TAMPA, Fla. - He came here talking about the Super Bowl he lost, not the Super Bowl he had won. That is the way of athletes, who despite their success remain haunted by the ones that got away.
Kurt Warner was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, leading the St. Louis Rams over the Tennessee Titans. Then two years later, because Adam Vinatieri kicked a last-second field goal for New England, Warner and the Rams were beaten.
"I think about the game we lost more than any game I've played in." Warner a few days ago. "That's a little unfortunate because I probably should be hanging on to the game we won. It's just that we were favored, expected to win and didn't."
They weren't favored in this one, Super Bowl XLIII. The Pittsburgh Steelers were, and with a late touchdown, after Warner had given the Arizona Cardinals a late lead, the Steelers overtook the Cardinals, 27-23, last night.
Warner almost pulled it out. After he earlier virtually had given it away.
The end of the first half, when the Cardinals, trailing 10-7, were on the Steelers' 1-yard line, were a cinch to get no worse than a field goal and leave at intermission tied at 10. Warner threw to Anquan Boldin in the end zone.
The ball was intercepted by linebacker James Harrison, who rumbled and lurched and crashed into the end zone, 100 yards away, the longest play in Super Bowl history. The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison broke six tackles from offensive players ill-suited for the task. One of the would-be tacklers was Warner.
Warner seemed to have atoned for that mistake when he brought the Cardinals back from a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter, directing a no-huddle offense that created two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and lifted Arizona into a 23-20 lead with 2:37 remaining.
The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger pulled it out, however, and Warner had his second Super Bowl loss despite completing 31 of 43 for 377 yards.
Arizona had scored at least 30 points in its three previous postseason games. But the Cardinals couldn't do much until the fourth quarter of the first Super Bowl in which they played.
"Kurt Warner is a phenomenal football player," Roethlisberger said. "He threw the ball so well. I told him that."
Warner, 37, whose well-known history includes time working in a supermarket - as opposed to Super Bowls - and playing in the Arena League and NFL Europe, joined the Cardinals in 2005, basically to help Matt Leinart become a quarterback. But he was named the starter ahead of Leinart.
"I think the perception around the league was I couldn't play anymore," Warner said this week. "They [the Cardinals] brought in a guy like Emmitt Smith, and they bring in [Warner] because of his name, but it's probably going to be just like everything else. The Cardinals won't win; Kurt Warner can't really play."
He can play. This time he just got outplayed.