Most people would say that Superbowl XLIII was an exciting game and largely well-played. Is that true?
How do casual fans evaluate success? Kurt Warner likely performed better than Ben Roethlisberger (112.3 to 92.3 passer ratings) and Larry Fitzgerald likely outplayed Santonio Holmes. Yet the Steelers’ performances will linger in the memories of the masses because they succeeded under pressure and created defining moments. A more arbitrary P.E.R. might have shown that the Cardinals played more consistently. If Arizona assesses their season properly and plugs the right holes, they have many building blocks for future success.
Why do teams play conservatively under pressure? It took the Cardinals three quarters to figure out that they should try a hurry-up offence. Hadn’t they learned that preparation can beat talent (the Patriots made adjustments and shut down the Greatest Show on Turf for fifty minutes during Superbowl XXXVI until the Rams overwhelmed them with volume and almost came back)? Why did the Steelers back-off and play a prevent defence? Normally they introduce multiple defensive adjustments as the game wears on. Coaches may have been affected by the pressure and let their players down.
Pressure can rush decisions and cause mentally weak players to fold. I’ve always felt that emphasizing Intensity and Quality in practice leads to excellent performance under pressure during games.