The Pro Football Notebook

February 7, 2011 8:17 AM

The Best Team Wins In The End

GBSuperBowl.jpgOver the course of a long season the cream eventually rises to the top and that was the case in Dallas last night. Say what you will about Green Bay being a #6 seed, about having to win their final two regular season games just to make the playoffs--at the end of the day this is the best team in the NFL and their closing rush of six straight do-or-die wins established that.

The Packers didn't win this title because it was a magic year where everything clicked into place. To the contrary, this often seemed like it was destined to be a promising year that would run off the tracks. Green Bay dealt with an epic plague of injuries in the first part of the season and put themselves behind the eight-ball. While they got mostly healthy down the stretch, they still lost Aaron Rodgers for a game at New England and finally in the Super Bowl itself, defensive playmaker Charles Woodson and receiver Donald Driver each went out. Somehow, in spite of it all, they still won. If this team would have a magic year where everything clicked into place they'd have probably won 13-14 games, coasted to a couple home playoff victories and then racked up a Super Bowl blowout. As it was they had to "settle" for traveling the long road to Dallas and then winning a tough 31-25 game over Pittsburgh yesterday.

Turnovers were the story of the day on Sunday night. The Steelers did a very good job establishing the run, piling up 126 yards on the ground and they had their opportunities. But they lost the turnover battle 3-0. Pittsburgh will believe this is a case of them giving away a game they should have won and I sympathize with that notion--certainly Rashard Mendenhall's fumble early in the fourth quarter when the Steelers trailed 21-17 were in Packer territory will gnaw at the black-and-gold faithful. It didn't appear that a helmet hit the ball to knock it loose and it was just an unforced error. But the two interceptions were different--on one pressure forced Ben Roethlisberger to underthrow the ball and Tramon Williams delivered a pick-six, the game's single biggest play. On another Jarrett Bush made a great play on the ball. On the other side, Pittsburgh's defense had its moments--they seemed to have Rodgers' rhythm disrupted in the third quarter and were getting pressure. But they could never make the knockout game-changing play. When Rodgers was on, he made big plays, when he wasn't, he just avoided errors and that's what it takes to beat a quality opponent in a big game.

So give Pittsburgh their respect--they overcame a lot themselves, with Roethlisberger's suspension, an injuries for last night's game themselves. Give proper due to New England, who won 14 games, and to teams like Baltimore, the New York Jets and Atlanta. Very good teams all. But as the cliché goes, may the best team win--and they did last night in Dallas.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary on the NFL playoffs and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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