Rodgers leads Packers to Super Bowl title

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Rodgers leads Packers to Super Bowl title


Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gets hugged by Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

ARLINGTON, Texas - Capping one of the greatest postseasons for any quarterback, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to their first NFL championship in 14 years Sunday with a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers, the game’s most valuable player, thrilled his legion of cheesehead fans with a spectacular six-game string that should finally erase the bitterness of the Brett Favre separation in Green Bay.

He’s now equal with Favre in Super Bowl wins and he extended the Packers’ record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the Super Bowl era.

“It’s what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young,’’ Rodgers said, “And we just won the Super Bowl.’’

The Packers quarterback threw for three touchdowns, two to Greg Jennings, and the Packers overcame even more injuries, building a 21-3 lead, then hanging on to become the second sixth-seeded team to win the championship.

Coincidentally, the 2005 Steelers were the other.

Rodgers threw for 304 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for 140 yards to make up for three big drops. Rodgers found Jennings, normally his favorite target, for 21- and 8-yard scores.

“Wow! It’s a great day to be great, baby,’’ Jennings said. “We’ve been a team that’s overcome adversity all year. Our head captain [Charles Woodson] goes down, emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver [Donald Driver] goes down, more emotions are going, flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field.’’

Few teams have been as resourceful as these Packers, who couldn’t wait to touch the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for their legendary coach who won the first two Super Bowls.

Several of them kissed it.

“Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay,’’ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as the silver prize was handed to the team.

After sitting for three seasons, Rodgers took the Packers to two late-season victories just to make the playoffs as a wild card.

Then he guided them to wins at Philadelphia, Atlanta and archrival Chicago before his biggest achievement - against a Pittsburgh team ranked second in defense.

They barely survived a sensational rally by the Steelers, who still own the most Super Bowl rings with six in eight tries. But Pittsburgh failed to get its third championship in six years with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

Roethlisberger’s season began with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

It ended with Roethlisberger standing on the Pittsburgh sideline, his head hung, hands on his hips, feeling something he never experienced: defeat in a Super Bowl.

Not even a decidedly Pittsburgh crowd could make a difference for the mistake-prone Steelers.

Their two biggest defensive stars - Defensive Player of the Year safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison - were virtually invisible.

The offense didn’t seem to miss outstanding rookie center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle injury), but Roethlisberger only occasionally made key plays until the second half.

The biggest plays were left to Rodgers, Jennings, Nelson, Nick Collins with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown and the rest of the guys in green and gold.

They also gave coach Mike McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh rooting for the Steelers, something Lombardi got in the first two Super Bowls, and Mike Holmgren won in 1997 with Favre - the Super Bowl trophy.

“This is a great group of men here, a lot of character,’’ Rodgers said. “We went through a lot together.’’


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