HONOLULU – A tropical rainstorm moved in from the Pacific and cleared just before the Pro Bowl began on Sunday. What followed was a sloppy show that was not exactly riveting entertainment a week before the Super Bowl.
The NFC’s 55-41 victory, a game not nearly as interesting as that score might indicate, did nothing to repair the tattered image of the NFL’s all-star contest.
New England’s Bill Belichick, the AFC coach and a man of even fewer words than usual, might have come closest to summing up the game with his mumbled cliché: “It is what it is.”
MVP DeAngelo Hall had one of his team’s five interceptions and returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown to help the NFC match a Pro Bowl scoring record against the turnover-prone AFC. He gets a new car for his efforts.
“I was just about to buy another SUV,” the Washington Redskins cornerback said, “so to come out here and grab one for free, I like that.”
AFC quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel each threw first-half interceptions to help the NFC sprint to a 42-0 lead in a performance ugly even by the historically low standards of this game.
Carolina’s Jon Beason returned the fifth interception thrown by the AFC, and second by Matt Cassel, 59 yards for the NFC’s final touchdown to match the single-team scoring record set in the NFC’s 55-52 win in 2004.
“It feels amazing. It was a lot of fun,” Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson said. “We came out and put up a bunch of points and had some fun doing it, so it was a good day.”
Pro Bowls are, by their nature, laid-back affairs, seemingly played at half speed by players whose biggest concern is to get on the plane home without injury.
The AFC, though, took that attitude to an uncomfortable extreme early before coming back to outscore the NFC 41-13.
The NFC led 42-0 after Steven Jackson waltzed through the AFC defense for a 21-yard touchdown – with 41/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Rivers, starting in place of injured Tom Brady, was picked off twice in the first quarter, the second by Hall.
“You underthrow one just a hair and they intercept it,” Rivers said. “You get a deflection for an interception. … They had all the breaks early.”
Manning, in his 11th Pro Bowl, came on briefly in relief and his second pass was picked off. Then Cassel got his chance and quickly joined in the spirit of things, throwing his second pass of the game directly into the hands of Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield.
With his seven extra points, tying a Pro Bowl record, along with two field goals, David Akers moved ahead of Morten Andersen (45) for most career Pro Bowl points with 52. The Philadelphia kicker would have had more but his 36-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter bounced off the right upright.
“Morten Andersen was a mentor of mine and I competed with Morten for a job in Atlanta and he taught me a lot,” Akers said, “so it means a lot to be able to pass a legend like that.”
The game returned to its traditional home in Hawaii after a one-year detour to Miami, much to the approval of the players involved.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick started but played only the first quarter, completing 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards.
Peterson rushed for 80 yards in 14 carries for the NFC, including a 14-yarder to set a Pro Bowl record with four career rushing TDs.