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Gannon shines, leads AFC to Pro Bowl win
HONOLULU -- This might not make up for a snowy overtime loss to New England in the playoffs. Still, Rich Gannon came away with more than just a win in the Pro Bowl.
He became the first two-time MVP after leading the AFC to a 38-30 victory over the NFC on Saturday.
"You look around and you've got the best receivers, the best tight end, and the best line," said Gannon, also the MVP last year. "It's like a dream come true for a quarterback. If I could have this every week, we'd be in business."
Gannon threw two touchdown passes, including a 55-yard strike to Marvin Harrison for the squad's first score after trailing 10-0. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 137 yards and the teams combined for 34 first-quarter points, the most points in a quarter in the Pro Bowl.
"It's awesome, did you see him?" AFC backup quarterback Tom Brady said. "He does a great job seeing the whole field. It's something I'm trying to pick up on."
Six days after leading the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl win, Brady was the third-string quarterback. The 24-year-old Super Bowl MVP waited patiently on the sideline for his turn, tucking the football under his left arm, then shifting it to his right hand.
Brady sat alone on the end of the bench minutes before halftime, his eyes fixed on the highlights of the Patriots' victory over St. Louis last Sunday showing on the big screen. His hat was on straight for a while, then he turned it backward.
Brady finally got his chance with 14:16 left, with the AFC well on its way to winning its fifth Pro Bowl in six years.
"You get bored sitting there watching," Brady said. "I'm used to playing. ... You listen to the calls and try to stay in it mentally."
A human rainbow of red, white and blue covered the field in a patriotic pregame ceremony that featured a bald eagle soaring through the stadium and a flyover by Hawaii Air National Guard F-15s. The temperature at kickoff was 74 degrees and the sun came out a day after both teams canceled practice because of a downpour.
Brady finished 2-of-5 for 22 yards and an interception to Washington's Champ Bailey that led to an NFC touchdown. He hadn't been picked off since outdueling Gannon in the Pats' 16-13 overtime playoff victory in the snow last month in Foxboro, Mass.
Oakland receiver Tim Brown knew Gannon would make an impression no matter how limited his playing time.
"He just gets the job done and makes plays," Brown said.
One member of the Super Bowl champions did dazzle. Ty Law intercepted Donovan McNabb's pass late in the game and ran 31 yards before pitching the ball to Ray Lewis, who went 13 yards for the AFC's final touchdown.
It's not just the pretty plays that make a Pro Bowl.
Gannon raised his throwing arm into the air to celebrate an ugly 30-yard completion to Troy Brown in the first quarter. Gannon handed off to Priest Holmes, who pitched the ball back to Gannon and he threw a wobbly pass downfield that was so underthrown that Brown had to run several yards back toward the line of scrimmage to haul it in. Holmes went on to score on the drive.
Green Bay's Ahman Green quickly became part of Pro Bowl history in his first appearance. His 2-yard touchdown run for the NFC 27 seconds into the game was the fastest score in the game's existence.
"I did my job, something I've been doing well all year for my team," Green said. "I'm just doing my job here in the Pro Bowl."
Philadelphia kicker David Akers made field goals of 41 and 49 yards before missing short on a 62-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
The winning AFC players earned $30,000, while the NFC took home $15,000.
Notes: Oakland's Shane Lechler broke the game's punting record twice, with kicks of 70 and 73 yards. ... The attendance of 50,301 marked the 23rd consecutive sellout in as many years played in Hawaii. It was the largest crowd since 1991. ... The AFC picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty for failing to have a safety on the field in the first quarter.