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The End Zone - Superbowl XL


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The End Zone

Good day to you all and welcome to the Superbowl XL edition of The End Zone. This is the penultimate edition of the season, and I’ll be bringing you all the details from the biggest game of the year. Plus I’ll take a look at the players that will be inducted into the Hall Of Fame this year and some of the players that will be lining up for their conferences in the Pro Bowl next week. I was going to bring you another part to the Coaching Carousel, but the Raiders are still yet to hire a head coach! However I seem to be diverting from the point, welcome to the Superbowl XL edition of The End Zone, and we will get things started with the game review of the Superbowl.


Superbowl XL

I had the distinct pleasure of watching the big game in the Cheers bar in London’s Regent Street, I may have had far too much to drink, but that didn’t detract from the fact that it was enjoyable watching it. The hype was huge, as it always is for a Superbowl, and after looking at the two teams about to get it on you could see why. The Seattle Seahawks were by far the best NFC team over the season, undefeated at home and hungry for their first Superbowl appearance. The Pittsburgh Steelers had an average season, but were unbeatable on the road in the playoffs, knocking out the 1st, 2nd and 3rd seed teams to make the Superbowl. The Steelers franchise had been to the big one before, winning 4 previous championships; however the Seahawks were looking to make their first visit a successful one. All in all though experience would mean nothing on this night, the formbook would be thrown out of the window, as it all game down to 60 minutes of football where absolutely anything could happen.


After the extensive pre-game show featuring Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Joss Stone, the Seattle Seahawks got Superbowl XL under way. The drive started well, with Alexander rushing for 9 yards and Hasselbeck completing 3 passes, however he was sacked on 3rd and 9 and they were forced to punt. So the Steelers offence took to the field for the first time, and they seemed to be a little nervous. 2 false start penalties condemned them to a 3 and out and they punted almost immediately. Hasselbeck and the Seahawks took right back over and again started well, but an offensive holding penalty brought back what would have been a superb 18-yard gain. This forced a Seahawks punt, but Pittsburgh couldn’t capitalise as they fell to a 3 and out. Three plays into Seattle’s following drive and it looked as though they had taken the lead. A 16-yard completion to Jackson put the ball in the end zone, however much to the relief of the Steelers the play was nullified by an offensive pass interference call. Seattle were able to continue their drive, however they had to settle for a field goal as the Steelers defence tightened up. Big Ben threw 3 incomplete passes to close out the quarter.


So the Steelers started the second quarter 3-0 down and punting the ball away, not the way things were meant to happen in their eyes. Seattle again looked good at the start of their drive, with Alexander gaining 13 yards to get them into Pittsburgh territory. Seattle were forced to punt though, and the Steelers took over from their own 20. After an 18 yard gain from Ward, Big Ben looked for Randle El on his next pass, but he wasn’t accurate enough as Boulware picked him off to return possession to Seattle. The opportunity was missed however as Hasselbeck and co could only gain 9 yards and were forced to punt quickly. With over 8 minutes to play in the half, the Steelers finally got a drive going effectively. It took a key 37-yard completion to Hines Ward on third down and 28 to keep the chains moving, putting Pittsburgh at the Seattle 3. Bettis gained 2 yards before Big Ben ran the ball over for the score. It was a questionable touchdown though, and the play was reviewed. Although it looked as though Ben didn’t make the end zone, after review the call stood and the Steelers led 7-3. Seattle had less than two minutes to move the ball into scoring range, and they were able to do so with a couple of double-digit completions from Hasselbeck. They were halted at the Pittsburgh 36, so Brown lined up for a huge 54-yard field goal attempt. The ball fell agonisingly wide right, and the half ended with Pittsburgh ahead 7-3.


On the first play of the second half, Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass to Ward, but the second play was the one that grabbed everyone’s attention. Willie Parker went right and rushed for a huge 75-yard touchdown, making it the longest run from scrimmage in Superbowl history. It left many of us in the bar cheering at the big screens, and the Steelers were now leading 14-3. Hasselbeck and the Seahawks had some work to do now, but they got their drive moving fairly slowly. Although Alexander rushed for 21 yards on one play, Seattle were held up at the Pittsburgh 32, forcing a 50-yard field goal attempt. For the second consecutive attempt, Brown saw the ball fall wide of the uprights, and the Steelers regained possession at their 40. Pittsburgh were looking for another score, and were close to getting it as well after a couple of key completions for Big Ben and 22 rushing yards from the Bus. However it all went wrong at the Seattle 7-yard line, as Ben threw to Wilson he was picked off, this time by Herndon. Herndon then returned the ball a huge 76 yards to the Pittsburgh 20, making that the longest interception return in Superbowl history. It didn’t take long for Seattle to make the most of this opportunity, as Hasselbeck found Stevens in the end zone on the third play for a 16-yard touchdown. Could Pittsburgh get right back on the scoreboard? No was the answer as they fell to a three and out immediately after, however Seattle did the same on their next drive. Following another three and out by the Steelers, Seattle started a drive from their own 2 yard line, and were able to move 33 yards on the back of three completions from Hasselbeck before the quarter ended.


Seattle continued their drive into the final quarter, but were hit hard by a 10-yard offensive holding penalty as they attempted to progress into Pittsburgh territory. Things then got even worse for the Seahawks as Taylor picked off Hasselbeck at the Pittsburgh 5-yard line, and then Hasselbeck was hit with a 15-yard penalty for a low block. You could just tell that things were slipping away from the Seahawks, and after a first down from the Steelers, one play demonstrated how the day was going for both teams. Roethlisberger took the snap, pitched left to Parker, who then handed off to Randle El, who then passed to Hines Ward, taking the ball into the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown. 21-10 was the score, and Seattle needed to get on the scoreboard quickly. It didn’t look good though as Hasselbeck looked like he fumbled the ball on the second play of the Seahawks drive. The play was challenged and overturned, allowing Seattle to continue their drive and attempt to score. It didn’t last much longer though, as the Seahawks were forced to punt just 5 plays later, and Pittsburgh regained possession. To the surprise of no one, Bettis was the main focus of the Pittsburgh drive, gaining vital yards on the ground and running the clock down. The Bus did exactly what he was supposed to, and although the Steelers drive was halted at their own 47, with less than two minutes left Seattle had a lot of work on their hands. A 35 yard completion to Jurevicius got the drive going for the Seahawks, but the only reason it continued was due to a huge 4th down conversion for 13 yards. Seattle’s hopes were dashed though as they failed to gain another first down on the drive, failing to convert on 4th and 7 with just 8 seconds left. Roethlisberger took a knee, and the Pittsburgh Steelers came away with a 21-10 victory to win the Superbowl and become the NFL Champions once again.


It wasn’t the best game around, neither offence was at their best, but it was very close, and that’s what makes it exciting! Hines Ward walked away with the MVP award, and deservedly so, whilst Jerome Bettis called it a day on his career with the biggest and most important trophy of them all. Congratulations to the players, coaches, and fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers on their victory, whilst my sympathies go to the players, coaches and fans of the Seattle Seahawks for falling at this final hurdle. They shouldn’t be ashamed though, they made it to the big one for the first time in the team’s history, and I have no doubt that they will be there again.


The Hall Of Fame

Every year at the time of the Superbowl a 39-man Board of Selectors choose 15 finalists from the history of the NFL. They have detailed biographies on each player, and the Board’s job is to select between 3 and 6 of those players who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Before a player can be elected to the HOF he must receive at least 80% approval from the board members, and last year four players reached that amount and were inducted at Canton, Ohio. Those were Benny Friedman, Dan Marino, Fritz Pollard, and Steve Young. This year’s finalists contained some big names, and a few of those made it as 6 players were elected for the first time since 2001. The six guys being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year are Troy Aikman, Reggie White, John Madden, Warren Moon, Harry Carson and Rayfield Wright.


Aikman, the first overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, guided the Dallas Cowboys back to prominence after some lean seasons. He led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles in four seasons; the Cowboys lost in the NFC title game the other year, and was among the most accurate passers in the league. He also won 90 games in the 1990s, the most by any quarterback in any decade. Reggie White, who died Dec. 26, 2004, was known as the "Minister of Defence" -- he was an ordained Baptist minister. White had 198 sacks when he left the NFL after 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. One of the first major free-agent signings in 1993, his choice of Green Bay helped turn around that storied franchise. The Packers won the Super Bowl in January 1997 and lost it a year later. White began his career in the USFL, but by the time he was finished in the NFL, he'd gone to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls and been chosen for the league's 75th anniversary team.


Warren Moon's transient career took him from the CFL, where he won five consecutive Grey Cups, to Houston as a free agent in 1984. He also played for Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City and completed his career with 51,061 yards of total offence and 313 touchdowns. Some observers thought his lack of a Super Bowl ring would hurt his chances. It didn't. Harry Carson, a nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker who retired from the New York Giants in 1988, has been a frequent critic of the process, even saying he wanted off future ballots. Rayfield Wright was a lynchpin of the Cowboys' staunch offensive line of the 1970s after coach Tom Landry moved him from tight end to tackle. And finally we have John Madden, best known for his television announcing and video game, who has the best winning percentage of any NFL coach with 100 victories (.759). He coached the Oakland Raiders for 10 years and won Super Bowl XI in January 1977.


These six guys will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio over the Hall of Fame weekend, which this year will be over the weekend of August 5-6. I would like to say congratulations to the players and their families for the wondrous achievements they have made and for their outstanding contributions to the NFL.


The Pro Bowl 2006

The Pro Bowl is the NFL’s All Star game, taking the best players from the AFC and NFC as voted for by the fans and putting them against each other in Hawaii. The game takes place one week after the Superbowl, and this year the NFC will be hoping to bounce back from last year’s 38-27 loss. The fans have been voting from early in the season, and the rosters for both the NFC and AFC have been finalised. Here I will take a look at all of the names included in the rosters, and some of the players brought in to replace injured guys.


The AFC has 7 players from the Indianapolis Colts in its line-up, although it’s actually 8 as Tackle Tarik Glenn has been brought in to replace the injured Willie Roaf of Kansas City. It’s a case of the usual suspects with a few of the names, with Wide Receiver Marvin Harrison, Centre Jeff Saturday, Quarterback Peyton Manning, Running Back Edgerrin James, Outside Linebacker Cato June, Free Safety Bob Sanders and Defensive End Dwight Freeney all included in the starters. The remainder of the starting offence looks like this: WR Chad Johnson and T Willie Anderson of the Bengals, T Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens, Guard Alan Faneca of the Steelers, G Will Shields of Kansas City, with Tight End Antonio Gates and Fullback Lorenzo Neal of the Chargers. The reserve offence is as follows: WRs Chris Chambers of the Dolphins and Rod Smith of the Broncos, G Brian Waters of the Chiefs, C Jeff Hartings of the Steelers, TE Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs, QBs Trent Green of the Chiefs and Jake Plummer of the Broncos, who were both brought in as injury replacements for Carson palmer of the Bengals and Tom Brady of the Patriots, and finally RBs Larry Johnson of the Chiefs and LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers.


As you can see that’s a formidable offence, both on the field as the starters and on the bench. But of course there is the small matter of the defence. The starters line up as follows (excluding the Colts players already mentioned): DE Derrick Burgess of Oakland, Interior Linemen Marcus Stroud of the Jaguars and Jamal Williams of the Chargers, OLB Shawne Merriman of San Diego, Inside Linebacker Al Wilson of the Broncos, Cornerbacks Champ Bailey of Denver and Deltha O’Neal of the Bengals, with Strong Safety Troy Polumalu of the Steelers. Kyle Vanden Bosch from the Titans is the reserve at DE as Miami’s Jason Taylor is injured, whilst Casey Hampton of the Steelers is in at reserve IL as a replacement for the injured Richard Seymour of New England. Jonathan Vilma of the Jets is the reserve at ILB due to the injured status of Miami’s Zach Thomas, whilst Joey Porter of Pittsburgh is at reserve for OLB, Ty Law of the Jets is the reserve CB, and John Lynch of the Broncos is at reserve FS. There are also 5 special teams players named to the team, and for the AFC its Punter Brian Moorman of the Bills, Kicker Shayne Graham of the Bengals, Kick Return specialist Jerome Mathis of Houston, Long Snapper Mike Schneck of the Bills and Special Teamer Hanik Milligan of the Chargers.


And now for their opponents, and the Seattle Seahawks have 5 players in the starting NFC line-up. Those are T Walter Jones, G Steve Hutchinson, QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Shaun Alexander and FB Mack Strong. The rest of the NFC starters are WRs Santana Moss of the Redskins and Steve Smith of the Panthers, T Orlando Pace of the Rams, G Larry Allen, C LeCharles Bentley of the Saints and TE Alge Crumpler of the Falcons. In reserve they have WRs Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Torry Holt of St Louis, T Chris Samuels of Washington, G Mike Wahle of the Panthers, C Robbie Tobeck of the Seahawks due to the injury to Olin Kreutz of Chicago, TE Jason Witten of Dallas due to the injury to the Giants Jeremy Shockey, QBs Jake Delhomme of Carolina and Michael Vick of Atlanta, and RBs Tiki Barber of the Giants and Warrick Dunn of the Falcons.


The NFC’s starting defence will line up as follows: DEs Julius Peppers of Carolina and Michael Strahan of the Giants, ILs Shaun Rogers of Detroit and Tommie Harris of Chicago, OLBs Keith Brooking of the Falcons and Derrick Brooks of the Buccaneers, ILB Jeremiah Trotter of Philadelphia, CBs Ronde Barber of the Buccaneers and DeAngelo Hall of the Falcons, SS Roy Williams of Dallas and FS Darren Sharper of Minnesota. Osi Umenyiora of the Giants is at reserve DE, Rod Coleman of Atlanta is at reserve IL, Chicago’s Lance Briggs is the reserve OLB, whilst Lofa Tatupu of Seattle is at reserve ILB due to the injury to Chicago’s Brian Urlacher. Brian Dawkins of the Eagles is in at reserve SS due to the injury to Chicago’s Mike Brown, and Nathan Vasher is at reserve CB. The five special teams players are ST David Tyree of the Giants, LS Mike Bartrum of the Eagles, KR Koren Robinson of the Vikings, K Neil Rackers of the Cardinals and P Josh Bidwell of the Buccaneers.


Both conference teams have a strong side, however after looking at the rosters I would say the advantage lies with the AFC. Of course I would say that as it’s got two Jets in the side, but in all honesty the AFC will probably take this victory much like last year.


Wrap Up

Not much to say here really, I’ll be back next week with the Pro Bowl edition of The End Zone. I must again say congratulations to everyone associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was a decent victory and you guys deserved to win. The pass has been thrown; will you catch it next week, in The End Zone?

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Here's some more good news:


Ex-ABC sports commentator Al Michaels will join NBC and reunite with colleague John Madden for Sunday Night NFL Football, it has been confirmed.


"When we made the deal with the NFL this spring, there were four key stars I knew I wanted to build our football team around, but I wondered from the beginning, if I would be lucky enough to get them all," said NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol. "If you had asked me in mid-summer if I was really going to be able to pull this off, I would have said there's no way in hell, but that didn't stop me from trying. And, as it's come to pass over the last six months, I've learned more clearly than ever before, patience really does pay off."


Michaels reportedly left ABC over a disagreement regarding the future direction of Monday Night Football, which is moving to ESPN.




The legendary team lives on!

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