Posted at 9:55 p.m., Sunday, February 13, 2005
AFC cruises past NFC in Pro Bowl
By Greg Beacham
Manning threw three touchdown passes to extend his career record in the NFL's all-star game, while Vick led the NFC to 17 points in a second-half comeback that fell short in the AFC's 38-27 victory today.
Pittsburgh's Hines Ward caught a touchdown pass and returned an onside kick for a score, and three Chargers stars led the clinching TD drive in the fourth quarter of the AFC's seventh victory in nine meetings.
Manning, the regular-season MVP after breaking Dan Marino's NFL record with 49 touchdown passes, completed just six passes for 130 yards. But three were spectacular scoring tosses, and the Colts quarterback was named the MVP in his fifth trip to the Pro Bowl.
The game didn't quite have the offensive fireworks of last season's 107-point marathon, but Manning and Vick thrilled the 26th straight sellout crowd at Aloha Stadium with exhibitions of their strengths: Manning's expert throws and Vick's jaw-dropping elusiveness and creativity.
Manning has thrown 11 TD passes in the Pro Bowl, four more than any quarterback in NFL history. He hit Colts teammate Marvin Harrison, Ward and San Diego's Antonio Gates in the first 25 minutes while the AFC built a 28-10 halftime lead.
But Vick was determined to make a splash in his first trip to Hawai'i - and with the Atlanta coaching staff calling the plays, he led three straight scoring drives after entering the game in the third quarter. Vick was 14-of-24 for 205 yards and a score, nimbly avoiding several sacks along the way.
The NFC got within 31-27 on David Akers' field goal, but the AFC's San Diego connection took over. Drew Brees hit Gates for a 33-yard gain on a flea-flicker play selected by fans in an online vote, and LaDainian Tomlinson finished the drive with a 4-yard TD run with 5:15 to play.
Harrison scored on a 62-yard pass from his Indianapolis teammate in the first quarter, tying Jimmy Smith's career record with his fifth Pro Bowl touchdown. Ward followed with a 41-yard TD catch on a pinpoint throw from Manning, and he celebrated with a goofy hula dance with Vili the Warrior, the University of Hawai'i's mascot.
Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook scored on a 12-yard run later in the half - but when the NFC tried an onside kick, Ward leaped for the ball and outran several defenders, avoiding tackles and somersaulting through the end zone.
It was the first touchdown on a kickoff return in the 55-year history of the Pro Bowl.
Vick went 4-of-6 and hit Torry Holt for a 27-yard touchdown play in the first series of his first Pro Bowl appearance. Vick, a four-year veteran, had to drop out of the 2003 game with an injury.
Vick led another scoring drive moments later, diving over the goal line for a 3-yard score - even though his helmet was knocked off his head by Baltimore's Ed Reed, the NFL's defensive player of the year.
While Manning and Vick starred, the Super Bowl quarterbacks had considerably quieter days. NFC starter Donovan McNabb went 1-for-8 with an interception, while Tom Brady was 4-for-9 for 48 yards in two series yielding one field goal.
The Giants' Tiki Barber rushed for 70 yards in his first Pro Bowl, and St. Louis' Torry Holt caught five passes for 99 yards.