PRO BOWL 2008
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu wrapped up Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez in the first quarter. Tatupu had three tackles.
Peterson runs wild
The Vikings rookie standout piles up 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns
Momentum, always fickle, is even more so in all-star games.
And when you get a good thing going, you can't always stay with it.
Such was the case in yesterday's Pro Bowl. If Peyton Manning played as much of the game as Adrian Peterson did, the outcome might have been reversed.
Peterson dominated, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns as the NFC won 42-30.
"It's wonderful. I'm truly blessed," said Peterson, after becoming the first Pro Bowl player since Marshall Faulk in 1995 to rush for more than 100 yards and also the first rookie since Faulk to win the game's MVP award.
"Hopefully I'll be coming here next year after a Super Bowl win," the Minnesota Viking said.
Manning played just the first quarter, departing after a typically stellar showing. He led three scoring drives, and the AFC was up 17-7 when he called it a day.
"You don't want to come out of the game, but at the same time I think most of the guys want to come out of the game healthy," Manning said.
Ben Roethlisberger and Derek Anderson were far less effective, combining to complete 15 of 35 passes for 145 yards. Manning accounted for 2 more yards in less than half as many passes -- he was 11-for-16.
"(Manning) wanted to play one stretch," AFC coach Norv Turner said. "He got warm and played one stretch. We planned on Ben playing most of the third quarter. But his groin was sore and that's whay Derek played the whole second half."
Meanwhile, Peterson was a constant force, with 78 of his yards coming on six first-half carries and his two touchdowns after intermission. His 6-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left iced the game, earning the NFC players the $40,000 winners' shares, while the AFC players got $20,000 each.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adrian Peterson of the Vikings (28) celebrated his game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter with teammate Tony Richardson.
The AFC ran out of bullets in this shootout, scoring just a field goal after halftime and frittering away a lead that was once 24-7.
"There are a lot of good players out here," Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "And if you don't match them score for score and get stops, you're going to have a hard time winning a game like this."
Peterson said the Aloha Stadium heat didn't bother him.
"Oh yeah. I'm from Texas, so I'm used to the sunshine," he said.
And if this game was supposed to be played at a waltz tempo rather than rock-and-roll, Peterson didn't get the right sheet of music.
"I only know one speed. That's full speed," he said. "I came out with the mind-set to do whatever I could do to help my team.
"For me it's always business when I step on the field. I never take a play off."
Tony Romo, who threw two touchdown passes to keep the NFC in the game, said he didn't notice any cruising on either side of the ball.
"It didn't feel half-speed," Romo said. "I kind of went into it thinking the same thing. When you get here, these guys are real competitive. They are all in this position for a reason. They enjoy winning. It showed out there."
Not that it wasn't fun ... Devin Hester ended one of his kickoff returns (five for 165) with an impromptu cross-field pass to Jason Witten that was more accurate than some of the quarterbacks' efforts. It got the NFC 35 more invisible yards.
There was also a fake punt by the NFC (successful, as Andy Lee hit Tony Richardson for 11 yards), and a seemingly successful onside kick by the AFC, recovered by Champ Bailey. But Ed Reed was offsides on the play. On the do-over, the Ravens safety redeemed himself by pouncing on DeMarcus Ware's fumble.
But there was nothing bizarre about Peterson's 17-yard sprint down the sideline with 9:49 left in the third quarter that gave the NFC its first lead, 28-27. He made plays like it all season.
Of course, it wasn't just Peterson. He called it a "group effort."
There was Terrell Owens, who bounced back from two drops to catch eight passes for 101 yards and two scores.
One of the TD passes came from his old San Francisco teammate, Jeff Garcia. Garcia was sharp, with eight completions in 10 attempts.
Garcia did fall victim to one of Antonio Cromartie's Pro Bowl-record-tying two interceptions. Cromartie, who had returned an earlier pick of Tony Romo 56 yards to set up a TD, went 21 with this one, to the AFC 42.
Turner saw this as a lost opportunity, since the AFC then went three and out. Garcia then led the NFC down the field, capping the go-ahead drive with his 6-yard scoring pass to Owens.
"If (Cromartie had) stayed along the right sideline I think he probably would've scored," Turner said.
Defensively, the NFC allowed just 98 yards after halftime.
"We switched it up once we figured out what they were doing," Packers cornerback Al Harris said. "They were stretching us out on some plays."
But the most important thing the AFC wasn't doing was having Manning throw the passes. And Peterson was still running the ball for the NFC.
"I've seen Adrian Peterson first-hand and he's a great player," Turner said. "He's going to be over here for many years and he's going to make a strong impression every time he's here."