It probably doesn't make up for the lack of a true postseason, but Ty Law and the rest of the Patriots competing in yesterday's Pro Bowl took part in a laugher in the annual game that officially puts a wrap on the 2002 season. Law's 43-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was part of a dominating AFC defensive performance that included seven NFC turnovers in the 45-20 AFC win.
In front of a sellout crowd of 50,125 the AFC jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Miami's Ricky Williams at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. From then on the game was essentially a blowout as the AFC never trailed and led by as much as 45-6 midway through the fourth quarter.
Law's pick may have been the most obvious contribution of the six Patriots in the game, but each New England player factored in the final outcome. Law, Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Larry Izzo and Adam Vinatieri all started the game, while Damien Woody, a late addition to the AFC squad, saw reserve action.
Law's highlight play came early in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of a pass from the Buccaneers Brad Johnson intended for Bears wide receiver Marty Booker and darted 43 yards for the end zone. On the play Law became the first player in Pro Bowl history to return two interceptions for touchdowns. Law also had a 67-yard interception return for a score in his co-MVP performance in the 1999 Pro Bowl. On the return the cornerback became the game's all-time career interception return yardage leader with 147 career return yards. Law also added solo tackle and three passes defensed to his stat sheet on the sunny afternoon.
Vinatieri was probably the next most productive Patriot, as the All-Pro kicker finished with nine points in the game, second only to Williams' 12 points. He connected on the AFC's only field goal of the game with a 20 yarder in the third quarter. Vinatieri also hit on all six PATs that he attempted.
Seymour started at defensive tackle and while he didn't record a sack in the game, he did play a big part in the AFC's pressure on NFC quarterbacks on numerous occasions. He also got a little extra camera time at the end of the first half when he got into a minor altercation with San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry. Newberry gave Seymour a shove to the facemask and was called for a personal foul for his part in the scuffle. Seymour finished the game with one solo tackle.
An interesting image taken from the game was that of Woody snapping to former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Woody was added to the Pro Bowl when starting center Barret Robbins of the Raiders pulled out of the game following the Super Bowl. Woody spent two-plus seasons with Bledsoe under center in New England and looked comfortable snapping to the current Bills signal caller.
Izzo left his mark on his second Pro Bowl in the area that got him there. The Patriots special teams captain finished the game second on the AFC squad with two special teams tackles.
Milloy was an active, yet relatively quiet participant on special teams, as well as in his role as the starting strong safety. He had two solo tackles in defensive play.
Pro Bowl Notes
As members of the winning squad, all the Patriots will get the $30,000 winning share. The NFC players get $15,000 each. … Game-time temperature in Hawaii was a pleasant 81 degrees. … Former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe completed 9-of-18 passes for 122 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception. … While each of the NFC quarterbacks struggled at different times, the 49ers Jeff Garcia had the toughest afternoon. Garcia completed just 4-of-12 passes for 36 yards and threw three interceptions for an anemic 2.8 passer rating. … Ricky Williams was the games MVP, finishing with 11 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He added three receptions for 18 yards in the air.