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Packers exploit turnovers to win Super Bowl

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers holds

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers holds up The Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31 to 25 in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images

ARLINGTON, Texas - The Cheese stands alone.

The Packers denied the Steelers a seventh chance to hoist the trophy named after the patron saint of Green Bay and are bringing the silver football back home to Wisconsin. The Packers scored 21 points off three turnovers and withstood a nearly historic comeback to hang on for a 31-25 win Sunday night in Super Bowl XLV.

Pittsburgh still has the most Super Bowl championships, but the Packers made sure they didn't get another on their watch. As commissioner Roger Goodell said when he handed the trophy to the Packers: "Vince Lombardi is coming home to Green Bay."

MVP Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers for the Packers, the first NFC sixth seed to win the Super Bowl. The win not only cemented Rodgers' place in Green Bay lore but justified one of the most controversial decisions in team history: cutting ties with Brett Favre in 2008.

The Steelers did make the evening entertaining, bouncing almost all the way back from an 18-point deficit by inching to within three with 7:34 left. They made it 28-25 on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace and a two-point conversion run on an option by Antwaan Randle El.

The Packers ate up more than five minutes but came away with only a field goal and a still-tenuous six-point lead. Then Roethlisberger threw three straight incompletions to turn it over on downs. The final pass was a high one for Wallace on fourth-and-5.

The deciding touchdown came after Clay Matthews forced a fumble by Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall; the Packers, who had been flat and discombobulated for most of the second half, then marched 55 yards for a 28-17 lead. The big play was a 38-yard pass to Jordy Nelson on a crossing route on third-and-10, but the points came when Rodgers stared the entire Steelers defense to its right, then came back to Greg Jennings, open in the right corner of the end zone for an 8-yard TD.

"I had a corner route and they dropped me and let me run free the play before," Jennings said. "They dropped me on another corner route and we came back to it and scored."

It was a Packers season defined by the ability to overcome injury - 14 players landed on injured reserve - and that storyline continued through the end of the Super Bowl, with a playmaker from each side of the ball sitting out the second half.

Cornerback Charles Woodson and wide receiver Donald Driver left with injuries but were able to enjoy the confetti shower with tears in their eyes. Driver said he was shattered when he was told he would not return to the game, but the medical staff urged him to gather his emotions.

"It was the great resolve of our football team," Mike McCarthy said after joining Lombardi and Mike Holmgren as the only Packers coaches to win a ring. "It was a very emotional halftime," he added, a reference to the knowledge that the team would have to continue without the key players.

The Packers scored two touchdowns in 24 seconds to take a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter. Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers over backup cornerback William Gay. On the next snap, safety Nick Collins picked off a Roethlisberger floater and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.

Roethlisberger was trying to go down the left sideline for Wallace but was hit in his throwing shoulder by former Jet Howard Green as he released the pass and it came up about 10 yards short of its target. Collins zigged through attempts at tackles before lunging over the goal line for the 13th interception return for a TD in Super Bowl history.

"I was able to read Big Ben and got a nice jump on the ball," said Collins, who called it "the highlight of my day."

The Packers used another interception to score their third touchdown, although not directly. Jarrett Bush reached in and snatched a pass from the grip of Wallace to give the Packers the ball just inside midfield. Four plays later, Rodgers scorched a pass into triple coverage for Jennings, who caught it for a 21-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead despite a clobbering at the goal line from Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu.

No Super Bowl winner had ever overcome more than a 10-point deficit, but the Steelers started mounting a rally before halftime, driving 77 yards on seven plays. After Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward on a 17-yard pass to the 8, Big Ben took a shotgun snap, rolled right and lofted a pass over Bush for Ward to make it 21-10 with 39 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Steelers inched even closer early in the third, driving 50 yards - all on the ground - to score on Mendenhall's 8-yard run behind pulling guard Chris Kemoeatu and make it 21-17. Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham's 52-yard field-goal try that went wide left was the last scoring opportunity for either team in the third quarter.

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