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NFC gets down, not out in record-setting Pro Bowl

Associated Press
Published February 9, 2004

HONOLULU - There was nothing relaxing about Sunday afternoon in Hawaii. The highest-scoring Pro Bowl in history also might have been the most exciting edition of the NFL's all-star game.

MVP Marc Bulger threw a Pro Bowl-record four TDs, and Detroit's Dre' Bly returned an interception 32 yards for the go-ahead score with 4:50 left during the NFC's rally from an 18-point deficit in the final 13 minutes of a 55-52 victory over the AFC.

And it was not over until Indianapolis' Mike Vanderjagt - the automatic kicker who did not miss a field goal or extra point all season - was barely wide right on a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

"It's going to be tough to match, if I make it back in the future," Bulger said.

The 25th straight sellout crowd at Aloha Stadium loved the thriller as both teams' players competed for the $35,000 given to each winner. With 42 points in the helter-skelter fourth quarter, the teams easily topped the 82 total scored in 2000.

Shaun Alexander had three touchdowns for the NFC, which scored 28 straight in the fourth to set the scoring record for a single team. Torry Holt caught seven passes for 128 yards and a score.

Bly, Corey Chavous and Champ Bailey all had fourth-quarter interceptions.

Thanks to a surge that had the stars dancing on the sidelines, the NFC won for the second time in eight meetings. First-time Pro Bowl players Bulger, Alexander and Bly led the way in a game with newcomers filling almost half the rosters.

Peyton Manning passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns but could not stop the AFC from falling apart.

Manning threw a 10-yard touchdown to Hines Ward with 1:54 left, and after Bulger threw an end-zone interception, Manning led the AFC into scoring territory. But he was sacked with four seconds left, and Vanderjagt barely missed for the second time Sunday.

Bucs receiver Keenan McCardell scored on 2-yard pass from Bulger in the third quarter.

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