POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2011
Cleveland center Alex Mack had the unlikely distinction of scoring the final touchdown in yesterday's Pro Bowl shootout won by the NFC 55-41.
With the outcome decided and the tackling pretty much nonexistent, Mack took the second of two laterals after a completion and rumbled into Aloha Stadium's north end zone, punctuating the play with a dive over the goal line.
Just the way Bill Belichick drew it up, right?
"He's the mastermind, he had the whole thing planned out," Mack joked.
"It was definitely a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing."
The play started with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel completing a pass over the middle to teammate Dwayne Bowe, who then tossed it back to Jacksonville's Montell Owens.
Owens took the ball toward the sideline, when he saw Mack coming toward him.
"I was like, 'Should I give it to him? But he was like, 'Come on, come on.' So I said, 'Here you go,' " Owens said with a laugh. "But you know he proved a lot of people wrong and I'm glad I was there for him."
Said Mack: "I can run, I'm an athlete. I might be a lineman, but I've got some speed."
Score 42 points in a half and chances are the punter doesn't get much playing time.
Such was the case for the NFC's Mat McBriar. The former University of Hawaii punter made his only kick of the game count, drilling a 70-yarder that bounced all the way to the AFC 10-yard line.
McBriar occupied the first seat by the door of the same locker room from his UH days. A passer-by complimented him on his 70-yard punt on the first series of the game and told him it set the tone for the NFC win.
"Thanks," he said with a big laugh. "Ya think?"
McBriar's boot came after the NFC went three and out on its first drive. He didn't attempt a punt again as the NFC scored touchdowns on five of its next seven drives to take a 42-7 halftime lead.
It was McBriar's second Pro Bowl in seven NFL seasons and first since 2006, when he became the second Australian player ever to play in the game.
Whether it is having some of the best players in the game on the field or having lax officiating, the game was almost devoid of penalties and had no instant replays.
The first penalty, for the NFC having 12 men on the field, wasn't called until after the halfway point of the second quarter.
For the game, the AFC committed no penalties and the NFC had three for 30 yards, including one 15-yarder for an illegal defense.
Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher set the tone on what would be a turnover-fest of a first half. In all, the NFC intercepted five AFC passes, including four before halftime.
Cowboys tackle Jay Ratliff tipped a Philip Rivers bullet over the middle and Fletcher snatched it, dragging would-be tacklers with him 14 yards over midfield and helping set up the NFC's second touchdown.
"Hey, defense gonna win, boss," Fletcher said. "First time out in Hawaii. It was a great experience. I look forward to coming back."
And then he winked.
NFC kicker David Akers had a busy day, with seven successful extra points and field goals of 41 and 38 yards.
It's been a stressful past several weeks for Akers, who missed two field goals in the Eagles' 21-16 wild-card playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers last month. Akers' contract is up, and the five-time Pro Bowler's 12-year stint with Philadelphia could be over.
Akers revealed recently that at the time of the Packers game, his 6-year-old daughter, Halley Akers, had a malignant cancerous tumor. The tumor has since been removed and doctors say she is free of cancer at this time.
He also hit the upright on a 41-yard attempt.