Some 95.4 million on average watched Super Bowl XLIII and the NFL, NBC and its sponsors thank you. The question: Where were the rest of you?
Pittsburgh’s record-setting sixth Super Bowl triumph over the Arizona Cardinals was punctuated by a scintillating fourth quarter and enough controversial and big plays early on to make it one of the top Big Game’s ever.
From the Nielsen perspective, it trailed only the 97.5 million who watched the New York Giants end New England’s undefeated quest in Super Bowl XLII with their own last-second march to history.
Unlike that contest, Sunday’s NFL championship game was marred by officiating that resulted in 18 flags and several reviews. And one big play that didn’t go under the hood.
How could LaMarr Woodley’s “sack” of Kurt Warner on the penultimate play not be subject to a second, third, fourth looks? What did the NBC run out of sponsors? Talk about wiping out a lot of ADUs. Nobody would have dared turn the channel then.
Was Warner’s arm going forward as he set to heave one deep down field? Most people in the tavern I watched the game in thought it was an incomplete pass. Play-by-play man Al Michaels wondered where the call was? Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Seconds later Big Ben — whose ability to have Card defenders bounce off him in the pocket as he bought time behind Pittsburgh’s porous offensive line made him the game’s best player from start to finish — took a knee and confetti flew.
However, had the play been ruled incomplete, the Cards would have set up shop at the Steelers’ 29, courtesy of an unsportsmanlike call.
Larry Fitzgerald airborne…Warner’s pass into the corner of end zone is…We’ll never know.
But on the biggest play of the season, the NFL, which saw the Tennessee Titans lose a divisional playoff game on a key play that occurred well after the play clock had expired, didn’t see fit to at least go through the charade of a booth review. Even, if it was merely lip service, the league should have made the ref put his head under the hood, just like he did throughout the game and countless other zebras had this season. It was a matter of propriety and habit.
Instead, vice president of officiating Mike Pereira later told NBC: “We confirmed it was a fumble. The replay assistant in the replay booth saw it was clearly a fumble. The ball got knocked loose and was rolling in his hand before it started forward. He has to have total control.”
Of course, this says nothing of Santonio Holmes’ premeditated mimicking of LeBron James/Kevin Garnett with his celebration following his sensational game-winning TD catch. By rule, that should have drawn a penalty and a Steelers’ kickoff from the 15.
I guess by that time, though, the Cards had done their part, keeping the game close and the audience glued. No reason to put NFL history at risk one last time against a franchise that been ignored by so many since it won the NFL title in 1947 and lost in the title game the following year.
Arizona had overcame James Harrison’s game-changing 100-yard interception return for a score just before the half, a slew of bonehead penalties and a game plan predicated on lateral passing. Only when Kurt Warner went to the no-huddle and started going vertical did Super Bowl XLIII turn into one of the best ever.
And imagine how much better it could have been, if Arizona DB Aaron Francisco hadn’t slipped and allowed Holmes’ short curl route to turn into a 40-yard gain and set Pitt up at the 6 with 49 ticks left. Make the tackle and the Steelers are still trying to get into field goal range to send the first roman numeral game into OT.
In review, fans in Arizona, Dallas and San Francisco would have opted for that look.