Technically speaking, Rashard Mendenhall did fumble the ball in Super Bowl XLV, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Green Bay Packers. But Mendenhall strongly believes he shouldn’t be held responsible for the play, placing the blame elsewhere. That’s what he tweeted out Sunday morning, on his birthday no less, defending his infamous moment.
I never fumbled that ball… #SBXLV
My coaches would feel like assholes to say that I did, I never did.
I was SEPARATED from the ball, 4 yards into the backfield.
That’s the RB equivalent of a strip-sack.
There’s NOTHING I could’ve done about it.
Respect my career.#Free34
— Rashard Mendenhall (@R_Mendenhall) June 19, 2022
Mendenhall states he was “separated” from the ball so he’s clearly arguing semantics. He’s essentially placing the blame on the offensive line and to be fair, there’s merit there. Fair warning, we’re going to revisit that play.
After a poor Packers’ punt, the Steelers called a power run to the right with #64 Doug Legursky and FB/TE #85 David Johnson pulling left to right. Neither blocked well here and Clay Matthews ultimately got to Mendenhall first, blowing him up and knocking the ball out, recovered by Green Bay.
There’s no question the blockers in front of him failed to do their job. And in being even more fair, Mendenhall shows good ball security here. Matthews just came in full-speed with a powerful blow. From that aspect, Mendenhall’s point makes sense.
Still. Mendenhall is the runner. His job is to protect the ball in any and all circumstances. He had cleanly secured the ball long before getting hit and at the end of the day, it’s his job is to keep the ball in his hands. If a running back fumbled after every tackle for loss, every offense would struggle to put up ten points a game. For Mendenhall to throw his teammates under the bus a decade later is a little gross. They know they screwed up and have had to live with that since the moment it happened.
This isn’t the first time Mendenhall has referenced the fumble. Two years ago, he sent out a profanity-laden tweet telling fans to “cool out” about the fumble. He’s probably heard about it for years on social media and occasionally, like today, has shot back.
It’s easy to forget now but that fumble came in such a crucial moment. Down 21-17 at the start of the fourth quarter with excellent field position, already in field goal range. Green Bay recovered the fumble and marched downfield, Aaron Rodgers hitting Greg Jennings for an eight-yard score eight plays later. Pittsburgh turned the ball over three times that day while Green Bay didn’t give it away once, a crucial factor in the outcome.
Bottom line. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that play and that loss. Line, runner, everyone directly involved. And at the rate we’re going, Mendenhall will bring it back up in 2024. See you then.