ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and NFL Matchup Features for Super Bowl XLV
Chris Berman and Countdown Analysts from Sundance Square in Fort Worth; Monday Night Football’s Tirico, Gruden and Jaworski and Super Bowl XLIV Winning Coach Sean Payton at Cowboys Stadium; Special Guests Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and Former Steeler Jerome Bettis
ESPN’s four-hour Super Bowl edition of Sunday NFL Countdown featuring host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will preview the Green Bay Packers-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup in Super Bowl XLV beginning at 10 a.m. ET / 9 a.m. CT from Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. The show will also include Monday Night Football’s Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, and Ron Jaworski, and Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV winning coach Sean Payton, from a set at Cowboys Stadium. Additionally, a triumvirate of Super Bowl-winning ESPN analysts – Tedy Bruschi, Trent Dilfer, and Steve Young – will contribute from Fort Worth, while reporters Suzy Kolber (Steelers) and Ed Werder (Packers) will provide updates throughout the program from the team hotels in North Texas. In all, ESPN’s roster of analysts has a combined 23 Super Bowl appearances and 13 Super Bowl championship rings.
Countdown will feature live celebrity and NFL guest appearances at the Sundance Square set in Fort Worth, including:
11:30 a.m. – Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, stars of the upcoming romantic comedy Just Go With It;
1 p.m. – Former Steelers running back and Super Bowl XL champion Jerome Bettis, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 (to be announced Saturday night in North Texas);
1:15 p.m. – Entertainer, actor and record producer Snoop Dogg, a Steelers fan, returns to Countdown to discuss Pittsburgh’s chances of winning Super Bowl XLV. He made a similar Countdown appearance at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa two years ago.
Planned Countdown features, in order of timing by quarter-hour (all times subject to change):
Opening Tease: A Tradition-rich Super Bowl (10 a.m. ET)
Award-winning actor Martin Sheen narrates the stories of the tradition-rich Steelers and Packers franchises and their quest for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV.
The Cheesehead (10:45 a.m.)
Nearly 25 years ago, a Milwaukee man named Ralph Bruno was reupholstering some furniture when he stumbled upon an invention that has become the symbol of Green Bay Packers fandom – “The Cheesehead.” ESPN.com’s Greg Garber reports on the creation, mystique and affinity for this famous piece of headgear.
Mike Tomlin: In the Air Tonight (11:45 a.m.)
During the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII championship season, head coach Mike Tomlin used the Phil Collins song In The Air Tonight to motivate his team during Saturday night meetings before each playoff game. In those meetings, lights were dimmed as the music played, and the Steelers were encouraged to visualize their actions, their purpose and their eventual success. In the 2010 playoffs, Tomlin has continued the tradition. Rachel Nichols reports on the players’ experiences and how the Steelers respond to Tomlin’s music motivational tactic.
The Relationship between Clay Matthews, III, and Kevin Greene (11:45 a.m.)
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, III, and his outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene are cut from the same cloth. They know how to rush the passer – Matthews had 13 ½ sacks this season, Greene had 160 sacks during his 15-year NFL career. Both have personality, are animated and know about sporting long hair. Ed Werder uncovers the other ties that bond the face of the Packers’ defense and his coach.
Conversation with Aaron Rodgers (12 p.m.)
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is straightforward, guarded and matter-of-fact in public. Away from the spotlight, he’s a wild prankster on unsuspecting teammates. While establishing himself as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, Rodgers’ NFL career until this season was largely overshadowed by two events: waiting in the green room at the 2005 NFL Draft as teams passed on selecting him, and following in the footsteps of legend Brett Favre as Green Bay’s quarterback. Rodgers sits for a candid conversation with Trent Dilfer, the winning quarterback of Super Bowl XXXV.
William “Refrigerator” Perry (12:15 p.m.)
One of the most interesting characters of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears, rookie defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry was transformed into a goal-line weapon, becoming an overnight sensation. Twenty-five years later, Perry’s life has taken many turns. He currently lives with Guillen-Barre Syndrome – a central nervous system disease that at one point left him paralyzed and near death. ESPN the Magazine’s Tom Friend examines Perry’s struggles since he became a national icon after Super Bowl XX, a quarter century ago.
Mayne Event: Mike McCarthy – Hometown Hero or Traitor? (12:30 p.m.)
Born and raised in Greenfield, Pa., Packers coach Mike McCarthy is a proud son of Western Pennsylvania. On the verge of McCarthy facing his favorite childhood team in the Super Bowl, Kenny Mayne visits Greenfield to see how the locals remember a younger McCarthy, and whether they’re having a hard time deciding which team to root for on Super Bowl Sunday. The popular Countdown segment offers a trip down memory lane with a cameo appearance by actor Matt Damon.
Steelers Run Plays (12:45 p.m.)
Running the football is an essential part of the Steelers’ football history and tradition. The rosters of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl teams have changed, and so has their signature run play. In the 1970s, it was the “Tackle Trap” with Franco Harris. Within the past decade, Jerome Bettis had the “Boss Play.” For this Steelers team, Rashard Mendenhall and his offensive line specialize in “22 Double.” Nichols tells the story of the Steelers’ special run plays through the years.
EA Sports Virtual Playbook: Rodgers vs. Polamalu (1:15 p.m.)
One of the most interesting subplots in Super Bowl XLV – the chess match over the middle of the field between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In the Super Bowl XLV special edition of EA Sports Virtual Playbook, Tom Jackson previews the chess match.
Snoop Dogg vs. Packer Pope (1:15 p.m.)
Countdown celebrates the historically strong, national fan bases of the Steelers and Packers with a contest between Pittsburgh supporter Snoop Dogg and Green Bay fan Packer Pope, who, for the past 14 years, has called on the higher power at Lambeau Field games dressed as Packer-themed pope. Snoop Dogg will free style for a Steelers victory. Packer Pope (John O’Neill) will beckon the higher power for a Packers win.
Schoolyard Ben (1:30 p.m.)
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays the position unconventionally when he extends plays and breaks from the pocket. In a league with sophisticated defenses built to stop him, “Big Ben” can still make “schoolyard” plays that have been crucial to the Steelers’ success. Past and current scrambling quarterbacks – Fran Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and even his Super Bowl XLV opponent Aaron Rodgers – dissect Roethlisberger’s ability to improvise. Hall of Famer and Super Bowl XXIX MVP, Steve Young, reports.
Plus, the entire Countdown crew will offer its Super Bowl picks, predict the unlikely players and matchups that will make the difference in Super Bowl XLV “X-Factors,” and select its “Gamebreakers.”
ESPN NFL Matchup Sunday 3 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. (ESPN2 – 5:30 a.m.)
NFL Matchup (Sunday, 3 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on ESPN; 5:30 a.m., ESPN2) with host Sal Paolantonio and analysts Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge will preview Super Bowl XLV by bringing viewers inside the film room as they analyze the Xs and Os matchups between the Steelers and Packers. The 30-minute program – taped this week from Sundance Square in Fort Worth – will highlight each team’s strategy and game plan. This week’s features:
Steelers vs. Packers
Jaworski delves into his “Playbook” to the Week 15 Packers-Steelers matchup in 2009 to highlight a Packers’ play that combines three-receiver sets on one side with Rodgers ability to recognize coverage, resulting in a successful throw to an open receiver.
Green Bay defense vs. Pittsburgh offense
Dom Capers’ Blitz Formations: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has used the same unique blitz formations dating back to 1994 when he held the same position with the Steelers. Jaworski goes into “The Film Room” to spotlight similarities between the ‘slot blitz’ formation of Capers’ defense in 1994 with the Steelers and his 2010 package with the Packers.
Rashard Mendenhall: Pittsburgh relies heavily on the success of running back Rashard Mendenhall to produce chunks of yardage. Hoge highlights the Steelers’ “Factor Back” and how he catches the opponent’s defense off-guard by running on what are typically passing downs.
Ben Roethlisberger – Scrambling Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger may not be Michael Vick but he knows how to make pass rushers miss. While Green Bay can break down a pass protection, Roethlisberger has a way of compensating for unblocked defenders. Hoge breaks down how Roethlisberger avoids sacks to complete passes.
Pittsburgh defense vs. Packers offense
Dick LeBeau: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been designing unique defensive schemes and concepts for years and continuously adds key successful techniques each season. Hoge searches through the Xs and Os files to explain one of LeBeau’s unique formations, showing a play where a blitzing defensive back William Gay produces a sack.
Troy Polamalu: The Steelers defense is physically and mentally tough to beat, and with Troy Polamalu’s speed and range, the task becomes near impossible. Hoge breaks down Polamalu’s impact against quarterbacks.
Packers’ Vertical Offense: Jaworski “Covers the Field” to show how the Packers offense has always been able to get open wide receivers who catch the ball vertically and on the run.