Thanks to a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter by Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, the NFC was able to beat the AFC 23-17 to win the 2006 Pro Bowl.
With Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and punter Josh Bidwell, who made his first trip to Hawaii this year, Sunday definitely turned into a pewter Pro Bowl thanks to Brooks’ score, which earned him MVP honors.
With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Brooks stepped in front of San Diego tight end Antonio Gates and picked off a pass from Kansas City quarterback Trent Green at the NFC 41-yard line. Once he secured the ball, Brooks took off down the right sideline before dodging Green and cutting to the left where he outraced Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez and Cincinnati offensive tackle Willie Anderson for a touchdown. Brooks’ 59-yard score at the 5:01 mark in the third quarter broke a 10-10 tie and gave the NFC a 17-10 lead.
“I was kind of cruising,” Brooks told ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber. “Then I saw guys coming and I had to show a burst of speed. All of the guys were coming down there and saying, ‘We didn’t know you had that! We didn’t know you had that!’ I said, ‘That’s good. You’ll know next year.'”
When asked how this touchdown return compared to a previous Pro Bowl score, Brooks, who finished the game with two tackles, said: “This one was a lot longer. The other one was about 10 yards and I was able to trot in. This one here required some running skills. I just thank God that I caught it and kept going.”
Kolber asked Brooks, who carries a salary cap value of over $11 million next year, about whether he would be back in Tampa Bay given the Bucs’ cap situation.
“Don’t worry about it,” Brooks said. “I’m not [worrying about it]. I still plan on being in Tampa Bay. You can’t believe everything you hear. I still plan on being in Tampa Bay and I plan on finishing my whole career there.”
Bidwell had a great debut in the Pro Bowl with a 48.4-yard average on five punts, but that gaudy average was aided by a mulligan. At the start of the third quarter, a 12-men on the field penalty on the AFC erased an embarrassing 19-yard punt by Bidwell, who responded with a 58-yard blast on the re-kick that was downed inside the 1-yard line by Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith.
Barber finished the game two tackles and a pass break up on the AFC squad’s final drive, and did a nice job of shutting down Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson, who was held to two catches for 15 yards.
Because they were on the winning NFC team, Brooks, Barber and Bidwell each received $40,000 for their participation in the game. Each AFC player received $20,000 for being on the losing side of the scoreboard.
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