The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are heading to the biggest, most expensive Super Bowl ever.
Pittsburgh and Green Bay set for super showdown in Dallas
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are heading to the first Super Bowl to be staged in Dallas - a big, gaudy celebration of excess, just like the stadium where the game will be played.
Two teams with large, loyal fan bases will be the stars of the show, which is just what the NFL wanted.
Cowboys Stadium is so big there will be room for more than 100,000, counting people who will pay US$200 (Dh734) just to hang out around the building and watch on televisions. Plenty of people inside will be watching on television, too, unable to pry their eyes from the stadium's huge video boards.
All Super Bowls are a big deal in the United States, especially when a city or stadium is hosting for the first time.
The state of Texas is known for doing things on a grand scale, and this game is no exception - the host committee's budget came in at around $40 million, more than double the roughly $16m spent last year in Miami.
This game will feature two proud franchises led by quality quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers and Aaron Rodgers for the Packers, along with dazzling defences.
Green Bay advanced by going into Chicago and beating the Bears 21-14 on Sunday, while Pittsburgh reached the big game for the third time in six years by knocking out Rex Ryan and the New York Jets 24-19.
"We've always felt that we are a very good football team," said Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay coach. "Now we have the opportunity to achieve greatness, and that is winning the Super Bowl. I have a feeling there will be a lot of green and gold there. That will be great."
The Steelers are in the Super Bowl for the eighth time overall, matching the Dallas Cowboys for the most appearances. They already have the most titles with six.
Roethlisberger will be looking for his third title, which would put him behind only Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, who each won four.
On Sunday, the Steelers relied on a few new faces to beat the Jets after jumping to a 24-0 lead. "A lot of our key guys who have been making plays throughout the whole year have never been to the Super Bowl," said Hines Ward, a 13-year veteran receiver who has been to the championship game twice before. I am pretty sure the guys will have lot of anxiety."
It did not look like Rashard Mendenhall, the running back, and Antonio Brown, the rookie receiver, had butterflies against the Jets.
This is Mendenhall's third season, but it will be his first trip to the Super Bowl because he missed the Steelers' 2009 championship with an injured shoulder.
He ran for 121 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown against the Jets, with 95 yards in a dominating first half.
"It means a lot to be here and to be going to Dallas with these men, especially not having the opportunity the first time," Mendenhall said. "It means so much for this city, and to be a part of it is just an awesome feeling."
Brown had just one catch, but it was huge. The 14-yard completion from a scrambling Roethlisberger on third-and-six turned aside the surging Jets with less than two minutes left after New York nearly overcame a 21-point half-time deficit.
Roethlisberger scrambled out of the pocket, rolled right and eluded two defenders before finding Brown.
"It was a really, really tight window in order to get it to Hines," he said.
"My thought was let's try and run it. I started running to the sideline and next thing you know, [Brown] comes flying across the field. He beat them with speed."
Green Bay beat Chicago primarily with defence, and Clay Matthews, the linebacker, thinks that will be the key to winning the Super Bowl.
"We keep playing defence the way we know how and it's going to be tough for teams to beat us," Matthews said.
Green Bay kept up the pressure on the Bears throughout the game and had three interceptions, including one returned 18 yards for a touchdown by BJ Raji, the tackle, in the fourth quarter. And they dealt with three different Bears quarterbacks — Jay Cutler, the starter, who left with a knee injury, and Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie, Cutler's back-ups.
"How fitting is it to be a Green Bay Packer and win the [NFC] championship with defence? That sums it up right there," said Raji, a 337-pound lineman.