Super Bowl will be old school: Packers vs. Steelers

You've got to like a football game when one of the game's biggest stars is a nose tackle. B.J. Raji's interception and touchdown return was the difference for Green Bay.

You've got to like a football game when one of the game's biggest stars is a nose tackle. B.J. Raji's interception and touchdown return was the difference for Green Bay.

In an era of dizzying X-and-O game plans, climate-controlled stadiums and pyrotechnic halftime shows, what could be better than this?

Packers vs. Steelers. Two franchises that conjure images of bruised bodies and blue toes. Two franchises that are like running, banging, grunting history books, one born in 1919, the other in 1933.

One franchise is owned by the Rooney family, the other by 111,968 stockholders. Together, they’ve combined for 18 league championships, 44 Hall of Famers and two fan bases that unofficially hold all records for beer consumption.

Cue the grainy film and the voice of John Facenda. Green Bay and Pittsburgh will play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. The only unfortunate thing is it will take place in Dallas at Jerry Jones’  $1.3 billion Football Stadium and Go-Go Club, which has a retractable roof and a thermostat and a blur of martini bars.

Some frozen field in North Dakota, wood bleachers and a line of kegs would be more appropriate.

The Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 21-14 for the NFC championship. The Steelers, after a late-game mini-meltdown, held on to beat the New York Jets 24-19 for the AFC title. Although these are two of the most successful franchises in NFL history, it will be the first time they’ll meet for the league championship.

You may not think of this Green Bay team as a “Green Bay” team. The Packers are led by a strong-armed quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who went to Cal-Berkeley.

But they were led Sunday by their defense. Green Bay’s two biggest plays of the day: Rodgers’ tackle of Chicago’s Brian Urlacher at midfield following a third-quarter interception, which probably saved a touchdown; a fourth-quarter interception by the nose tackle B.J. Raji, whose 337-pounds of thundering blubber shook the earth with a fourth-quarter interception and 18-yard return for a touchdown that made it 21-7.

The Steelers' defense held the Jets to 70 yards rushing (and LaDainian Tomlinson to only 16).

The Steelers' defense held the Jets to 70 yards rushing, including only 16 yards on nine carries by LaDainian Tomlinson.

One year after the first Super Bowl between two dome stadium teams — New Orleans vs. Indianapolis – this year’s finale will be played between two outdoor teams that have dealt with the elements. Outdoor teams from cold-weather cities generally have overcome more adversity than indoor teams.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants an outdoor stadium. Who knows – maybe rain and chill would toughen his team up for future Januarys. Couldn’t hurt. Imagine if the Falcons last week were even as tough as Chicago was Sunday.

The Bears trailed Green Bay 14-0 early in the second quarter and looked on the verge of being blown out. But their defense held the Packers’ offense scoreless the rest of the game – six punts, two interceptions – and mounted an improbable rally behind Caleb Hanie, an undrafted, third-string quarterback out of Colorado State. Hanie came into the game after Jay Cutler injured his knee and backup Todd Collins flopped. He wasn’t always accurate but he showed what we already knew – the NFL postseason is less about finesse than it is survival. He led two Chicago touchdown drives but threw a pick-six to Raji, which turned out to be the difference.

If Falcons’ fans are looking for a small measure of solace, there’s this: The last three times they have been in the playoffs, they’ve lost to teams that reached the Super Bowl: Green Bay last week, Arizona in the conference semifinals in 2008 and Philadelphia in the NFC title game in 2004.

Rodgers’ dominance at the outset looked similar to last week’s 48-21 game in the Georgia Dome. On Green Bay’s opening drive, he completed all four of his passes for 76 yards and finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run. But he went only 13 for 26 for 168 yards with two interceptions the rest of the game. The Packers  intercepted Hanie and Cutler three times and held Chicago to one third-down conversion. They won with defense.

Offense got the Packers to the playoffs. But defense got them to the Super Bowl. Defense always has been the engine that drives the Steelers.

It should be perfect old-school theater.

By Jeff Schultz

Previous posts:

Atlanta Spirit lied to us about Thrashers? Go figure

NCAA has lost sight of mission, needs to end ‘oversigning’

Part I: A word about ‘oversigning’ (and revisiting Saban’s dance)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

165 comments Add your comment

One and Done

January 23rd, 2011
10:04 pm

Are you sure you don’t want to talk Atlanta Spirit Group?

enjoy it

January 23rd, 2011
10:06 pm

two great teams!

Buzz29

January 23rd, 2011
10:10 pm

I wish DRad would swap Coach Jo and hewitt.

I’d post that on a Tech BB blog if we ever had one.

[...] Super Bowl will be old school: Packers vs. SteelersAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)… two interceptions – and mounted an improbable rally behind Caleb Hanie, an undrafted, third-string quarterback out of Colorado State. …Destination: Dallas!Newsradio 620all 18 news articles » [...]

IlliniDawg

January 23rd, 2011
10:18 pm

So can we now stop ragging on Matt Ryan and the Falcons, considering that the Packers have pretty much manhandled the #1, #2, and #3 seeds?

We got beat by a legit Super Bowl team – with a phenomenal defense and a QB playing out of his mind. That doesn’t make the Falcons a bad team – just one that ran into a buzzsaw.

wxwax

January 23rd, 2011
10:24 pm

Not sure how “old school” Green Bay’s spread offense is.

Also, Dave, not sure why you don’t like the entertaining, smart and very old school New York Jets.

Reid Adair

January 23rd, 2011
10:24 pm

Since there is apparently a need to bring the Falcons into this, it should also be noted that of the Falcons’ four losses, two of the opponents are in the Super Bowl. This includes the first loss (Pittsburgh) and the last (Green Bay).

Green Bay didn’t need as much passing as they got against the Falcons. They ran the ball much more successfully against the NFL’s ninth-ranked Bears defense than they did against Atlanta.

The score was different, Aaron Rodgers’ passing totals were different. In the end, both the Bears and the Falcons lost to the Packers who proved they are the best in the NFC right now.

Perhaps this is a good time to proclaim the Bears’ season (#2 seed and NFC North champions) a complete failure since they lost at home to the #6 seed Packers just like the Falcons did.

Heath

January 23rd, 2011
10:30 pm

There’s an Atlanta sports fan stand by: “We lost to the team that went all the way!!!”

Break out the party hats.

Jeff Schultz

January 23rd, 2011
10:39 pm

IlliniDawg — Yep, Packers are only second No. 6 seed ever to go to the Super Bowl. Steelers did it in 2005. Beat 3-Cincinnati, 1-Indianapolis, 2-Denver in AFC, then Seattle in Super Bowl.

PMC

January 23rd, 2011
10:39 pm

Also it will be climate controlled.

Jeff Schultz

January 23rd, 2011
10:40 pm

Reid — “Since there is apparently a need to bring the Falcons into this, it should also be noted that of the Falcons’ four losses, two of the opponents are in the Super Bowl. This includes the first loss (Pittsburgh) and the last (Green Bay).” … Wish I had thought of that last sentence.

Jeff Schultz

January 23rd, 2011
10:41 pm

PMC — Oh yeah, I’m sure roof will be closed.

Atl teams= Playoff chokers

January 23rd, 2011
10:43 pm

Lol, Lets face it Atlanta fans championships are for other fans, other teams and other cities. Lets just enjoy our great season.

Gen Neyland

January 23rd, 2011
10:43 pm

Blank could enlist the help of any good downtown chop shop and cut the lid off that ragtop…
Packers–Steelers : Will the week off hurt the Pack..? There is no other NFC team more deserving. The Steelers, gut check pros when it’s on the line. By my count, Atlanta’s mighty Falcons went 1-2 against these two this year. Guess the Falcons really did get what they deserved. Early, I like the Packers…

PMC

January 23rd, 2011
10:46 pm

Nothing about today makes me feel good about the Falcons.

Sanchez was fairly effective against the Steelers defense in his second year.

Ryan, was freaking horrid. They wet the bed as bad as any team has ever wet the bed.

We spent all week trying to make ourselves feel better about a god awful performance by our hometown team. No, they didn’t really have the talent to be where they were, by my gosh man, how often can you obtain the #1 seed and then fall flat on your faces?

Probably the most interesting two teams in the playoffs get to face off. Cool. 2 mobile QB’s who are brilliant under pressure. Nice.

Rothlisburger has a bit of that Farve quality of being basically brain dead when it comes to everyday life, but just knowing how to play football.

Rodgers, if he wins this game, will have equaled the championship output of his predecessor in only his 3rd year. Without being an embarassment off the field.

PMC

January 23rd, 2011
10:49 pm

These two teams would be fairly similar too if Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley were healthy.

I think Pittsburgh has better safeties and Green Bay, better corners… but other than that, remarkably similar styles.

Tony

January 23rd, 2011
10:59 pm

chip towers is a joke. it doesn’t know the difference in Duke and Central Florida and he steals other peoples writings and post them under his picture. Somewhat misleading.

Keith

January 23rd, 2011
11:02 pm

hey Jeff why couldn’t Rodgers have picked last week to have his off day??

Bla Bla Bla

January 23rd, 2011
11:05 pm

Booooooorring!!!!!!!!!!

Falcon

January 23rd, 2011
11:51 pm

I think the falcons are playing the winner of Green Bay and Pittsburgh on Feb 13 in the BDS. Congratulations to the falcons for going to the BDS.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 23rd, 2011
11:56 pm

Two mobile, strong armed QBs against two aggressive, unpredictable, attacking 3-4 defenses. Should be a good one. We just saw three classic Super Bowls this past decade… hopefully it continues.

JONESBORO SLIM

January 24th, 2011
12:01 am

There is something thats being overlooked… Aaron Rogers has been a starting QB for 3 years now but he’s had the luxury of a couple of years learning and looking over the shoulder of one the best… Brett Frave…….

Move north schultz

January 24th, 2011
12:01 am

The bleak voice of negativity that is jeff schultz pounds out a typically weak blog that is non typically full of praise and its about two northern teams with obnoxious scum b@g fan bases.

Do Atlanta a favor and move up north and please do it soon.

Waffle House or Bust

January 24th, 2011
12:07 am

Hope Matt “Vanilla Ice” Ryan watched Roethlisberger play tonight. Dude is clutch and plays with confidence. Tired of seeing Ryan have that glazed scared look in his face under pressure.

FYI – I predicted this Super Bowl two weeks ago and will call Steelers winners.

playmeortrademe

January 24th, 2011
12:14 am

This season just proves, as always, that while a good offense my get you there, you can’t win Mr. Lombardi’s trophy without a top-caliber defense. Unfortunately, it must be illegal in this state to have an elite defense, because neither the pro team or the two college entries have a lick of defense since the 80s

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 24th, 2011
2:08 am

What do the Packers and Cardinals have in common?

CHOKE and the Falcants helped them reach the superbowl :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 24th, 2011
2:10 am

Has anyone noticed the more successful teams of late have mobile quarterbacks?

The Vick effect baby :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 24th, 2011
2:13 am

JONESBORO SLIM

January 24th, 2011
12:01 am
There is something thats being overlooked… Aaron Rogers has been a starting QB for 3 years now but he’s had the luxury of a couple of years learning and looking over the shoulder of one the best… Brett Frave…….

___________________________________________________________

But he has 2 things CHOKE will never have – A strong arm and good foot speed :)

Larry

January 24th, 2011
2:31 am

One thing that “Matt “CHOKE” Ryan never does–spit!

He’s a swallower, not a spitter!

Mike Crime Dog Vick

January 24th, 2011
3:02 am

How’d Vick fare in his playoff game? Oh that’s right, he went home as well.

Samuel

January 24th, 2011
5:17 am

If you like it are not, Matt Ryan will be on this team for a long time. Get over it and move on. The Packers and Steelers have a history of winning. The Falcons donot their trying to build a franchise in a lousy sports town. If we learn anything from this- is you have to have good defenses to take you to the big dance. We must build on that and just shut up.

Drifter

January 24th, 2011
6:25 am

You’ve got to be a great sportswriter to hype this game. Both of these teams are capable of looking bad, as both of them did yesterday at times. Neither offense scored a single point in the second half. The Packers defense let the Bears back in the game using a third string quarterback. After watching those two games yesterday, neither team in the “Super” Bowl deserves a championship.

Dan

January 24th, 2011
7:07 am

Packers vs. Steelers. Who cares!

Dontavius Supremo

January 24th, 2011
7:13 am

I was hoping for the Bears and the Steelers, but this is almost as good! But instead of Texas, they shoukd be playng in Pittsburgh or in Green Bay. Now that would be really neat!

Larry

January 24th, 2011
7:23 am

Ok, I apologize to all for my comments above to this “Matt CHOKE Ryan” character. I should be above this and more sensitive to the possibility of women and young adults reading this. As soon as it popped up I felt bad.

I just absolutely cannot stand this childish imbecile who is always in the attack mode of a very decent person in Matt Ryan, regardless of Ryan’s skill in his chosen profession. Worse, I know this is exactly the type of reaction he lives for.

Oh well…sorry!

Asheville Dawg

January 24th, 2011
7:52 am

Hope the Packers win. Other wise we have to hear about the dynasty of the Steelers. Of course, it will be earned, three Super Bowls in six seasons.

Conservative HC

January 24th, 2011
7:54 am

Here are the facts:
1) Smitty is a very conservative HC that likes to get an early lead and sit on it
2) Mularkey plans the offensive game plan with Smitty’s oversight and approval.
3) BVG plans the defensive game plan with Smitty’s oversight and approval. Smitty may be the one actually coming up with the defensive plan.
4) This team over achieved against a weak schedule and underutilized every talent available. On offense: Weems, Ovie, Finneran (more), Antoine Smith (screens, etc. On defense: Franks instead of Owens, replace Lofton with Wire, Coleman at Nickel, etc.).

Someone of you think that Smitty is the best thing since slice bread, but personally I’m not sold on him. He hasn’t made the smartest decisions in games at times, his team doesn’t make in-game adjustments, and they totally looked unprepared for GB. It’s evident to me that this team has issues defending west coast offenses (GB & Philly).

I hope I’m wrong and that this team simply needs more time to develop, but again, Smitty is a very conservative HC (i.e., Reeves, Schottenheimer, etc.). Arthur Blank needs to hold off on any extensions until he sees what Smitty does with this team and his coordinators.

reebok

January 24th, 2011
7:55 am

Watching the Bears, behind their 3rd-string QB, give the Packers all they could handle…a week after the Packers blew the Falcons right out of their own stadium…shows how far the Falcons still are from being a legit championship contender.

papadawg

January 24th, 2011
7:56 am

Who cares, I’m going fishing unti the Braves season starts

Conservative HC

January 24th, 2011
7:59 am

One more thing no one ever mentions about Smitty. Did he have a stellar/stout defense when he was the DC with Jacksonville? Did he pick coordinators that he knew would fit his conservative mode? I hear BVG was good at Georgia, but this is big boy football now. Should have brought in a proven DC.

dean

January 24th, 2011
8:07 am

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a dam.”

Gator Mike

January 24th, 2011
8:08 am

Jeff, good article. The right teams made it to the Super Bowl. The game has the potential to be a great slug fest considering both defensive units.

The Joker

January 24th, 2011
8:10 am

While I will admit that I like both teams for the most part, I am kind of sick of the traditional teams (especially Steelers) always making it to the Super Bowl, would like to see two more unlikely teams in the SuperBowl, *hint* *hint* Falcons……..

A Big Dog

January 24th, 2011
8:20 am

Green Bay has a QB and a leader…the Bears have a TURD. Cutler is the biggest QUITTER in the history of the NFL.

gabugman

January 24th, 2011
8:23 am

Anyone besides me notice the Mularkey-like offenses that prevailed yesterday?

SirReal

January 24th, 2011
8:30 am

@Conservative HC I agree on both posts sir. I like Smitty…but are we shaping up to play Marty-ball here ? (Great reg season, trashy post-season) as far as BVG, I’ve never been sold on him. Excellent for college….maybe not so much for the NFL. But like you said, it all goes back to smitty at the end of the day. I think Mularkey can open it up if allowed to. We saw flashes in the CIN game. They’ve still done better than any previous regime so lets save our thoughts for ONE more season….

JSS

January 24th, 2011
8:35 am

Well… Well… Well… So Jeff Schultz, go back to your beginning on the year breakdown… Now read my comment on who should be standing at the end of the year…

@ MCR…
Why do you get under their skin so much?

Conservative HC

January 24th, 2011
8:38 am

SirReal, that’s why I’m taking a wait and see approach to next year.

gabugman, I sure did observe the Steelers getting a lead and sitting on it. Looks very familiar. They’re lucky the Jets didn’t come back on them and win it.

JSS

January 24th, 2011
8:40 am

Oh yeah, when will “grown people” learn how to apologize without trying to put a caveat on it? Just apologize, don’t explain why you’re doing it!

wardenerd

January 24th, 2011
8:46 am

double murdered loses to rapist and rapist continues on to Suprebowl. Thug express is not old school NFL