Green Bay Packers beat Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV

ARLINGTON, Texas — This time, the wait was worth it for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Sunday, he stood on the podium at midfield, the confetti falling all around him after a 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Seconds passed. Then minutes.

Finally, without further delay, it was not just Rodgers' turn, but his time to wrap his hands around the Vince Lombardi Trophy that he will carry home to Titletown.

Next came the MVP award that Rodgers earned by completing 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Finally, linebacker Clay Matthews placed a gold championship belt over his shoulders.

Then teammates lifted up Rodgers, who had elevated the Packers back to the top.

"It wasn't my idea, but that's a special tribute there," Rodgers said. "Unbelievable night. Great group of men. Big win."

Remember the anticipation, the clumsy and scrutinized transition from Brett Favre to Rodgers as the Packers' starting quarterback?

Sunday, there stood the Packers' three wise men: general manager Ted Thompson, coach Mike McCarthy and president Mark Murphy, who sent Favre to the Jets in 2008.

All to make way for Rodgers, who waited until the 24th pick of the 2005 draft to be selected by the Packers. In just his third season as the starter, he already has matched his predecessor in Super Bowl titles.

"I never felt like there's been a monkey on my back," Rodgers said. "The organization stood behind me, believed in me. That's what I did on the podium. I thanked Ted and Mark and Mike for really believing in me and giving me an opportunity. I told Ted back in 2005 he wouldn't be sorry with this pick. I told him in '08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity."

It marked the 13th NFL title and fourth Super Bowl for Green Bay and came before 103,219 at Cowboys Stadium. That's about 2,000 more than the population of Green Bay.

As commissioner Roger Goodell noted, the league's smallest city won the biggest game.

"This is a great day in Green Bay," receiver Greg Jennings said. "We've been a team that's overcome adversity all year. Our team captain (cornerback Charles Woodson) goes down. … Our No. 1 receiver (Donald Driver) goes down. But we found a way to bottle it up and exert it on this field."

The Packers built a 21-3 lead in the second quarter on two Rodgers touchdown passes and an interception return for a touchdown by safety Nick Collins.

Then Green Bay withstood a comeback, Ben Roethlisberger getting Pittsburgh to 28-25 midway through the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace and two-point conversion.

But Rodgers answered every threat with pinpoint passing, spreading the football to eight receivers. His 31-yard strike to Jennings on third and 10 set up a field goal and made the Steelers' hole too deep.

"We put this game on (Rodgers') shoulders," McCarthy said. "From an offensive game plan standpoint, he delivered."

McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh rooting for the Steelers, adds his name next to Lombardi and Mike Holmgren as a Super Bowl champion coach of the Packers.

The Packers did it the hard way, winning their final two regular-season games to earn the No. 6 seed then winning three road playoff games.

The Packers turned two Roethlisberger interceptions and a fumble by running back Rashard Mendenhall into 21 points.

The Steelers fell into a 14-0 hole, allowing two touchdowns in a span of 24 seconds in the first quarter.

Considering the way they played on defense and Roethlisberger's two interceptions, the Steelers felt fortunate to still be within two scores at halftime. Worse for the Packers, they lost Woodson to a broken collarbone injury and Driver to a sprained knee.

Roethlisberger, who entered 10-2 in the playoffs, was nothing if not resilient. He got plenty of help from his defense in the second half and benefited from good field position.

Roethlisberger was 25-of-40 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Steelers cut it to 21-17 on Mendenhall's 8-yard touchdown run, capping a 50-yard drive exclusively on the ground.

Rodgers never got much going in the third quarter and was victimized by four dropped passes, including three by Jordy Nelson, who led the Packers with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

Back and fourth the game went until Big Ben needed to take the Steelers 87 yards with 1:59 remaining in the game with one timeout and needing a touchdown and extra point to win.

It was reminiscent of the situation he faced against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Then, he hit Santonio Holmes for a touchdown with 35 seconds left.

But this time, Roethlisberger and the Steelers could not cross midfield. The game ended when he fired incomplete to Wallace on fourth down. It was only the second time in eight Super Bowl appearances the Steelers lost.

Now Rodgers has one more duty before his season ends:

"I can't wait to go home and see those fans and bring them the Lombardi Trophy."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@sptimes.com.

Green Bay Packers beat Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV 02/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 12:47am]

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