A fine Capers: Roethlisberger left as confused as Christina Aguilera at SuperBowl
Maybe Texans owner Bob McNair should have kept Dom Capers and forced him to hire a powerful offensive coordinator.
For the only Houston Texans' head coach who has ever been fired is showing he clearly knows defense in Super Bowl XLV. Capers' schemes left Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looking as befuddled as Christina Aguilera was by the national anthem as the Green Bay Packers jumped out to a 21-3 lead Sunday evening on their way to a 31-25 victory.
Fourteen of those points came off Roethlisberger interceptions as Nick Collins returned Big Ben's first pick 37 yards for a touchdown and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned the second into his second touchdown pass of the game — a 21-yard strike to Greg Jennings.
In all the Steelers would give up 21 points off of turnovers (with tailback Rashard Mendenhall's fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter delivering another killer self-inflicted blow). But in a week when all eyes were on Roethlisberger, the Piano Man accused of two sexual assaults since his last Super Bowl win, the quarterback seemed to understand the focus would remain squarely on him in defeat.
"This is a game of what ifs," Roethlisberger said. "We turned the ball over. That's my fault."
With a pretty assist to Capers' use of his chess pieces, particularly linebacker Clay Matthews and a dinged-up, suspect secondary. Capers plan never let Roethlisberger get in a real groove.
In contrast, Rodgers always looked confident, if not comfortable, against the Steelers' defense, playing a mistake-free game. Rodgers went 11-of-16 for 137 yards and those two scores in the first half. But it was Jordy Nelson (four catches for 63 yards, including a 29-yard score) and not Jennings or Houston's own Donald Driver (two catches for 28 yards before leaving for a while with an ankle injury) who made the biggest plays for Green Bay on offense.
"I always really felt in rhythm," Rogers said.
Still, Capers — the 60-year-old defensive coordinator who hasn't been a head coach since he was fired after the Texans went 2-14 in 2005 — is the clear hidden star of this Super Bowl. Roethlisberger did recover to lead the Steelers on a late touchdown drive to close the first half with a few of the Packers top defensive backs in the locker room, getting injuries looked at.
That cut the Packers advantage to 21-10 at the break, but Big Ben (who came into the night with a 10-2 career postseason record) still never looked comfortable against the changing defensive looks Capers threw up against him. Roethlisberger never made a big play on the run, his signature. He never really turned nothing into a first down.
When the Steelers drove 50 yards for the first touchdown of the second half, pulling within four points at 21-17, they did it all on the ground. Mendenhall scored on an eight-yard run, after getting shaken up on the sideline earlier in the game-shifting drive.
Roethlisberger didn't have to complete a single pass on the series. He finished 25 of 40 for 263 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a middling 77.4 quarterback rating.
"To me it's even more disappointing," Roethlisberger said. "Because you feel like you let a lot of people down."
McNair only hopes that adding Wade Phillips as essentially the head coach of the team's defense to complement embattled head coach Gary Kubiak's offense works half as well as Green Bay's combination of head coach Mike McCarthy and the Texans' former head man Capers.