Originally created 02/11/02

Ray Lewis gets unofficial player of the game



HONOLULU -- No offense, Rich Gannon, but if your teammates had voted for Pro Bowl player of the game, Ray Lewis might have won instead.

The Baltimore linebacker's touchdown in the fourth quarter was the talk of the locker room after the AFC's 38-30 win over the NFC on Saturday.

Ty Law intercepted Donovan McNabb's pass late in the game and ran 31 yards before pitching the ball to Lewis, who scurried 13 yards for the final AFC touchdown.

"Who's the MVP?" San Diego's Junior Seau hollered, directing his shout toward Lewis.

Lewis said he called for Law to toss him the ball.

"The game always gets big in the fourth quarter," Lewis said. "It was time for me to make the play and the ball was in my hand."

He also had two tackles in his fifth Pro Bowl appearance in six seasons.

"I was trying to take it in myself, but at that point in the game it was kinda crazy," said Law, who scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl for the champion New England Patriots. "I saw Ray sitting there by himself and I had a guy hanging on my leg, so I pitched it. I knew once Ray got it, no one was going to stop him from getting into the end zone.

"He's a strong guy and he just bulled his way."

Oakland's Gannon, 36, earned player of game honors for the second straight year, becoming the first two-time winner. He was convinced the young players would show him up in his third Pro Bowl.

Guys like 24-year-old Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.

But Gannon needed just more than a quarter to take the award. He threw two touchdown passes, including a 55-yard strike to Marvin Harrison for the AFC's first score after trailing 10-0. Gannon was 8-for-10 passes for 137 yards and the teams combined for 34 first-quarter points, the most points in a quarter in the Pro Bowl.

"I love the weather, I love the people," Gannon said of the Hawaii experience. "That combination can't be beat. Hopefully, we'll get to come back."

In a game set up to be an offensive showdown, there were a number of key defensive plays, like the one made by Law and Lewis.

Gannon fumbled on the first play of the game and New York Giants' linebacker Jessie Armstead recovered. That led to the NFC's first score, a 2-yard run by first-time Pro Bowler Ahman Green of Green Bay.

Armstead, playing in his fifth Pro Bowl, broke up two more passes in the AFC's next offensive series.

"You've got to look to make a play," he said. "We're out here to make some plays, not to kill each other. But you've got to make yourself look good for at least one or two plays."

Tennessee center Bruce Matthews got a victory in what may have been his final Pro Bowl. Matthews, 40, was the oldest player in the game - it was his 14th straight selection in 19 seasons. He is expected to retire.

"I guess I haven't made it official, but if this was my last one, I'm excited for what's in store," Matthews said.

Seau, another Pro Bowl veteran, was happy to end the season on a high note. The Chargers' outside linebacker has missed the playoffs six straight seasons in San Diego, the second-longest drought for an NFL team.

"I'm just happy winning the football game," said Seau, who played in his 11th straight Pro Bowl. "Coming from San Diego, it's been a hard year. We lost nine straight, so it was good to finish up with a win."

Brady's schedule doesn't slow down yet. After the Pro Bowl, Brady plans to spend a week on the island of Kauai to compete in a quarterback challenge.

Brady threw an interception in the fourth quarter of the Pro Bowl. He played the final 14:16 as the AFC's third-string quarterback.

"I learned a lot this week," he said. "Throwing that darn interception dampens the day, but I'm glad we won."

The NFC was the slight favorite, but that meant little, according to St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner, the NFC starter.

"It doesn't matter who's favored, it doesn't matter who's on what team," Warner said. "This game is for fun. We come out and everybody tries to win and give them a good show."



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