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On This Date in Sports February 6, 2011: Wild Pack

In collaboration with the sportsecyclopedia.com

In a meeting of two of the NFL's bedrock franchises, the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Packers become the sixth Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl and the fifth since 1997. Aaron Rodgers wins the Super Bowl MVP, passing for 304 yards with three touchdowns. For Green Bay, it is their fourth Lombardi Trophy and their 13th overall. 

It was the third year that Aaron Rodgers was the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. After struggling in 2008 and making the playoffs in 2009, Rodgers emerged from Brett Favre's shadow in 2010. The Packers had their struggles in 2010 but finished 10-6 to grab the sixth seed in the NFC led by coach Mike McCarthy. In the Wild Card round, the Packers upended the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16. A week later, they upset the Atlanta Falcons 48-21. The NFC Championship Game would see a meeting of the NFL's oldest rivalry. The Packers, in their first playoff meeting with the Chicago Bears, won 21-14 at Soldier Field. The Packers were the fourth team to win three games on the road to the Super Bowl. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team to win six Lombardi Trophies two years earlier. Looking for a seventh Super Bowl title, the Steelers posted a record of 12-4 for coach Mike Tomlin. After beating the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers had a bit of a hangover and missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2009. They bounced back strong in 2010, posting a record of 12-4. In the playoffs, the Steelers beat the archrival Baltimore Ravens 31-24. In the AFC Championship Game, they downed the New York Jets 24-19 to reach their eighth Super Bowl. 

Super Bowl XLV marked a new era as the fun, distinctive Super Bowl logos were replaced with humdrum boredom going forward. The game was played in the Dallas region at Cowboys Stadium as a near-record crowd of 103,219 was on hand. After a period of feeling each other out, the Packers drew first blood late in the first quarter when Jordy Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. A mere 17 seconds later, the Packers made it 14-0 as Nick Collins had a 37-yard pick-six off Ben Roethlisberger. 

After the rough first quarter, the Steelers were able to settle the game down as Shaun Suisham hit a 33-yard field goal to get the team on the scoreboard. Ben Roethlisberger would make another mistake towards the end of the second quarter, as he was picked off by Jarrett Bush. Green Bay would make the Steelers pay, as Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a 21-yard touchdown pass. The Steelers would manage to find the end zone before halftime, as Hines Ward caught an eight-yard pass in the end zone. 

The Packers led 21-10 but were without Charles Woodson the rest of the game, as the star corner injured his shoulder on the Steelers' late drive in the second quarter. After stopping the Packers on the opening possession of the second half, the Steelers began to crawl back in the game, taking advantage of a facemask call that gave them the ball at midfield. Rashard Mendenhall had an eight-yard run, and the score was now 21-17. The Steelers had a chance to make it closer on their next drive, but Suisham missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. 

As the fourth quarter began, the Steelers had the momentum and the ball in Green Bay territory when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled, letting the air out of the Pittsburgh balloon. The Packers would answer with their best drive of the game, as Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings again on an eight-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 28-17. The Steelers would continue to make it interesting as they went down the field with Mike Wallace reeling in a 25-yard touchdown score. The Steelers successfully completed the two-point on a run by Antwaan Randle-El try, and the difference became a field goal. The Packers were able to answer with a long drive and. a 23-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. With two minutes left, the Steelers had their chance to steal the game, but their drive ended with three straight incompletions, as the Packers won the game 31-25. 

The 2010 Packers joined the 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1997 Denver Broncos, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 2007 New York Giants as the fifth Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl. It would take ten years before another Wild Card team made the big game, and that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will play Super Bowl LV on Sunday at their own stadium.