The field in the National Football League has been officially narrowed to two teams: the Green Bay Packers will play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Feb. 6 in Arlington in the new Cowboys Stadium.
In the first face-off yesterday, the Green Bay Packers crushed the Chicago Bears in what ended as a closer game than it really should have. Despite the low score, Chicago never seriously threatened Green Bay. When Jay Cutler went down in the first half—not to return for the rest of the game—the Bears seemed lost. However, third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie stepped up to his role in a big way and made something of a game of the second half. In fact, Chicago didn't even manage to put up any score until the fourth quarter. By that point, it seemed certain that the game was over, but Hanie refused to let things end without the Bears on the board.
The Packers have done a great job of stepping up their game as the season has creeped closer to the big game. Aaron Rodgers—more than proving his place as the post-Brett Favre quarterback for Green Bay—ended the night with a somewhat ugly line, but did everything that was asked of him. Most importantly winning. Along the way, he threw for 288 yards with two interceptions, ran in a touchdown and had a passer rating of 55.4—by far the lowest of his post-season. Despite all this, Rodgers and the Packers came out triumphant, defeating their long-time rivals in Chicago and setting up a meeting in Super Bowl XLV with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The New York Jets played in the same style of the Bears, refusing to put up points in the first half. It could have been considered a charitable gesture if it had been done on purpose—but no one believes that—and the Jets dug themselves too big a hole to get out of. The Pittsburgh Steelers, with their championship pedigree, proved to be too much to overcome.
While New York's Mark Sanchez has been impressive since being drafted last year, he was no match for Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. The Jets and their vaunted defense allowed 24 points in the first half, while only scoring three of their own. The good news: the defense woke up in the second half and held the Steelers scoreless. After the Jets managed a safety and a touchdown in the short span of four minutes, it seemed like hope was alive.
But Pittsburgh's defense isn't nicknamed the Steel Curtain for nothing and they held up their end of the defensive bargain.
Super Bowl 2011 will feature two young quarterbacks who are at different stages in their careers. Roethlisberger has been to the Super Bowl twice already and is accepted fully by his team and his city. Aaron Rodgers is still tending to that second bit. If there were any people in Green Bay who hadn't bought fully into Rodgers, surely this Super Bowl trip will convince them. Win or lose, Rodgers is now firmly in command of the Packers and the Cheesehead Nation. Combined with Roethlisberger's previous wins, this will make for an entertaining bowl game between two quarterbacks in total control with nothing really to lose and everything to gain.