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NFC back on top at Pro Bowl

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 5:04 p.m. HST, Jan 29, 2012

On a perfect afternoon for football, the players taking part in the Pro Bowl took it easy on each other at today's NFL All-Star game at Aloha Stadium.

The NFC struck early and often to build a 35-31 advantage over the AFC with 11:12 left in the third quarter. Tied 28-28 at the half, the AFC overcame an early 14-0 deficit to take a 31-28 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski.

The drive was set up on an interception by NFC quarterback Cam Newton, who came right back on the ensuing series and tossed a 55-yard scoring strike to Carolina Panthers teammate Steve Smith as the NFC took back the lead as Akers added his fifth PAT.

The NFC executed its second successful onside kick and Newton was off to the races once more, quickly moving his team into scoring position. But the AFC ended the drive on another Newton intercpetion, this time by Houston defensive back Jonathan Joseph.

Early in the first half, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes 9 seconds apart to Arizona wideout Larry Fitzgerald to set the stage for the NFC, before Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger countered with a pair of his own.

The AFC took the opening kickoff, but had its drive die at the 50 on an errant fourth-down play, setting up the NFC in excellent field position. Rodgers took advantage, driving the NFC 50 yards on eight plays. The last one was a 10-yard scoring strike to Fitzgerald as David Akers added the PAT to make it 7-0 with 9:14 left in the first.

The NFC executed a perfect onside kick, recovering it at the AFC's 44. Rodgers wasted little time finding a wide open Fitzgerald for the touchdown, giving the NFC a 14-0 lead with 9:05 left in the first.

The AFC came back with a nice 78-yard scoring drive of its own as Roethlisberger overcame an interception by Green Bay's Clay Matthews that was fumbled by Chicago's Julius Peppers on the return and recovered by the AFC. Roethlisberger eventually found Cincinatti's A.J. Green on a 34-yard scoring strike as Janikowski added the PAT to make it 14-7 NFC with 6:54 left in the first.

The NFC was driving, but fumbled on its ensuing series. Roethlisberger made the NFC pay by firing a 74-yard touchdown pass to Miami's Brandon Marshall as Janikowski added the PAT to make it 14-14 with 2:35 left in the first.

The NFC regained the lead on a proficient 80-yard drive by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, whose 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Saints teammate Jimmy Graham made it 21-14 with 9:47 in the second quarter as Akers added his third PAT.

But the AFC came right back under the direction of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers as he led his team on a solid 80-yard drive that culminated with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Marshall as Janikowski added his third PAT to draw even 21-21 with 5:22 left in the half.

The NFC came right back with an 80-yard scoring drive that was helped by a converted fake punt. Brees did the rest as the NFC marched steadily down the field, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Green Bay wideout Greg Jennings as Akers added the PAT to make it 28-21 NFC with 2:36 left in the half.

Rivers led the AFC on a nice drive just before the half to make it 28-28 on a 27-yard scoring pass from Rivers to Chargers teammate Antonio Gates as Janikowski added his fourth PAT with no time left on the clock.

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