NFC folds under AFC's nonstop aerial barrage
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
Jon Gruden let his players know right away about his intention to throw the football.
The AFC coach didnt disappoint yesterday as the AFC defeated the NFC, 38-17, in the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium.
|Torry Holt of the NFCs St. Louis Rams, far left, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers. The two wide receivers had little else to celebrate, though, in a 38-17 loss to the AFC in yesterdays Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium.
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"We let them know coming in there arent going to be a lot of runs," said Gruden, coach of the Oakland Raiders. "We wanted to showcase the quarterbacks and skill guys today. The backs caught the ball. They ran it when they had their opportunities."
NFC coach Dennis Green had the same pass-happy philosophy as both teams set a Pro Bowl record by combining for 98 pass attempts. The NFC, which was behind from the very beginning, threw a record 56 passes. Its three quarterbacks completed 28 passes for 297 yards, but were intercepted three times.
The AFCs quarterbacks were more efficient.
Oaklands Rich Gannon, Indianapolis Peyton Manning and Kansas Citys Elvis Grbac combined to complete 32 of 42 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns.
On the games first drive, Gannon completed all six of his passes for 78 yards. The drive culminated with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs.
On the AFCs second drive, Gannon completed 6 of 8 passes for 82 yards. The drive ended on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison of the Colts.
"He ran a little post route," Gannon said. "We had an option route for the tight end. I saw it was three-deep, single coverage outside and I had a good feeling Marvin would win."
Gannon, who was already nursing a separated shoulder and broken clavicle, left the game for good after the second drive. He won the Dan McGuire Award as the Player of the Game.
"Its maybe something I can look back on 10, 15 years from now," Gannon said. "Its being in the right place at the right time."
|With NFC defensive end Hugh Douglas stalking him, AFC QB Rich Gannon gets ready to launch one downfield.
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The NFC went three plays and out on its first two possessions. Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings completed 1 of 6 passes for six yards on the first two drives.
"They got the opening kickoff and they were really sharp," said Green, coach of the Vikings. "Gannon, the MVP, played extremely well.
"It took a little while to get our rhythm on defense, and then we made a few mistakes. We had a couple of dropped balls on offense and fell behind."
On the AFCs third possession, Manning picked up right where Gannon left off. Manning completed 7 of 9 passes for 48 yards. The drive ended when the Baltimore Ravens Matt Stover booted a 29-yard field goal 1:19 into the second quarter.
With 54 seconds remaining in the first half, Manning completed a 2-yard scoring strike to Jimmy Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars. On the drive, Manning completed 4 of 7 passes for 41 yards.
On the AFCs first drive of the second half, Manning completed all three of his passes for 35 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Harrison. The 36-yard drive took five plays and came after a failed on-side kick by the NFC. The touchdown gave the AFC a 31-10 lead.
"If you cant complete some passes to some of these guys as a quarterback, youve got yourself a problem," said Manning, who completed passes to eight teammates.
Manning completed 16 of 22 passes for 150 yards.
Grbac took over late in the third quarter and finished 4-of-6 for 59 yards as the AFC tried to run out the clock.
"Those guys are pinpoint passers," said Green. "When you have the veteran guys with a lot of years in the league, they know a little bit better what to do with the ball against man coverage."
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