TAMPA, Fla. - Unpredictability is the essence of sport, but one aspect of Super Bowl XLIII played out exactly as expected.
The Cardinals ranked 32nd (last) in the league this season in rushing yards per game (73.6), while the Steelers' punishing defense was the second toughest to run against, allowing just 80.2 yards per game. Last night, the Cardinals' first four rushes yielded a total of 4 yards and their ground assault didn't improve all that much thereafter.
After falling in a 10-0 hole, the Cardinals got back into the game, but it was entirely the result of Kurt Warner's right arm. Edgerrin James, who had 33 yards (also the team total) on nine carries (a 3.7-yard average), had just four carries for 10 yards at the half. Warner, meanwhile, was 12-for-18 for 135 yards at the half.
James did "explode" early in the second half, getting runs of 9 and 7 yards on the Cardinals' opening drive of the third quarter. But after that drive ended with a punt and the Steelers took a 20-7 lead on their ensuing drive, the Cardinals went almost exclusively to the air.
The entire crew from US Airways Flight 1549 - Chesley Sullenberger, first officer Jeffrey Skiles and flight attendants Doreen Welsh, Sheila Dail and Donna Dent - were honored on the field before the game. Players and coaches on both sidelines applauded.
Look familiar, Jets?
Ben Graham, cut by the Jets earlier this season, kicked a couple of punts fans of the green and white would have recognized. His first punt of the game, coming on the Cardinals' first drive, traveled 43 yards, but was a screaming line drive. His second punt, a third-quarter effort, went just 31 yards, but did pin the Steelers at the 18-yard line.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Cardinals on the ropes and needing a good kick, Graham didn't deliver it, shanking a 27-yard punt that gave the Steelers the ball at the Cardinals 43 with 13:41 left.
UNSUNG HERO: HEATH MILLER, TE
The Steelers' tight end was the team's leading receiver until Santonio Holmes emerged on the final drive. Miller had five catches for 57 yards and some key blocks in the running game.
The explosive Cardinals' offense turned out to be a blessing and a curse as the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown that gave them the lead came a bit too quickly, leaving the Steelers with time to forge their own comeback.