those holds. People have been whining about the refs probably since the beginning of football, but it seems the volume has gone up.

Other than those nitpicks, I thought this was a pretty good article.

Here is an idea, if you want to win the game, outscore your opponent.

33 Oh Seattle did get unlucky, but not robbed of victory

I do think Seattle fans whine too much. Having said that, I disagree with anyone trying to justify the one sided calls in SBXL as being just part of the game. Pittsburgh defense got really lucky and bailed out. That first offensive pass interference was technically the correct call, but rarely called. So Seattle go into the half trailing 7-3 instead of tied 7-7. The other was the holding called on the Seattle RT on a big 1st down catch in the red zone. Now, this was less ticky tacky than the 1st call and in a regular game, it wouldn't be cause for discussion. But when put together with the other call, Seattle has a right to be peeved.

But the worst call was the roughing on Hasselback. however, all it did was tack on 15 yards for the ensuing Steelers drive.

I do think Seattle whines too much about the TD run by Big Ben. I thought the tip of the ball barely touched the outer part of the white line when he was inthe air and before he tucked the ball back in. In the worst case, that is a 4th and an inch and the Pittsburgh O Line was much better in 2005 than it is now. And Big Ben was pretty good in his QB sneaks in his pre injury days. I consider that TD a non controversy.

So Seattle gets shafted on two ticky tacky calls and one bad roughing penalty. But why am I not sympathetic? They lost by 11 points!!!!! E L E V E N. Plus, Pittsburgh was able to come up with a huge play whenever they needed one(the Big Ben 3rd and nearly 30 yard conversion to Hines, the randle El TD pass, the Willie Parker 75 yard TD run). Except for that carelessly underthrown INT by Big Ben in the 3rd Q when Steelers had a big lead, I thought Seattle really gave it their best shot in the 1st half. The better team won .. period.

OH, and the GIANTS were the better team last year.They should have beaten NE in the regular season and some inexperience led them to lose. Faced with a second chance, they beat NE when it mattered. There hasn't been an undeserving SB winner in a while.

30 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Nice job all season, Doug. Cover-3 is one of my favorite features of the site.

32 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

I am sick of people whining about officiating. The only really awful call was the roughing the passer(Big Ben) on AZ. The second worst call, in my opinion, was the holding on Pittsburgh leading to a safety. That was a 9 point swing when you consider Pittsburgh had a 1st down at the 20 and had a decent chance of killing most of the clock. The fact that the Pittsburgh center had his hands on the AZ guy means nothing. The center was bowled over and while I saw his hands on the defensive guy, I highly doubt it was a takedown. The momentum of the defensive guy pretty much led him to the ground. And besides, that kind of call is rarely called in the endzone. AZ has benefited from two borderline safety calls this playoff season(ATlanta, Pittsburgh games).

The other calls were fine. I can see why the refs ruled the first one a TD and they did the correct thing in overrulling it by replay. Same with the fumble that was ovrerruled early in the second half. So the system worked. Ken still had an extra challenge to use if needed in the 4th quarter. I don't what people are whining about the Holmes celebration for. True, the Steelers are lucky they got away with it. But there are quite a few off field behavior penalties that are uncalled because the refs cannot monitor everything. It was clear that the refs were more interested in the next play in case the official review validated the TD and fortunately Hines Ward and Moore held Holmes down long enough to celebrate the TD before he did that stupid prop thing in front of the camera but out of sight of the ref who you can see turned his head away in the background.

As far as the final fumble, people forget a penalty called on the play gave the officials upstairs enough time to do a decent unofficial review. The key thing is they got the call right.

As far as the many penalties on the Steelers O Linemen(including a legitimate but near critical penalty on Kemoeatu on the final drive) and the AZ linemen who were beaten by Harrison, those were all very legit calls. The Steelers LG and RT are really awful and deserved their penalties while James Harrison finally got some justice as he has been mugged by LTs all season long without getting any holding calls and the refs finally called the LT Gandy on it.

So all in all, we are talking about one bad call(roughing the passer) and one cricual very ticky tacky call(holding leading to the safety and change of possession). That's not bad officiating in my opinion in a game with an inordinate amount of close calls near the goalline and fumbles. The officials had a difficult task.

35 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Give me a break. On the safety call, there were multiple Steelers linemen holding in the endzone. It not only was the correct call, it would have been a travesty if it hadn't been called. And if you think a guy falling down with a o-lineman's hand on him is *ever* not getting called, let alone *rarely* gets called, well, I don't think there's any hope for you.

36 Re: Cover-3: Drive All Night

Don't know why I continue to read the posts of casual observers from this game. It's frustrating to me that all people want to do is try to discredit or pick apart every contest. So they complain about something to feel like they are smarter than the refs, more honorable than the players, or less influenced by NFL brainwashing than the fans who actually still enjoy the game. If you hate football so much, and it disappoints you that it is all fixed for the popular teams to win, then why do you bother watching? I guess it'll just have to be enough that my Steelers have won two SB's in this decade. Even if they didn't deserve either one.