Owens, Peterson lead NFC comeback

February 10, 2008 7:42:45 PM PST
They could have played this Pro Bowl on the beach with flag football rules. All of which was to the liking of Terrell Owens and Adrian Peterson. Making up for early sloppiness, Owens caught two touchdowns passes, including a 6-yarder from Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia for the winning points in the NFC's comeback 42-30 victory over the AFC on Sunday.

Owens was aided by Offensive Rookie of the Year Peterson, whose 129 yards rushing was the first performance of more than 100 yards since Marshall Faulk had 180 and Chris Warren added 127 in 1995. The Minnesota running back scored twice as the NFC rallied from a 24-7 deficit, earning himself MVP honors.

Faulk is the only other rookie to be voted MVP of the Pro Bowl.

Neither side held back the tricks, to the delight of the sellout crowd of 50,044 at Aloha Stadium. There was a fake punt, a throwback kickoff return and a handful of fourth-down gambles.

One of those was a 34-yard pass to Owens from fellow Cowboy Tony Romo that sparked the comeback. Before that huge play, Owens had a pair of ugly drops that drew boos.

He quickly turned them into cheers.

The 48 first-half points tied the Pro Bowl record for the first two periods. The only punt of the half turned into a fake and an 11-yard completion from San Francisco's Andy Lee to Minnesota fullback Tony Richardson. After Peterson gained 24 yards on two plays, Romo threw to Larry Fitzgerald, who dived across the goal line to tie it at 7.

On the opening drive, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez set the frenetic pace with completions of 31 and 25 yards around a botched snap that cost the AFC 20 yards. Browns receiver Braylon Edwards, one of 41 newcomers (including injured players) beat Seattle's Marcus Trufant on another 31-yarder before Lorenzo Neal dived in from the 1. The San Diego fullback, a 15-year veteran, scored his first Pro Bowl touchdown.

The scoring never abated. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught TD throws of 16 yards from Manning and 1 from Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. The Cincinnati receiver's second score came after Antonio Cromartie, the league's interception leader, returned a tipped pass 56 yards to the AFC 29.

Just before that, a comical kickoff runback attempt by Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware resulted in a fumble at the NFC 29 recovered by Baltimore's Ed Reed. Tennessee's Rob Bironas kicked a 33-yard field goal.

With the AFC on top 24-7, Romo and Owens got their team back in it. The big play before Owens' 6-yard TD catch was a fourth-and-13 conversion that Owens broke for 34 yards to the 7.

After Bironas nailed a 48-yarder, the NFC continued its comeback. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was particularly sharp on a 77-yard touchdown drive he capped with a 17-yard pass to Redskins tight end Chris Cooley. Peterson broke two tackles on a 39-yard run to spark the series, and that was two fewer tacklers than he avoided on his 17-yard jaunt down the left sideline for a 28-27 NFC lead early in the third quarter.

A pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, of all things, against the NFC for illegal defenses allowed Bironas to make his third field goal, a 28-yarder to recapture the lead.

That prompted more shenanigans on the NFC's kickoff return. Bears record-setter Devin Hester ran right for 14 yards, then threw a perfect spiral to his left to Jason Witten. The tight end, one of 13 Cowboys in the game, showed some nice open-field moves in adding 35 yards to the runback.

Then Cromartie got his second pick when Rams wideout Torry Holt deflected Garcia's pass into the Chargers cornerback's hands. Quite a debut for someone who barely played before the 2007 season.

But it was Peterson's debut that was most impressive. He finished off the scoring with a 6-yard romp with 2:43 remaining.

The AFC leads the series 20-18.


Load Comments