|Date of game: 1/29/2012
Recap: A-F-C vs. N-F-C
Honolulu, HI (Sports Network) - Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught a Pro Bowl-record four touchdown passes, as the AFC downed the NFC, 59-41, Sunday at Aloha Stadium.
Marshall had six catches for 177 yards -- the second-most in Pro Bowl history, hauled in a pair of dazzling second-half touchdown passes from Bengals rookie Andy Dalton and earned MVP honors for the effort.
Ben Roethlisberger, elevated to AFC starter due to Tom Brady's upcoming Super Bowl appearance, threw for 182 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the victors, while Philip Rivers had a pair of TD passes and a pick.
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both threw two touchdowns without an interception for the NFC, while the Saints' signal caller went 0-for-1 on extra point attempts.
Panthers rookie Cam Newton, pitted against Dalton for the entire second half, threw two touchdowns but had three interceptions -- two to San Diego's Eric Weddle -- in a rough Pro Bowl debut. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald nearly matched Marshall, reeling in six passes for 111 yards and three scores in defeat.
Sunday's game marked the third consecutive year that the Pro Bowl was played one week prior to the Super Bowl. As a result, the AFC and NFC were without eight Patriots and two Giants, respectively. Brady's absence, along with that of Eli Manning, facilitated the inclusion of Dalton and Newton.
Carolina's No. 1 overall pick was at the foreground of the national spotlight this season, throwing for 21 touchdowns and rushing for an NFL quarterback record 14 scores for the 6-10 Panthers. Dalton, meanwhile, flourished in the background, leading the upstart Bengals to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth. On Sunday, the touted rookies took to the field, with Dalton eventually coming out on top.
They entered a game tied at 28 points apiece in the third and Newton was intercepted by Weddle four plays in, leading to a 37-yard field goal from the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski. Newton came back with a 55-yard TD bomb to leaping teammate Steve Smith and got another chance after San Francisco's David Akers converted his second successful on-sides kick of the game.
This time he was intercepted by Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Dalton then moved his team the NFC 10, but his rookie teammate A.J. Green fumbled away the ball at the goal line.
An NFC three-and-out preceded Marshall's dazzling 47-yard touchdown grab. Prone in the end zone, the sixth-year wideout kicked a deflected Dalton bomb out of the air and snared it for a 38-35 AFC lead.
Ravens' fullback Vonta Leach made it 45-35, bulling in from one yard out as Newton continued to trade punts for scores. Another NFC three-and-out led to Marshall's twisting, over-the-shoulder TD grab.
Weddle then came up with his second pick, corralling a Newton pass and turning upfield before fumbling. Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 58 yards for the score and a 59-35 lead.
Newton hit Fitzgerald for a 36-yard touchdown in the closing minutes. The score remained 59-41 after Brees attempted a drop-kick extra point, which floundered harmlessly beneath the crossbar.
Earlier, part of the Packers contingent staked the NFC to an 14-0 lead, as coach Mike McCarthy opted for an on-sides kick after Rodgers opened the scoring with a touchdown pass to Fitzgerald. Akers executed the kick deftly and Chicago's Charles Tillman recovered, leading to Fitzgerald's 44- yard touchdown haul on the ensuing play.
Roethlisberger answered with a long TD strike to Green, then hit Marshall for a longer TD after a fumble from Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy.
In the second, the AFC went to Rivers, who was promptly intercepted by Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson. The NFC countered with Brees, who executed an 80-yard drive and hit teammate Jimmy Graham for a short TD and a 21-14 advantage.
Rivers and Brees then traded scoring strikes, with the Chargers signal caller hitting Marshall for 29 yards and Brees going to Packer Greg Jennings for an 11-yard connection. Rivers found teammate Antonio Gates for a game-tying 27-yard TD directly before the half.Game Notes
Marshall's 177 receiving yards were second only to Randy Moss' 212 in Pro Bowl history...Dalton and Newton became the first rookies at the quarterback position to make the Pro Bowl since Vince Young during the 2006 season...Houston's Gary Kubiak coached the AFC...The all-time Pro Bowl series between the conferences is now tied at 21...This was the 32nd time in the past 33 years that the Pro Bowl was played at Aloha Stadium, with the 2010 edition taking place at Miami's Sun Life Stadium.