A historic Super Bowl


The Super Bowl is almost here! I will give you my prediction of the big game shortly, but first I want to touch on a few points. To start, this has been an incredible 2010 season. It seems like a lifetime ago that we started off the NFL season with the enshrinement of the Class of 2010 and the first NFL preseason game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game. Since that weekend in Canton to now, there have been so many memorable moments that have occurred this year. We at the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been fortunate enough to acquire artifacts from some of the greatest moments of the season. Like this jersey…click on the image below to find out why we now have Arian Foster's jersey on display in Canton.

The match-up in Super Bowl XLV is a fascinating one from a historical perspective. A game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers is about as classic as it gets. Never before have two teams so steeped with history and tradition battled it out in pro football's biggest game.

Here are a few notes to support that claim.

Super Bowl XVL now holds the record for most combined seasons played by the participating teams. The Packers started in the league in 1921. Pittsburgh got their start in 1933. That is a combined total of 168 years of play in the NFL.

To have a team in the league for that long of time, you can be sure that many spectacular players have inhabited the rosters over the years. The teams vying for the Super Bowl title this Sunday have a combined total of 39 Pro Football Hall of Fame members who have made their primary contribution to professional football as either a Packer or a Steeler. Green Bay has 21 Hall of Famers while Pittsburgh has 18. That's also a Super Bowl "record." The total could increase if Jerome Bettis and/or Dermontti Dawson are elected to the Class of 2011 on Saturday.

The Packers and the Steelers combined championship total is the most in Super Bowl history. The Packers have topped the league 12 times (including three Super Bowls titles) while the Steelers have a total of six championship rings. That's a grand total of 18, a hefty amount of championship hardware.

Here are some photo galleries featuring these title teams. Packers | Steelers

Power of Three
If the Packers win on Sunday, they will become just the third franchise to win three or more Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks at the helm. The others are:

Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
XVII Miami Dolphins 27-17 Joe Theismann
XXII Denver Broncos 42-10 Doug Williams
XXVI Buffalo Bills 37-24 Mark Rypien
Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
XXI Denver Broncos 39-20 Phil Simms
XXV Buffalo Bills 20-19 Jeff Hostetler
XLII New England Patriots 17-14 Eli Manning
Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
I Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 Bart Starr
II Oakland Raiders 33-14 Bart Starr
XXXI New England Patriots 35-21 Brett Favre
XLV Pittsburgh Steelers ? Aaron Rodgers


Opening Drive Forecast
I was really impressed with the Steelers and Packers opening drives in both conference championship games.

In the NFC Championship Game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers came out firing on all cylinders and connected on three passes of more than 20 yards while leading Green Bay 84 yards to pay dirt in only seven plays that took four minutes, 10 seconds. The drive ended with Rodgers scoring on a one-yard touchdown run. After that opening score, Green Bay never trailed in the game.

The Steelers methodically chipped away at the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game. Although the Jets won the opening coin toss, they elected to defer and kicked the ball away to the Steelers. Pittsburgh then proceeded to chew nine minutes, six seconds off the clock en route to a one-yard touchdown plunge by Rashard Mendenhall. The drive, which started on the Pittsburgh 34-yard line, included 15 plays, covered 66 yards, seven first downs, and featured 10 runs and five passes. The opening score certainly set the tone of the first half. The Steelers dominated the time of possession category with a figure of 21:04.

I wonder who had some of the longest opening drives in Super Bowl history. Let's take a look.

Below is a list of Super Bowl participants whose first drive of the game totaled more than five minutes.

Super Bowl Team Opponent First Drive Time Result Win/Loss
III Baltimore Colts New York Jet 5:22 Missed FG L
VIII Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings 5:27 TD Run W
XIV Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams 5:33 FG W
XVI San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals 5:58 TD Run W
XXI New York Giants Denver Broncos 5:24 TD Pass W
XXV New York Giants Buffalo Bills 6:15 FG W
XXXII Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers 5:19 TD Run W
XXXIII Atlanta Falcons Denver Broncos 5:25 FG L
XXXIII Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons 5:40 TD Run W
XXXIV St. Louis Rams Tennessee Titans 5:20 Fumble W
XLII New York Giants New England Patriots 9:59 FG W
XLII New England Patriots New York Giants 5:04 TD L
XLIII Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals 5:15 FG W
XLIV Indianapolis Colts New Orleans Saints 5:53 FG L

Of the 14 instances when a team had a first-drive time of more than five minutes, that team won 10 times, a pretty strong indicator if you are paying attention to the clock at the beginning of this Sunday's game. Interestingly, two Super Bowls (XXXIII and XLII) had opening drives of five or more minutes by both teams. In those occurrences, the team with the longer drive won the game.

My Prediction
I was surprised to see (although not by much) that the Packers are the favored team in Super Bowl XLV. Both teams have great defenses. Green Bay seems to have the more potent offense but I think that Pittsburgh has shown that they can score when it matters and is needed most. My pick: Pittsburgh 28, Green Bay 24.

Enjoy the game. But, first be sure to catch the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 announcement show on NFL Network this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) live from the Super Bowl Media Headquarters in downtown Dallas.

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