Everything in Fitz's favor in Pro Bowl
HONOLULU — Larry Fitzgerald enjoyed being the chased, not the chaser.
In the Super Bowl, a goal-line pass intended for Fitzgerald was intercepted and returned by James Harrison a record 100 yards for a spectacular touchdown.
At the Pro Bowl, it was Fitzgerald scoring on a big play to end the half as Harrison watched.
A week ago, Fitzgerald caught a 64-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass late in the game, only to see Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger engineer a 78-yard winning drive.
This time around, Fitzgerald's late go-ahead score Sunday held up in a 30-21 victory for the NFC.
In Hawaii, everything seemed to work in Fitz's favor.
Fitzgerald caught five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns, 44-year-old John Carney kicked two fourth-quarter field goals, and the NFC rallied to victory over the AFC. The Arizona Cardinals' All-Pro receiver, coming off a record-breaking postseason and a spectacular Super Bowl in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, earned MVP honors.
But the victory over the AFC, which featured three members of the Steelers' defense, didn't seem to ease the pain from the Super Bowl.
"No, not one bit," he said.
With the win, Fitzgerald and his NFC teammates earned $45,000. He also earned keys to a new Cadillac, along with his gleaming, silver MVP trophy.
However, he'd much rather have his million-dollar hands on the Lombardi Trophy.
"I'm just glad we won, that's the most important thing," he said.
Cardinals teammate Kurt Warner started for the NFC and played just one series before making way for Drew Brees. Warner was just 1-of-2 for 8 yards.
"I would've liked to have won last week and not this week, if I could switch them out," Warner said.
Fitzgerald caught a 46-yard scoring pass from Brees before the half and a 2-yard TD lob from Eli Manning for the go-ahead score with 4:07 to play.
The NFC defense took care of the rest.
Eli Manning, making his Pro Bowl debut, was 8-of-14 for 111 yards. While big brother Peyton had better stats, 12-of-17 for 151 yards and a TD, Eli got the win.
"He didn't play the whole second half, so it's not about beating my brother, it's just about having fun," Eli Manning said.
The Mannings were the first quarterback brothers in Pro Bowl history. And Carney, who was a perfect 3-for-3, became the oldest player in the game's history. He booted a 48-yarder with 2:06 remaining to make it 27-21 and sealed the win with a 26-yarder with 32 seconds to go.
Peyton said the family rivalry wasn't that important.
"We always want to win the game, but I hope everyone stays healthy and has a good offseason and go back to work the next year," he said.
Sunday's all-star game ended a successful 30-year run at Aloha Stadium, with a sellout every year. The Pro Bowl will be played in Miami next year, a week before the Super Bowl. The NFL, which has been looking to increase the profile of the game, hopes to bring the game back to Hawaii.
The players, who spent most of the week by the beach and sipping umbrella-adorned mai tais, were pretty unanimous in wanting the game to return.
"Unfortunately, it's not going to be here next year, but hopefully in a couple of years it will be back," Fitzgerald said.
A more pressing question now is whether this was Warner's final game in the NFL or, as a free agent, will he opt to continue playing at age 38?
"I don't know right now," Warner said. "Again, when I have a feeling one way or the other, I'll let everyone else know. I don't have a time frame. This is the first time right now that I am done having to think about football for a while, and I'm going to enjoy that part of it."
The AFC was looking to hula dance into halftime with a comfortable 14-3 cushion after Kerry Collins connected with Owen Daniels on a 9-yard scoring pass with 28 seconds left in the half.
However, that was more than enough time for the NFC.
The NFC took over at its 45 with 19 seconds left after a nice kickoff return by Clifton Smith. They ran two plays before Fitzgerald hauled in Brees' 46-yard bomb with fellow All-Pro Cortland Finnegan on his back as time expired to pull the NFC to 14-10.
It made for two huge end-of-the-half plays in consecutive weeks for Fitzgerald. But this time, rather than trying — and failing — to chase down James Harrison on his 100-yard interception returned for a TD, Fitzgerald was the one celebrating.
"It was just a go route. Drew was doing a good job of putting it out there and giving me an opportunity," Fitzgerald said.
He also beat Finnegan on his second score.
The AFC had a chance to take the lead late, but Julius Peppers got in the way. Down by six, the AFC started its drive on its 20 with 4:03 remaining and got to midfield. Peppers then swatted a pass by Jay Cutler with his left hand and came up with the interception that led to Carney's 48-yard field goal.