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A closer look at the Packers' final stand

2/7/2011
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Needing one stop on fourth-and-5 to win the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers knew history was not on their side.

They hadn't been able to stop Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on fourth-and-7 or third-and-10 on a decisive final drive last season. They also knew Roethlisberger had beaten the Arizona Cardinals with a touchdown pass in the final minute of the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

What to do?

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers knew this: The Packers would play to win, and he would stay true to his zone-blitzing self.

"We ran fire zones those last two calls and fire zones are actually going to pass the inside receivers [from one underneath defender to another] and hopefully you don't give Ben enough time to sit there and let the routes develop," Capers said.

Tramon Williams, arguably the Packers' best cornerback this season, found himself in coverage when Roethlisberger targeted wide receiver Mike Wallace on the fourth-and-5 play with 56 seconds remaining and Green Bay leading, 31-25.

"My job is to stop the guy from catching the ball and that is pretty much what happened," Williams said.

Williams broke up the pass, which was thrown high.

"Breathtaking," he said. "It was an amazing feeling."

Not so much for Wallace. The Steelers' big-play receiver thought Williams arrived early.

"Yeah, the guy kind of ran into me before the ball got there," said Wallace, who caught nine passes for 89 yards, including one for a 25-yard score. "The referee was about to throw his flag and he kind of took his hand off his hip, and it is what it is."

There would be no sympathy from the Packers. They had lost cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields to injuries. The fourth-down play was about doing whatever it took.

"Everybody was just praying," Shields said.

Roethlisberger, who had found Santonio Holmes for a 32-yard gain on the fourth-and-7 play with 1:14 left against Green Bay last season, said he liked his chances. But the Steelers had no timeouts left and they were short-handed, too, having lost receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Green Bay picked off Roethlisberger twice and held him to a 77.4 rating.

"They did a great job of taking away deep things and taking away the outside," Roethlisberger said. "You're kind of stuck with very limited options there with that much time and no timeouts left."

Roethlisberger hasn't put up good numbers overall in Super Bowls, but his 6-yard scoring pass with 42 seconds left against Arizona two years ago delivered a sixth championship to Pittsburgh. The Packers knew what they were up against with this game in the balance.

"I knew it was going to come down to fourth down," Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls. The fact that our guys made a play, I'm just so proud of them."

Capers, a two-time head coach of expansion teams, had never won a championship. He came to the Packers as defensive coordinator last season after one year as a consultant in New England. The last time Capers had been a defensive coordinator, for Miami in 2007, his team had posted a 1-15 record.

Think Williams' fourth-and-5 breakup felt good for him?

"You knew that you had to win and keep them from scoring a touchdown in the two-minute drill," Capers said. "A year ago, when we played them up there, we had the same situation and they scored on the last play of the game to beat us. It's a great feeling to see the play get made. That is the best feeling in the world."

Woodson, 34, hadn't missed a game since 2007. He was the NFL's defensive player of the year for 2009 and the Packers' undisputed leader on defense. He watched the final play with a broken collarbone, his arm in a sling. Watching Williams break up Roethlisberger's final pass had to ease some of the pain.

"At that exact moment, I was a champion -- that is exactly what I was thinking," Woodson said. "A guy who had an unbelievable season for us came up with a big play there at the end and all I thought was, 'Thanks, Tramon, I'm a champion.' "