The Super Bowl is just 9 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 9 years ago to honor this not-so-significant occasion!
Tampa hosted Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009. The game pitted the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference. Arizona was brand new to this stage while Pittsburgh was going for an NFL record sixth Super Bowl championship!
Arizona Cardinals 9 Years Ago
Former Steelers’ assistant Ken Whisenhunt was the head coach of the overachieving Cardinals. They had a solid offense featuring veterans Kurt Warner at quarterback and Edgerrin James at running back. They had two excellent young wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
The Cardinals had the worst history of any of the longtime franchises of the NFL. They had not even hosted a playoff game since 1947! The Cards got off to a solid start in ’08, but faltered down the stretch. Fortunately, they played in a weak division. But, nobody could have picked the Cardinals to make the Super Bowl especially after their embarrassing 47-7 loss to the Patriots at the end of the regular season.
Fitz Breaks Out
In the Wild Card round, Arizona bested Atlanta due to some huge plays by Boldin and Fitzgerald. Warner launched passes to Fitzgerald whether he was covered or not. Fitz responded with perhaps the greatest stretch of games a receiver has ever put together. He was awesome.
The trend continued in the Divisional round as the Cardinals stunned the 12-4 Panthers. Fitzgerald had 8 receptions for 166 yards. The next day, the Eagles upset the Giants which meant the 4th-seeded Cardinals would host the 6th-seeded Eagles.
Arizona exploded in the first half. They led 24-6 at the break as Fitzgerald scored three more touchdowns. However, the game Eagles fought back to take the lead 25-24 in the fourth. Kurt Warner put his team on his back for a thrilling go-head scoring drive. Tim Hightower scored the winning touchdown setting off a crazy celebration in the desert. The unbelievable Kurt Warner was headed back to his third Super Bowl as the Cardinals shocked the football world!
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 Years Ago
The Steelers were in the mix all season long. Dick LeBeau’s defense finished #1 across the board. The Steelers had two first-team All-Pros in Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. On offense, wide receiver Hines Ward had another excellent season.
Pittsburgh claimed two exciting home victories in the playoffs over the Chargers and Ravens. The AFC championship win over Baltimore was a nail-biter between the two best defenses in football. Harrison, Polamalu, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in one game is about as good as defensive football gets. Polamalu snatched the game-clinching interception that caused Heinz Field to go ballistic. Mike Tomlin’s Steelers were off to the Super Bowl.
Harrison’s Miraculous TD
Arizona’s red-hot offense against Pittsburgh’s rock solid defense was a dream battle. Bruce Arians’ Steelers’ offense got off to the better start, however, as they went up 10-0 on two productive drives. The Cards answered with a huge catch and run by Boldin. One play later, Ben Patrick scored to cut the lead to 10-7. Arizona then got a late 2nd quarter interception to set them up to take the lead late in the half. That is when this game got straight up nuts.
The Cardinals had the ball on the two-yard line with 18 seconds left and no timeouts. Warner took the shotgun snap and fired a pass over the middle. Pittsburgh showed a blitz look, but at the last moment, Harrison dropped into coverage, picked off the pass at the goal-line and began his long trek the other way. Red and white jerseys fell all over the place as Harrison scooted along the near sideline. He just kept going! Finally, he was dragged down from behind by two hustling Cardinals’ wideouts as he hit the pylon. It was ruled a touchdown and remarkably, Pittsburgh took a 17-7 halftime lead. It has to go down as one of the greatest plays in football history.
Santonio for the Win
Arizona bounced back in the second half as Fitzgerald was all over the place. Warner completed passes at will against the highly rated Steelers’ defense. He ended up passing for 377 yards on this night. With just three minutes left, the Cardinals trailed by the score of 20-16. Then, Warner connected with Fitz over the middle on a 2nd and 10 from their own 36 and he was gone. He exploded past Harrison and Polamalu looking up at the big screen as he crossed the goal-line. It was the greatest moment in Cardinals’ history. Unfortunately for Arizona, Big Ben Roethlisberger had one more possession.
Steelers’ receiver Santonio Holmes had the possession of his life. He made 4 receptions for 73 yards, the last of which was a sensational grab in the back corner of the end zone. The throw, the coverage, the catch…it was a magical play.
The Cardinals’ last effort ended in misery. LaMarr Woodley strip-sacked Warner. Pittsburgh had won their sixth World Championship in a Super Bowl for the ages!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills