RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman of the AFC brought down Redskins tight end Chris Cooley yesterday. Cooley and three Washington teammates wore No. 21 on their jerseys in the Pro Bowl to honor slain teammate Sean Taylor, who was killed by a gunshot in November.
Biggest hit had little impact
The biggest hit of the Pro Bowl yesterday didn't really matter.
Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel dealt the blow, knocking Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald away from a pass by Matt Hasselbeck with 11:50 left in the third quarter. It was the kind of hit that gets everyone's attention and is often a rallying point in a close game. But the NFC won anyway, 42-30 at Aloha Stadium.
The AFC led 27-21 at the time of Samuel's play but, four plays later, game MVP Adrian Peterson ran 17 yards to give the NFC its first lead.
"Yeah, I thought it would (change momentum)," Samuel said. "Unfortunately it didn't, so they got the money ($40,000 per player winners' share compared to $20,000 for the AFC).
"You get a week of practice with a bunch of guys you never played with before and you got to get the chemistry down. It's kind of hard."
Still, Samuel's hit was the talk of the Patriots contingent in the AFC locker room.
"Who?" linebacker Mike Vrabel asked in jest. "I heard about it, I saw him flexing his muscles. He don't want to hit, but he can. He's a great player and he's been playing like that the past five years.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork laughed.
"Every now and then he lays the wood, and he did that time. I've seen it here and there, and it was the turning point, except we couldn't get off the field," Wilfork said.
Samuel and Fitzgerald shook hands when they took the field to start the next series.
Cooley got one for Taylor
Washington tight end Chris Cooley
was the recipient of a 17-yard touchdown pass from Seattle QB Hasselbeck in the second quarter.
Cooley and two Redskins teammates, long-snapper Ethan Albright and tackle Chris Samuels, all wore No. 21 jerseys in honor of former Washington star defensive back Sean Taylor, who was shot to death in November.
On the AFC's first play from scrimmage, the NFC put 10 players on the field instead of 11 to mark the moment for Taylor, who was posthumously voted into the Pro Bowl as a starter.
"It was really something, to make a play for him," Cooley said after his TD grab. "I definitely did (feel his presence). It came right after they showed Sean's highlight video on the big screen."
Hester can pass
In the official scorebook, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten
caught three passes for 38 yards, but that doesn't take into account another catch he made in the third quarter.
It didn't come from any of the three NFC quarterbacks, either. Instead, Witten nabbed Devin Hester's long, cross-field lateral on a kickoff return. The whole play covered 49 yards, including 35 by Hester.
"No, that wasn't a planned play," Witten said. "We just went with it and it worked out pretty good. I got back there for him and waited for him to throw it to me. I didn't know Devin had the quarterback in him."
Green Bay's Aaron Kampman
had some middle-of-the field meetings with AFC quarterbacks Peyton Manning
and Derek Anderson
. They weren't the friendly kind of postgame chats, either.
After a bad snap to Manning in the first quarter, Kampman chased the Indianapolis star down for a 20-yard loss. The Packers defensive end wasn't credited with a sack due to the broken play.
In the last quarter, Kampman cut to the inside to sack Anderson for an 11-yard loss.
"The first one was just one of those lucky things. It was a fumbled snap (officially, center Jeff Saturday made the gaffe) and I ran back and made the play," Kampman said. "The other one, things just worked out. I saw the nose tackle pinch to one side and there was a clear path and I came inside and got him."
Disobeying the rules
The NFC committed eight penalties for 56 yards, and twice got flagged for playing illegal defenses on the same drive.
On the AFC's first drive of the second half, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis and Minnesota's Darren Sharper were both flagged for illegally blitzing Anderson.
That came two plays after Green Bay cornerback Al Harris was penalized for illegally stepping up and playing press coverage on Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne.
Extra rules are put in place during the Pro Bowl to give offenses a chance to put up more points, while keeping the players safe.
"I was just trying to put my stamp on it," Harris said of the penalty. "Nah, I just slipped up a little bit. I didn't know it was going to be a 15-yarder though."
Even with the extra 30 yards, the AFC only managed a 28-yard field goal by Tennessee's Rob Bironas.
Fans boo the AFC champs
During team introductions, the New England Patriots banner and six players were booed by the sellout Aloha Stadium crowd. When the Super Bowl champion New York Giants' banner was brought out, with lone representative Osi Umenyiora
, he received some of the loudest cheers.