MIAMI — The whole idea of moving the Pro Bowl to the mainland from Hawaii looked like a blunder even before kickoff.
A persistent rain fell at Sun Life Stadium and did so throughout the first half, leaving the field slick for the NFL's all-star showcase. Meanwhile, in Honolulu, where the game is usually staged, the forecast called for uninterrupted sun and highs in the 80s.
And let's not talk about the steady stream of players who opted out of the game, which the AFC won 41-34. Between the injured and the Super Bowl participants, 31 original selections did not suit up, including Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Larry Fitzgerald. So the rosters featured a mix of superstars and B-listers.
"One of my goals … was to just be relevant and show all the people who said, 'What is he doing in there?' that I do belong," said Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, who had a touchdown pass.
Some may still disagree.
One replacement, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, won the MVP award after going 13-of-17 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Whatever the case, the Pro Bowl is and has always been about fun and big plays, and there were plenty of both. From Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson's end zone shuffle to the 75 combined points, it was about what you'd expect from this game.
And there was little defense. Defensive linemen rushed the quarterback at half speed, cornerbacks gave up on plays down the field, and few players made hits. The Eagles' Asante Samuel, an NFC starter at cornerback, just stopped after AFC receiver Andre Johnson's double move down the sideline. Not surprisingly, Johnson scored easily, hauling in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Schaub.
There was one exception, and it wasn't a surprise. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFC starter, was decked from behind by the Texans' Mario Williams. Rodgers led the NFL in sacks, absorbing 50 in the regular season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said next year's Pro Bowl, though slated to be in Hawaii, could be played a week before the Super Bowl again. That would leave some of the game's biggest stars relegated to the sidelines, again. This time, the Colts' Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne and the Saints' Drew Brees were dressed in warmups after flying in to make cameo appearances.
Not that any of them minded sitting out. "I'm excited tonight to know that I have a real game next week," Manning said.
Pro Bowl stats, 6C
Shula honored: The Dolphins unveiled a statue honoring former coach Don Shula at their stadium offices, now at 347 Don Shula Drive in recognition of his NFL-record 347 wins. And commissioner Roger Goodell announced the creation of an annual Coach Shula Award, to honor a coach at any level who displays the integrity, achievement and positive impact on others exemplified by Shula.
Peppers, Panthers done?: Agent Carl Carey is convinced five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers won't play for the Panthers next season. The team has "not made a single inquiry this offseason" regarding the impending unrestricted free agent, Carey said.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.