The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers put an exclamation point on the NFL's 2010 season with a thoroughly enjoyable Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers won it, 31-25, and Patriots followers might have seen this coming Dec. 19. That's when the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers came in to Gillette Stadium -- one of the toughest places to win in the regular season -- and controlled the action (40:48-19:12 time of possession edge) in a 31-27 loss to the Patriots.
That turned out to be the Packers' last loss this season.
"The New England game was a big game for us," Rodgers said on ESPN. "We lost that game, a game we were double-digit underdogs. That was a game where it was like 'we have a pretty good team, let's not lose this opportunity.'"
A few final thoughts with a Patriots twist:
1. I think this puts Rodgers in the elite class of quarterbacks, the group that starts with names like Brady and Manning. He was remarkable, especially with the Packers being so one-dimensional and his receivers not helping him with drops. He showed championship-caliber mental toughness on the big stage.
2. The Packers' trade-up with the Patriots in 2009 - to select outside linebacker Clay Matthews 26th overall -- has been a big hit for them. Matthews added another chapter to that story, with his forced fumble on Rashard Mendenhall in the fourth quarter one of the crucial plays in the game. The Steelers looked like they were about to wrestle control of the game away from the Packers before that turnover.
3. We can hold off on the comparisons between Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady ...
4. ... As well as comparisons between the Steelers and Patriots and their recent runs of Super success.
5. If the Steelers won, it would have put the Patriots in play to be their season-opening opponent next September in the NFL opener. But the Packers will now open the 2011 season as the defending champion, and the Patriots aren't on their schedule.