Vikings Shine, NFC Wins 30-21

The Vikings sent six players to Sunday’s Pro Bowl and all six played an important role in the game as the NFC pulled out a 30-21 victory to defeat the AFC for the second consecutive season in Hawaii.

The AFC squad dominated the game statistically, but costly mistakes forced by the NFC were too much to overcome. Led by a productive ground game, the AFC outgained the NFC 415 to 309, including a 136-77 advantage on the ground. But a lost fumble and two interceptions somewhat neutralized those advantages and rendered a 26-16 first-down advantage and 36:14-23:46 time of possession edge meaningless.

Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. – a Minnesota native – followed up his two-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl with a pair of scores in the Pro Bowl and the game’s MVP award.

Fitzgerald’s first touchdown, a two-yard toss from Eli Manning in the fourth quarter, gave the NFC a lead it would not relinquish. But it was a series of highlight-caliber plays from several Vikings that setup the NFC’s second-half rally.

After the teams exchanged punts to begin the third quarter, the AFC began their second possession of the half on their own 12-yardline and with a 14-10 lead. Vikings defensive back Antoine Winfield tallied two tackles during the drive while the AFC battled to get to midfield, but then a 22-yard pass to Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez followed by a few moderate gains got the AFC down to the NFC 32-yardline. And that’s when Winfield finally stopped the drive, intercepting a pass from Kerry Collins intended for Brandon Marshall at the 11-yardline. Winfield returned it 20 yards to set the NFC up at their own 30-yardline.

Although they were unable to convert Winfield’s interception into points, the NFC was able to flip the field position and punted away. On the second play of the AFC’s ensuing drive, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sacked Collins, forced him to fumble, recovered the fumble and returned it four yards to the AFC ten-yardline. One play later, Adrian Peterson pranced in for a ten-yard score that gave the NFC its first lead of the game at 17-14.

The teams exchanged touchdowns after Peterson’s score, as Ravens running back Le’Ron McClain tallied a five-yard touchdown and then the NFC answered when Fitzgerald registered his second touchdown catch of the game. The NFC added two field goals late in the game to wind up at 30 points.

Kevin Williams recorded four tackles on the day and Pat Williams tallied three stops. Winfield had four tackles to go with his interception and Allen had three tackles to go along with his sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Peterson took home MVP honors in the 2007 Pro Bowl with 16 carries for 127 yards and two scores. With six-time Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson starting at left guard, Peterson had eight carries for 48 yards and one score on Sunday and also added two receptions for 15 yards.