Five nuggets of knowledge about Super Bowl XLV:
The stakes: The Green Bay Packers' mantra the past few weeks has been to "bring the Lombardi Trophy home." The franchise won the first two Super Bowls in history, and the trophy was re-named in honor of coach Vince Lombardi when he died of cancer in 1970. Overall, the Packers will be seeking their fourth Super Bowl victory (in five appearances) and their 13th world championship dating back to 1929. Coach Mike McCarthy has invoked Lombardi often and recently said his favorite Lombardi maxim was the idea of "chasing perfection and catching excellence on the way." Here's a Lombardi quote that applies squarely to this game: "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle -- victorious."
Mobile QBs: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are two nimble and crafty scramblers who use their instincts to elude the rush and then take off faster than most defenses expect. Roethlisberger is bigger and more physical than Rodgers and has a better chance of muscling away from defensive linemen; Rodgers is quicker. Both will be facing top-ranked defenses and elite pass-rushers -- Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been especially vocal this week -- and their ability to buy extra time will be a crucial fulcrum of this game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Roethlisberger has averaged 9.4 yards per scramble this season, including the playoffs. Rodgers has averaged 8.7 yards. They have five touchdowns between them on such runs.
Fast track: Over the past two weeks, we have discussed numerous angles of this game. You can access them through this handy "XLV" filter. But a few merit repeating. The first is the undeniable success over time the Packers' offense has had in indoor stadiums. As we noted, the Packers have used their speed and precision to average nearly 32 points in 12 such games since 2008, including playoffs. Rodgers has thrown 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions over that span, and the Packers are drawing deep confidence from their past performances. For what it's worth, the Steelers gave up 305 passing yards to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in their only indoor game during the regular season, a 20-10 loss.
Run discipline: Packers rookie running back James Starks has had one breakthrough game in the playoffs, rushing for 123 yards in the wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles, but his impact has extended beyond that. As we discussed last week, McCarthy has trusted Starks for 20 or more carries in each playoff game, an important factor in balancing the Packers' offense and ensuring the integrity of their play-action game. The Packers can win even if Starks doesn't reach a high yardage total, but their chances will decrease if his rushing attempts don't match his previous numbers.
The bottom line: We've spent all season trying to come up with facts and figures to analyze and foreshadow what might happen on game day. So as we approach the biggest and last game of the NFC North season, let's close with another Lombardi quote: "Football is blocking and tackling. Everything else is mythology."