It’s hard to criticize Warner after everything he did this season. On the other hand, it’s hard to hear your team’s leader make almost winning sound like actually winning because nobody expected the team to almost win.
He drove his team to the go-ahead score, his efforts made considerably easier by receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s catch-and-run for a 64-yard touchdown that made Cardinals fans almost ecstatic. Even that turned out to be a mistake because it came too early. The 2:47 remaining was more than enough time for Big Ben and the Steelers to take apart a suddenly passive Cardinals defense.
But you can’t blame players for making big plays. You can only hope that your defense will step up. That, in fact, was what Warner was doing on the sideline when the Steelers offense took the field and decided to become competent again.
“I was just hoping they’d make a mistake,” Warner said, admitting to what sounded like an uncharitable thought.
A mistake was made — but it was by Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Steelers had picked on him all night and profited greatly from that strategy. On what would be the game’s biggest play, he slipped trying to cover Holmes during a Roethlisberger scramble. The result was the 40-yard pass that set up the winning score. That was also caught by Holmes against Cromartie’s attempted coverage.
“You have to give it to them,” Cromartie said. “Their game plan worked. They got me early on with a lot of short routes.”
Not to worry, Arizona fans. Though defeated, the team believes in itself and the players talked about how much they love each other and their town and how they expect to be back next year.
When it was done, a lot of people were saying that it was one of the greatest Super Bowls ever for the simple reason that it was. But Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t drinking that Kool Aid. He had watched the game, seen what happened, and the defeat was sticking in his craw like a chicken bone the size of a dinosaur femur. So when someone asked him if it was one of the best, he didn’t show a flicker of satisfaction.
“It wasn’t one of the best games ever to me,” he said.
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