AFC wins Pro Bowl, out scores NFC in South Florida drizzle

MIAMI—In its new role as a warmup to the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl became a series of wind sprints.Long gains were the rule and hard hitting was the exception as the AFC beat the NFC 41-34 on Sunday night.Light showers fell for much of the game, stirring memories of a rainy Super Bowl in Miami three years ago. But uniforms remained mostly spotless, with more pushing and shoving than tackling. The Bears Jonny Knox got to return four kicks for a total of 103 yards.Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans threw for 189 yards and two AFC scores, and was chosen the most valuable player.Aaron Rodgers also threw two touchdown passes, and NFC teammate DeSean Jackson had two scoring catches. From the standpoint of ticket sales, this year’s new venue and slot on the league calendar was a success. The crowd of 70,697 was the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959 in Los Angeles. Spectators included Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and other Pro Bowl players from the Super Bowl teams. Manning and the Indianapolis Colts will face Brees and the New Orleans Saints on the same field next Sunday in the biggest game of the season. The NFL sought to transform the Pro Bowl into a bigger game by playing it before the Super Bowl for the first time. In a one-year experiment, the league also moved the game from Honolulu, its home since 1980.The stadium was half empty by the third quarter, perhaps partly because of the rain and temperatures in the 60s. It was sunny and 82 in Honolulu at game time. Eager to host more big events, the Dolphins have proposed adding a roof that would cover fans as part of stadium improvements that could cost $250 million or more. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the upgrades are needed if South Florida is to remain competitive in bidding for future Super Bowls.Nearly 40 percent of the players originally selected for the game didn’t play. One of the AFC replacements, David Garrard, threw for 183 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson. Vincent Jackson made seven catches for 122 yards. Chad Ochocinco had a 40-yard reception but didn’t do any kicking after practicing placements and punts for the AFC during the week.DeSean Jackson scored on a 7-yard pass from Rodgers and a 58-yard pass from Donovan McNabb, his regular quarterback with the Eagles. There were plenty of other big plays. Joshua Cribbs caught a punt at the goal line and returned it 65 yards. A penalty negated LaMarr Woodley’s 64-interception return for a touchdown. The AFC totaled 517 yards and the NFC 470. Both teams threw for more than 400 yards.Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, a 12-year veteran playing in his first Pro Bowl, found the AFC’s offensive approach exhausting.The game will return to Honolulu in 2011 and 2012, but the league hasn’t decided whether to hold those games before or after the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl site for 2013 and beyond hasn’t been determined.

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