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Posted: Tuesday February 3, 2009 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday February 3, 2009 4:17PM
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MMQB Mail: Explaining the Warner review; defending best game tag

Story Highlights

The NFL did indeed review the Kurt Warner fumble at the end of the game

Maybe Ben Roethlisberger did deserve the MVP over Santonio Holmes

Best game ever defense, Kurt Warner's HOF credentials and more mail

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An NFL replay assistant did review this Kurt Warner fumble at the end of Sunday's game.
Bill Frakes/SI
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Wow. What a Super Bowl to take in. What an amazing game, and yes, I still say it's the best ever ... but let's examine the quality of the officiating, the quality of the game and then Ben Roethlisberger's performance for the ages:

The Kurt Warner fumble with five seconds to go actually was reviewed -- and upheld. There is no question that, cosmetically, replay assistant Bob McGrath, sitting upstairs, should have called for a booth review and let Terry McAulay see the play down on the field. But understand the mechanics of the way this process works -- and understand the process was aided by a penalty call on the field.

When the ball was knocked loose from Warner and the Steelers recovered, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on LaMarr Woodley for excessive celebration. So now, in the replay booth, McGrath had extra time, well over a minute, to use the touch-screen system of examining replays of the play. I don't know how many McGrath saw; he had 16 angles to choose from, and he used the extra time -- not only the time that comes with a change of possession and a re-spotting of the ball and a new play clock commencing, but now a discussion among the officials of the penalty and the spot of the penalty and walking off the penalty.

McGrath had around 90 seconds from the time of the loose ball to examine the replays to see if McAulay needed to examine the call himself -- and McGrath judged, and was later backed by the league, that officials on the field made the correct judgment that Warner fumbled before his arm started going forward. I agree that it was close. Very close. I wish McGrath had given McAulay a look. But I don't believe McGrath made the wrong call.

As far as overall officiating, 20 penalties (18 accepted ones, for 162 yards) is a lot. I thought the Karlos Dansby roughness call on Roethlisberger was patently absurd, and that was a big call in the game. I saw a ticky-tack holding call. But overall, other than those two, I thought the officials called penalties when there were penalties.

• You can't find a better Super Bowl. Ever. I know there have been some really compelling stories, and games, in the first 42. The Jets winning Super Bowl III and making an eternal cry for respect for the American Football League was a great story, but no one would call the game an all-timer, not with Earl Morrall throwing three first-half picks.

Super Bowl XXIII had Joe Montana driving the 49ers 11 plays and 92 yards for the winning touchdown with 34 second left was a classic finish, but again, not a classic game. The Giants' 20-19 stunner of Buffalo in Supe XXV was a keepaway game with great strategic stuff by Bill Parcells and his coordinators, Bill Belichick and Ron Erhardt, but a missed field goal as the signature play isn't how the best Super Bowl game should be remembered.

Super Bowl XXXIV was the best to that point and remains the best finish ever, with Kurt Warner hitting Isaac Bruce for the winning 73-yard touchdown inside two minutes, then Mike Jones tackling Kevin Dyson at the one as time expired. Two years later, Ty Law's huge pick and 47-yard touchdown return, and Tom Brady's drive, and Adam Vinatieri's field goal as time ran out put that game in the top five; and the 32-29 Pats win over Carolina was scintillating, but almost a survival test in the unreal humidity of Houston.

Loved last year's game; who didn't? Spoiling the perfect season was terrific theater, and the way the Giants did it, with two touchdowns and the incredible David Tyree catch in the last 12 minutes makes it very, very hard to beat.

But this game edges it. (Amazing, isn't it, that if you're 10 years old, and just truly getting into football, that you've now seen the two best Super Bowls of all time? touches on this here.) This game had the best defensive play in Super Bowl history, the 100-yard James Harrison interception return. This game had the best defense of the last five years, being strangely shredded by The Quarterback Who Fell To Earth, Kurt Warner.

This game had Roethlisberger emerging as a no-doubt, unquestioned clutch star; he has the body build of Terry Bradshaw with the play-making escapability of Steve Young. This game had Warner leading the Cards on 87- and 64-yard touchdown drives in the last 10 minutes. This game had the biggest star of the postseason, Larry Fitzgerald, held to one catch for 12 yards in the first 48 minutes ... before he exploded for six catches, 115 yards and two touchdowns IN THE LAST 12 MINUTES OF THE GAME AGAINST THE BEST DEFENSE IN FOOTBALL.

This game had Roethlisberger taking the Steelers 78 yards (88, actually, because of a holding call on the first play of the drive) in two minutes to win it in incredibly clutch fashion ... and it had one of the top five catches in Super Bowl history -- because of its greatness, and because of its time and place -- by Santonio Holmes to win it. Best Super Bowl ever? It's an easy argument.

The MVP call was a tough one. As one of the MVP voters, I changed three times in the last 10 minutes. I went from Harrison when the Steelers were up 20-7 to Fitzgerald when it was 23-20, Arizona, with more than a few thoughts about Warner. Then, as Pittsburgh went downfield for the winning score, I had dueling thoughts of Roethlisberger and Holmes in my head. It's probably crazy, but I would have picked Roethlisberger had Holmes made a simple catch in the end zone.

I still have second thoughts about the pick, because it easily could have gone either way. But I thought Holmes catch was so spectacular, and the moment so huge, that I went with him. That shouldn't lessen the impact of Big Ben's day. Completing 70 percent in any Super Bowl is magnificent, but completing two of his throws after circus-type escape acts from the Cardinal D, and then driving his team 88 yards in the 58th, 59th and 60th minutes on the biggest drive of his life ... huge. Just huge.

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