Rodgers, turnovers wipe away Pittsburgh's New York Life Protection Index edge
ARLINGTON, Texas (STATS) - The Pittsburgh Steelers' injury-plagued offensive line didn't crumble in the Super Bowl, protecting Ben Roethlisberger far better than it had in two previous playoff games.
The Green Bay Packers were happy to simply protect the football.
Critical turnovers and an MVP performance from Aaron Rodgers wiped away Pittsburgh's minor New York Life Protection Index edge in Super Bowl XLV, allowing Green Bay to reclaim the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 14 years.
The NYLPI is a proprietary formula created by STATS LLC which measures pass protection by using metrics such as length of passes, penalties by offensive lineman, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.
The Steelers made it to the NFL's biggest stage with a patchwork offensive line anchored by Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who held together a unit missing its top two tackles since Max Starks' season-ending injury in Week 9.
But Pouncey injured his ankle in the 24-19 AFC championship game victory over the Jets, leaving undrafted guard Doug Legursky to fill in as Pittsburgh attempted to win its league-record seventh Super Bowl.
Legursky and his teammates did a solid job, posting a 70.3 in the NYLPI - better than the Steelers' combined total in their first two playoff victories - but it wasn't enough. Green Bay forced three turnovers, returning one of Roethlisberger's two interceptions for a score and a 14-0 first-quarter lead after pressure from defensive tackle Howard Green.
The Packers posted a so-so 65.9 in the NYLPI - 0.6 above their regular-season average - but hanging on to the ball proved to be the difference. Rodgers didn't make any mistakes despite being knocked down eight times, throwing for 304 yards - 214 through the air - and three scores in Green Bay's 31-25 victory.
"(The Steelers) definitely brought a lot of pressure like they always do," Rodgers said. "They're a great defense. I'm just very grateful ... that (tackles) Chad (Clifton) and Bryan (Bulaga) played so well and kept (linebackers) LaMarr (Woodley) and James (Harrison) off me."
Pittsburgh sacked Rodgers three times, but none set the Packers back more than six yards and they overcame two to finish those drives with points.
"He's probably one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL," guard Daryn Colledge said of Rodgers, "so we feel in the huddle that all we've got to do is protect and he'll make things happen."
Most impressive was Green Bay's ability to limit a playmaking Steelers defense that forced 35 turnovers - tied for third in the league. Pittsburgh didn't cause one in Super Bowl XLV as Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu and Harrison - who won the award in 2008 - were kept quiet.
"I can't say enough about our tackles," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We left them in one-on-one situations throughout the game, and Chad and Bryan got it done."
The Steelers, meanwhile, tend to thrive on Roethlisberger making plays outside the pocket, which he had done repeatedly during his playoff career. Pittsburgh's 70.3 rating in the Super Bowl was its best postseason performance in the NYLPI in 11 games since 2005.
It failed to crack 50.0 in any of its three games en route to winning Super Bowl XLIII. Then again, it only had two turnovers combined in those contests.
"You can't turn the ball over," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "You can't do it on this stage of the game for the Super Bowl. They were a better team today. They executed. We turned the ball over, they scored points off our turnovers, and it's disappointing."
The team with the lower NYLPI rating has won the last three Super Bowls.