POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2011
High atop the upper deck of Aloha Stadium the names of past Pro Bowl most valuable players are colorfully emblazoned on the end-zone facades.
Amid mention of all the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs, you've got to look long and hard to find any defensive backs. Even place-kickers are plentiful by comparison.
A point not lost on Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, yesterday's MVP, who said he now looks forward "to seeing my name up there next year."
Which tells you a lot about yesterday's 55-41 NFC victory over the AFC or, at least more than the score does. It was a game in which the DBs, led by Hall's interception and 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown, were the stars and the QBs were the straight men with six interceptions.
While fans came to see Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel, who got picked twice, and Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan, intercepted once each, it was the secondaries that became the primary attractions. Four interceptions of AFC quarterbacks helped the NFC to a 42-0 second-quarter lead in a performance not nearly as competitive or exciting as the final score.
For the first time since 1999, a defensive back emerged as the MVP and a runaway one at that. Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, who had an interception, said, "Anytime we can take it (the limelight) away, that's good."
Well maybe not in the long run, especially coming as it does on top of the NFL's reverse scheduling that has the Pro Bowl preceding rather than following the Super Bowl as had been the case for the previous 30 years of the event's existence here.
Last year in Florida was the debut of the Pro Bowl as a lead-in to the Super Bowl, as the NFL likes to call it. Which, of course, means no longer do Super Bowl teams send their players, which this year meant missing out on the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in addition to the usual injury dropouts, real and fabricated.
Overall, 29 players selected to Pro Bowl rosters this year sat this one out, 10 of them Super Bowl-bound, approximating last year's figures.
Which might have had something to do with the second smallest announced distribution of tickets (49,331) of the game here. And the fact that, from the looks of it, only about 45,000 made their way through the traffic snarls to their seats.
About 30 of them were part of Hall's family and friends group, explaining part of his appreciation at earning a $45,000 winners' share. 'I had to have it, man," acknowledged Hall, who also got a GMC Denali for being the MVP.
Hall got here as a Redskin with a penchant for making big plays, including two touchdowns and six interceptions. He tied a league record for interceptions in a game (four). Remarkably, he did it on a Redskins team that was near the NFL bottom in several major defensive categories, including pass defense.
For Hall, who was selected to the 2006 and '07 Pro Bowl squads as a Falcon but missed out for the next three years, this year was self-billed as his "comeback tour. This year I really set my sights on getting back over here (to Hawaii)," he said.
Next year, it will be the AFC offense's turn to make a comeback.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.