Collins got the MVP trophy and the new Cadillac, but a lot of guys deserved the award.
Chris Johnson, who after the game admitted that every hit on his sore right ankle felt like glass cutting him. He only had 13 touches, but on each one he ran with the kind of burst and power that Titan fans have seen all year.
Bo Scaife, who caught the floating duck tossed by Craig Hentrich on the fake field goal attempt. Scaife had to break four tackles to get the first down. It was his only catch of the game, and he never made a more important one in his life.
LenDale White, who as usual had a poor yards per carry but scored the all-important first touchdown after the very un-Fisher like fake field goal.
Justin Gage, who caught the 78-yard post pattern, outleaping the gazelle-like Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. With that catch, he was the all-time Titan leader in Super Bowl receiving yards.
Keith Bulluck, the almost forgotten Titan who snuck in front of Boldin on that slant pattern to steal an almost certain touchdown at the end of the first half. Sure, it would have been more cinematic for him to score a TD on the last play of the first half, but what linebacker is returning an interception 100 yards?
Albert Haynesworth, who made himself another ten million after breaking the double-team and crushing Warner to make the game-clinching sack.
This is how my team wins the Super Bowl. They take a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and almost blow it. It’s never easy.
I almost forgot the players who made key contributions in the games leading up to the Super Bowl.
In the fourth quarter of an intense Divisional playoff game against the hated Ravens, Alge Crumpler fumbled the ball inside the ten-yard line, which should have been a certain Raven recovery. As the ball squirted out, he managed to get a fingertip out and redirect the ball out of bounds. Thanks in part to a Ray Lewis holding penalty in the end zone, LenDale got four shots from the one yard line. About three inches of the ball crossed the plane of the goal line on the final play.
With Chris Johnson out in the AFC Championship game with his high ankle sprain, we witnessed the second Music City Miracle. Chris Henry, he of a whopping three rushing yards all year, entered the game after White bruised his ribs in the first quarter. None of us can forget the sight of Troy Polamalu, that white-shirted blur, rushing past Henry as he sprinted down the sideline for the first of his two scores. White returned for the clincher in the fourth quarter. The Super Bowl bid was ours. Collins was efficient and made no mistakes. Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch showed that their rust was gone when they crushed Roethlisberger on a third-quarter sack. Big Ben didn’t return to the game.
For two weeks it was a fait accompli that the Titans would beat the Cardinals. Over those excruciating 14 days, the tide seemed to turn and by kickoff, half of America thought that the Cardinals would shock the world. Bulluck’s interception seemed to end that thought. Gage’s second touchdown that made the score 34-14 seemed to confirm that. Cortland Finnegan had quieted Larry Fitzgerald. That was soon to change. When the former Pitt star bolted through the defense, making the score 34-28 with less than eight minutes to go, panic set in.
I polished off the wine from the night before in the morning, just to calm my nerves. Someone popped the cork on my third bottle of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale around kickoff. I tried to slow down, but the football gods made it hard to put down the bottle. On third and eight, when a first down meant that the clock would go under six minutes, Collins threw a screen to Ahmad Hall. Why the fullback was in the game at that time was beyond me. Warner would get the ball back with plenty of time, 77 yards away. On third and ten, Haynesworth would not be denied. I was petrified that the flag-happy refs would call some kind of roughing penalty. The hit was clean, and when the fourth-down pass hit the ground we were four LenDale White rushes away from the victory formation.
It could have happened in another world, in another time. I would be so hung over.