By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Are you ready for some offense?
One week after the Super Bowl Only a Defensive Coordinator Could Love, the Pro Bowl returns for its 22nd engagement at Aloha Stadium today.
Despite the presence of Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis and his Ravens teammates Rod Woodson and Sam Adams, todays game is expected to produce a more traditional display of scoring than Baltimores 34-7 thrashing of the New York Giants last week. In that game, defense and special teams accounted for three of the Ravens four touchdowns as the two teams combined for 21 punts (a record 11 by the Giants), and just 393 net yards.
In contrast, last years Pro Bowl teams combined for 767 net yards as the NFC outscored the AFC, 51-31. The NFC leads the series 16-14.
The annual all-star game is designed to show off the individual skills of the NFLs best players. Among the exceptions to standard league rules, defenses must use a standard 4-3 formation with even spacing. Aside from line slants, no other pass rush tactics are allowed and all linebackers must line up in a two-point stance except in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
There are also strict limits on pass coverage. Man-for-man with a free safety is used with no bump and run, except when the ball is within the opponents 5-yard line. Also, blitzing by both outside linebackers is only allowed in short yardage and goal-line situations.
Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss took full advantage of those restrictions last year, hauling in nine passes for 212 yards and a touch-down en route to Pro Bowl MVP honors. Moss will sit out todays game with bruised ribs, but there are plenty of other offensive threats on both sides.
Moss teammates, Daunte Culpepper, who is the NFCs starting quarterback, and Cris Carter should figure prominently in head coach Dennis Greens plans. The running back corps will be without injured starter Marshall Faulk of St. Louis, but still includes Charlie Garner of San Francisco, Stephen Davis of Washington and Warrick Dunn of Tampa Bay.
The AFC, coached by Oaklands Jon Gruden, will start Raider Rich Gannon at quarterback, Indianapolis Marvin Harrison and Buffalos Eric Moulds at wide receiver, Kansas Citys Tony Gonzales at tight end and Indianapolis Edgerrin James at running back.
"There will be a lot of weapons out there," Gannon said.
Despite the restrictions, there will also be some formidable resistance. The NFCs defensive squad includes Tampa Bays Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, New Yorks Jessie Armstead and New Orleans LaRoi Glover. Junior Seau of San Diego, Mo Lewis of New York and Trevor Pryce of Denver join the Ravens contingent for the AFC.
Tampa Bay guard Randall McDaniel is expected to make his 12th consecutive Pro Bowl start today, breaking a record he shared with Reggie White. Only three other players - Merlin Olsen (14), Bruce Matthews (13) and White (13) - have been selected more times.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Miami defensive end Trace Armstrong will be making his first Pro Bowl appearance. After 12 years in the league, hell start for the AFC.
Notes: 98* will headline todays halftime show. The group will be joined by 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, including hula dancers from Halau Hula O Na Wahine. The national anthem will be sung by Bad Boys/Arista Records stars Dream; Hawaii Ponoi will be sung by OBrian Eselu.
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