Interceptions could be the key in Super Bowl XLIII

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(NFL Photos)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have so many pleasant Super Bowl memories and one that wasn’t.

The one that wasn’t came in Super Bowl XXX, when Cowboys CB Larry Brown won the Super Bowl MVP award and Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell easily could have shared it with him. O’Donnell threw three interceptions, two of which went to Brown, and Pittsburgh suffered its only Super Bowl loss in six trips.

But this shouldn’t be surprising. Interceptions and playoff losses go together like Super Bowls and Roman numerals.

The website Cold, Hard Football Facts crunched the numbers from each Super-Bowl-era postseason game and computed that a team’s chances of winning drop off dramatically with each interception it throws.

Teams with two interceptions won just 31.4 percent of the games. Teams with three interceptions won just 18.3 percent. Teams with four interceptions won just 3.6 percent of the games. And teams with five or more interceptions had as much chance as the 2008 Detroit Lions.

Conversely, teams that didn’t throw any interceptions won 78.1 percent of the games.

Further, 10 interceptions have been returned for touchdowns in Super Bowl history. In every case, the team that scored won the game.

So the key to Super Bowl XLIII is not how many passes Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald catches. It’s how many he doesn’t.

No play impacts postseason games more than an interception. Each round of this season’s playoffs proves it.

Tarvaris Jackson threw away the Vikings’ chances to Eagles CB Asante Samuel. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme nearly gave new meaning to a six pack against the Super Bowl-bound Cardinals, throwing five interceptions. And Ravens QB Joe Flacco hit Steelers S Troy Polamalu — who usually does the hitting himself — with the most important play in the AFC Championship Game.

Let this be a lesson to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner. Super Bowl XLIII might be up for grabs, but the football better not be.

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