Harrison's 100-yard interception return for TD paid dividends for Steelers

As officials reviewed the longest play in Super Bowl history, James Harrison sucked oxygen on the bench, where fellow Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior yelled to him, "That's the greatest runback in NFL history!"

Farrior probably was right.

After intercepting a Kurt Warner pass at the goal line Sunday, Harrison stopped and started, bobbed and weaved, broke tackles, leaped over a player and finally, as the goal line approached, was faced with the possibility that it all could be a waste of breath. If Harrison didn't get in the end zone, the Steelers couldn't score a touchdown because time had run out in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII.

Anatomy of a Play

More Anatomy of a Play:
» Holmes' game-winning catch

"Those last couple of yards were probably tougher than anything I've done in my life but probably more gratifying than anything I've done in football," Harrison said.

Already exhausted with 20 yards to go, Harrison found himself in a foot race with three Arizona Cardinals: offensive tackle Mike Gandy, who was even with him; wide receiver Steve Breaston, who was bearing down from the left; and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was bearing down from the right.

Gandy dove at Harrison's feet at the 10, slowing him down and almost forcing him to step out of bounds. That allowed Breaston and Fitzgerald, the two fastest and most athletic Cardinals on the field, to gain ground on Harrison and set up a collision inside the 5.

Breaston's intention was to hit Harrison high and force him out of bounds. Fitzgerald's intention was to pull Harrison down from behind while trying to strip away the football.

Either approach might have worked on its own. Given Harrison's exhaustion, Breaston's hit was hard enough and Fitzgerald pulled with enough strength to potentially keep the Steeler from scoring. But the force provided by Breaston and Fitzgerald colliding helped propel Harrison forward, just over the goal line for a touchdown and a 10-point Pittsburgh lead. By preventing the Cardinals from scoring a touchdown and adding one of his own, Harrison provided the Steelers with a 14-point swing that proved crucial in a 27-23 victory.

In our Anatomy of a Play video, we focus on several other points of note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's clever design, how and why Warner threw the ball and why Fitzgerald didn't catch Harrison earlier than he did.

Harrison's 100-yard return certainly was worthy of being the last Anatomy of a Play of the 2008 season because, as Farrior said, it quite possibly was "the greatest runback in NFL history".

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