Taylor wakes all-stars out of slumber
LET'S be honest. This did not start out as a good Pro Bowl. It was sloppy. It was haphazard. There were bad fumbles, passes went way wide. It was ugly. We were on the brink of the first boos in the history of the Pro Bowl.
And then we did get the first boos in the history of the Pro Bowl. Ouch.
Let's face it. For much of this game one of the biggest highlights was that Hawaii alum Mat McBriar was on his way to averaging 51 yards a punt.
This did not start out as a good Pro Bowl. But then, something happened, the way something always does, and these all-stars awoke, the way they always seem to. And the Pro Bowl was magical, again, at the end, the way it's always seemed to have been, these past few years.
It was The Hit. The Hit did it. Oh, my goodness. Let's ask Larry Allen. Allen has now been picked for 11 Pro Bowls ... Was that one of the biggest hits he's seen in this game?
"That was the biggest one in the HISTORY," Larry Allen said. Without a doubt, the biggest hit in the history of this game.
It was midway through the third quarter, and the AFC, up ugly by a touchdown, was punting for the first time. But then Buffalo punter Brian Moorman faked it, and Washington safety Sean Taylor came up and hit him into Tuesday, Moorman and the football flying 5 yards in the air in separate directions, oh wow. The best all-star collision since Pete Rose taught Ray Fosse a lesson about not blocking the plate.
"I just saw a flash of red," Moorman would say.
That's how big a hit it was. Taylor wore blue.
The place exploded. Everyone went nuts. It was a joyous impact, the kind of hit that makes your heart sing.
By the time you read this, you've probably seen it 11 times.
"It took me a second to realize it didn't hurt so bad," Moorman said. "I mean, I thought I was going to be down forever." It was that kind of hit.
Both teams went crazy in the aftermath, AFC and NFC both. Taylor sprinted for 40 yards in celebration, and Moorman popped up and sprinted 40 yards after him, just to let his tackler know he wasn't deceased. Bill Belichick got in his punter's face to celebrate. What did the coach say?
"He told me we weren't going to run any more fakes," Moorman said.
And then, the game changed, and in the fourth quarter the ugliness receded, and in the final minutes the NFC scored, Anquan Boldin on a long bomb. And then Steve Smith, twisting and diving for 2 points. Holy cow. A tie with 1:48 left.
The AFC driving for the winning field goal, NFC coach Sean Payton as intense as in a playoff game.
Afterward, a frustrated Taylor shook his head, didn't want to talk. The Hit had spoken for itself. Instead he motioned toward teammate Frank Gore's game jersey. "Want to trade me?" Then he changed his mind.
"No," Taylor said. "That's your first one. You keep it."
It's special. This Pro Bowl was particularly memorable.
By the game's final minutes, seems, it turns out they always are.