Super Bowl XLIII a classic clash of offense vs. defense

Does defense win championships?

The question will be put to the test Sunday, in what is shaping up to be a classic Super Bowl matchup of high-scoring offense vs. an ultra-stingy defense.

Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense, having held both of its playoff opponents to an average of 244 total yards, squares off against the high-powered Cardinals offense that has recorded 357, 360, and 369 yards in three playoff games.

Something has to give Sunday and the Steelers don't expect it to be their defense.

"What more can you ask for," Steelers cornerback Williams Gay said. "We will be on the biggest stage in the world, the Super Bowl, playing against the best offense I've seen thus far. As a defense, that's what you want."

The Steelers are the ninth team since 1970 to finish first in total defense and reach the Super Bowl. Seven of the previous eight teams have gone on to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The numbers get even more ominous for the Cardinals and their fourth-ranked offense.

Among all Super Bowl participants, the team that scored more points in the regular season (Arizona scored 427, Pittsburgh 347) is 23-17 in the Super Bowl (two Super Bowls featured teams that scored the same number of points in the regular season).

Thirteen teams have finished first in total offense in the regular season and reached the Super Bowl. Only seven of them won. Two of those seven also possessed the league's best defense.

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Then again, few teams have boasted the offensive fire-power that the Cardinals possess.

Quarterback Kurt Warner has followed up a regular season in which he passed for the second-most yards (4,583) in the NFL with a stellar run in the postseason. Through three games he has 770 passing yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

At Warner's disposal are three 1,000-yard receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Fiztgerald led the NFC with 96 receptions and has caught 23 more for an NFL-record 419 yards and five touchdowns in the playoffs.

Said Fitzgerald: "We are looking forward to the test."

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