Offensive Player of the Week
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay.
In accounting for 304 of 338 offensive yards for the Packers, and in accounting for all three offensive touchdowns, Rodgers completed a post-season in which he showed he'll be a force to be reckoned with. When you rank the best quarterbacks in the game, he's got to be in the discussion now. Not saying he should be second or third or whatever, but his accuracy and coolness on such a grand scale over the past month are very Brady-like.
Defensive Player of the Week
Nick Collins, FS, Green Bay.
Not only did Collins give the Packers a big boost with his 37-yard interception and weaving return for touchdown late in the first quarter -- the single biggest play of the game -- but also on the ensuing Steeler drive, he may well have saved the Pack four points. Pittsburgh, down 14-0, had a third-and-seven at the Green Bay 19. The Steelers, obviously, didn't want to settle for a field goal on this golden chance. But Collins corralled Mike Wallace after a gain of four, and the Steelers could get only three points. Big, big play. For the game, Collins had four tackles and a halftime IV for dehydration. He was a vital factor in the Packers win, even if he was largely invisible in the second half.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brett Swain, WR, Green Bay.
Not only for his three special-teams tackles, a game-high, but also for his consistent swarming around the ball on kick and punt returns in a game in which field position was going to be vitally important.
Coach of the Week
Mike McCarthy, head coach, Green Bay.
So much of this sport is mental, and McCarthy was superb this year in making it impossible for his team to make excuses or lean on injuries as a crutch. "What a phenomenal job Mike did,'' said trainer Pepper Burress, who I've known for two decades, in the locker room afterward. "We had 206 games missed by players due to injury this year, and it's like it never mattered. It was an unbelievable year. [Defensive coordinator] Dom Capers looks at me and says, 'Who's next?' But Mike never let it be a factor for us.''
One more thing about McCarthy: Imagine you grow up in the heart of Pittsburgh, a few blocks away from Dan Marino's neighborhood, and you cheer for the Steelers as a kid so hard you're hoarse on Sundays, and then you have a chance to play them in the Super Bowl, and you beat the team of your dreams as a kid. McCarthy is as stoic as they come, but this had to have been one of the great moments of any coach's life.
Goats of the Week
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh.
You simply can't fumble with the Super Bowl on the line, with your team driving to take the lead in the fourth quarter. But Mendenhall did, and it was the single biggest factor in the Pittsburgh loss.
The NFL, in the seat debacle.
There is no excuse, and never can be one, when you sell tickets for seats that are not valid. That's what the NFL did with 400 people who had valid tickets for seating areas that were not deemed safe by the local authorities.
It doesn't matter that the league put them in areas where they could stand and see the game, or sit and watch on TV inside the stadium. Imagine people who sacrifice and scrape money together for the chance (maybe the only chance) to see a Super Bowl, and they get to the game and are told they have no seat. The league needs to be quick about this investigation, find out who dropped the ball, and do more than give the fans who got jobbed three times the value of their ticket.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this morning that the 400 displaced fans will attend next year's Super Bowl as guests of the NFL. That's a good gesture, but if I'm that Steeler fan from Erie I read about last night, and I'm getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis to see Atlanta-San Diego ... I mean, I'm still not happy.
Saturday night, SI dinner for staffers/friends of SI/clients, luxury apartment near downtown Dallas:
I'm at a table with, among others, SI swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen and her boyfriend, singer John Legend, a huge football fan. At one point we're talking about the bombastic Rex Ryan -- who is in the room too -- and his performance in the HBO Hard Knocks series last summer. I tell Teigen if she hasn't seen the "Let's go get a God---- snack,'' video, she simply has to. So she whips out her iPhone, finds it on YouTube, and watches/listens to it, and begins howling with laughter. So I go over and get Ryan, and tell him he has to meet Teigen, and explain the snack thing.
Legend, Teigen and Ryan meet, and Teigen says: "That is the greatest quote of all time!''
Chrissy Teigen, Rex Ryan, John Legend, in a Dallas apartment, on a Saturday night in February. Only at the Super Bowl.
I figured this was not going to be your typical Super Bowl week when I got off the elevator at the Sheraton Dallas and saw my breath. Faintly, but there it was. Among the many things about Texas, one is this: They simply don't heat their buildings well here.
Now, I'm not one of those who say there should never be a Super Bowl in City X because there was a rotten week of weather. But here, I'd actually think about it. One meteorologist on the local news said this was a once-in-20-years weather event. Kevin Kolb, who lives an hour or so west of the city in a small town, came to Dallas and said, "I was fishing in short sleeves five days ago.''
All that being said, and understanding that this was a freakish storm, it's hard to fathom for an event that was this ballyhooed, by a region that is dying to get in the regular Super Bowl rotation, that they don't have many (any?) plows down here, they don't salt the roads when there's an ice storm (and there was a doozy Tuesday morning), and their energy grid is ill-equipped to handle the drain on the resources the region faced late in the week.
But the good news is, the governor here is really bright. In the middle of a four-day weather crisis, Rick Perry was in sunny southern California, apparently working on his national profile. Now that's some great timing.
The highlights of our week in Antarctica, after a severe ice storm coated every road Tuesday and five inches of snow added to the mayhem Friday morning:
Went to four stores on I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth looking for a real winter coat on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sold out everywhere.
As the AFC pool reporter for the Pro Football Writers of America, I was assigned the Steelers practice in Fort Worth. (One reporter watches practices for both teams and writes a daily report of what happened, not delving into great football detail, but giving the 4,000 media people some idea that they're here for a football game.) From door to door, from my hotel in Dallas to the TCU campus in Fort Worth, the trip was 39 miles. On Friday, the road connecting the two cities, I-30, was what I'd imagine driving on the moon is like. Windswept, blowing snow, just trying to stay on the road by following big vehicles in front of you in low visibility. And a bunch of idiots driving 25 mph too fast for conditions, three of whom spun off into ditches or the median. Luckily, my Chevy was a beast for the conditions, and I've spent my life driving in this crap, and I got the job done pretty easily.
Ice cascaded from the roof of the stadium Friday, injuring seven, including one critically.
Three days I peeked into the school bookstore at TCU, wanting to buy a Horned Frogs hoodie. Three days, closed. Campus closed. The NHL could have played the Winter Classic on about three locations on campus. The place was a rink, from end to end, and it never even began to melt the entire time the Steelers were there, from early Wednesday to Saturday noon.
At one point on Wednesday, it was 17 degrees warmer in Juneau than in Dallas.
On Saturday morning, beginning at about 10 and stretching to Sunday morning at 4:23, fire alarms ravaged the hotel. False ones, apparently from a short somewhere in the system. Swarms of people had to walk down 20-something flights of stairs for one of the pre-dawn alarms Sunday.
"I told y'all Packers would exploit that secondary!! But don't listen to me though, I only played the Steelers 3x this season.''
--@DonteStallworth, Ravens receiver Donte' Stallworth, after Aaron Rodgers made the score 21-3 when he threw his second touchdown pass of the first half and was abusing the Steelers secondary.
"At NFL-Xperience and Phil Simms just threatened 2 hit me b/c I said his son was 1 of the worse QBs in the SEC. I told him 'LET'S GO!' ''
--@desmond_howard, ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard, who angered Simms last fall by calling his son, Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms, one of the three worst quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference. In a later tweet, Howard said Simms "wanted 2 take a swing at me!!''
Simms, though, remembered the incident differently, telling SI.com's Richard Deitsch that "at no time was there ever a chance of a physical confrontation'' with Howard.
Whatever, it sure livened up a dull Saturday at the Super Bowl.
"I'm watching your Real Sports episode. You're awesome. That is all.''
--@Alyssa_Milano, actress Alyssa Milano, commenting on my star turn on HBO's Real Sports.
Well, yes. I guess I am. And darn it, Hollywood's finally noticing!