AFC edges NFC on Kaeding's field goal
Saturday, February 10th 2007, 3:17 pm
By: News On 6
HONOLULU (AP) _ When the laid-back Pro Bowl got tense and tight in the final minutes, the AFC still had the edge.
Nate Kaeding kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired to cap another strong drive led by MVP Carson Palmer in the AFC's 31-28 victory over the comeback-minded NFC on Saturday in the 57th edition of the NFL's all-star game.
The NFC trailed 28-14 with 3 minutes to play before injecting a little drama into this normally mellow exhibition. Steven Jackson scored on a 4th-down TD run, and Ronde Barber recovered an onside kick to set up Anquan Boldin's 47-yard TD catch from Tony Romo with 1:48 left _ followed by a tying 2-point conversion catch by Carolina's Steve Smith.
Palmer, who passed for 190 yards and 2-touchdowns, calmly got the AFC across midfield _ and then Arizona's Adrian Wilson foolishly leveled Chad Johnson at the goal line before Palmer's long pass got to his Cincinnati teammate.
The 39-yard pass-interference penalty put the ball near the goal line, and San Diego's Kaeding easily made his field goal, setting off fireworks at sold-out Aloha Stadium for the star-studded AFC's eighth win in the last 11 Pro Bowls.
Palmer threw a 42-yard TD pass to Johnson and a 72-yarder to Reggie Wayne, and Baltimore's Ed Reed intercepted 2-passes before the frantic finish. Palmer, who took over for Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning after just two series, went 8-17 in his second Pro Bowl.
League MVP LaDainian Tomlinson also ran for a score as the AFC underlined its regular-season superiority, earning a $40,000 bonus for each player in addition to the paid Hawaiian vacation.
But until the finish, neither side cared much about the result in the league's annual postseason showcase. Instead, they welcomed new stars such as Vince Young _ the first rookie quarterback here since Dan Marino in 1984 _ and said goodbye to older pros who won't be back.
Tiki Barber, the New York Giants' running back who's retiring after a 10-year career, scored on a 1-yard run in the 2nd-quarter. Kansas City guard Will Shields, who appeared in his record-tying 12th Pro Bowl, also is contemplating retirement.
Reed tied the Pro Bowl record for interceptions by picking off two terrible throws, and Ravens teammate Adalius Thomas returned Marc Bulger's fumble 70 yards for a confusing score.
But there was no confusion about the game's best play: Sean Taylor, the maverick Washington safety, broke the unwritten rule about hard hits in an exhibition when he viciously leveled Buffalo punter Brian Moorman on an attempted fake in the 3rd-quarter.
Barber rushed for just 4-yards on 7-carries, but scored the game's first touchdown. He got a standing ovation from the crowd and his fellow players when a video tribute to his career was shown on the scoreboard with 1:58 to play.
Romo passed for 156 yards in the 2nd-half, and San Francisco's Frank Gore made an early TD run. But until the end, the NFC's effort wasn't spectacular: Chicago rookie Devin Hester tripped over his own feet on the opening kickoff, and Barber threw an interception on a gadget play.
Hester, who returned the first kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown, made up for his error _ and his poor coverage on Wayne's 72-yard TD catch _ with an electrifying 63-yard punt return in the 4th-quarter.
The crowd actually booed Romo in the 2nd-half as the NFC's early comeback attempt stalled, but the Dallas quarterback led three strong final drives. He was stopped on a 4th-down quarterback keeper on the first drive, but after Young fumbled, Jackson made a gutsy scoring run on another 4th-down with 2:54 to play.
The NFC tried a fake on the conversion attempt, but Romo _ who had no trouble holding for kicks after his infamous flub in a playoff loss to Seattle _ couldn't find an open receiver.
Manning capped his week of tropical relaxation with 67 yards passing in just two series as the AFC's starting quarterback. NFC starter Drew Brees also played just two series before dislocating his left elbow _ a scary moment for his Pro Bowl coach, Sean Payton, but one that's unlikely to affect next season.