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Newton, Smith connect at Pro Bowl


Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's first possession as a Pro Bowler resulted in a highlight-reel touchdown pass to teammate Steve Smith, and his final drive featured a touchdown pass to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

In between, however, a suddenly amped up defense gave Newton fits in the AFC's 59-41 victory over the NFC on Sunday night.

Newton, facing a defense that came to life late in the game, played the entire second half and completed 9-of-27 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.

"No excuses. When you hang the ball up there, against these kinds of players, that's what you get," Newton said. "It's the good and the bad of playing in a Pro Bowl. I learned a lot."

Smith, playing in his fifth Pro Bowl, led the NFC with 118 receiving yards on five receptions. Early in the third quarter, Smith and Newton gave the NFC a 35-31 lead with a 55-yard hook-up, but the AFC responded with 28 unanswered points before Newton hit Fitzgerald for a 36-yard score with 2:37 to go.


Newton, the second Panthers rookie to ever play in the Pro Bowl (Smith in 2001 was the first), and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton became the first pair of rookie quarterbacks to play in the same Pro Bowl. They were both first alternates for the game and replaced Super Bowl quarterbacks Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Before Sunday, just two rookie quarterbacks had played in the Pro Bowl since 1970 – Vince Young for the Tennessee Titans in 2006 and Dan Marino for the Miami Dolphins in 1983.

Smith and Panthers center Ryan Kalil started the game. Kalil, in his third Pro Bowl appearance, was asked to do little other than snap the ball. Special Pro Bowl rules designed to promote offense and limit the chance of injury led players on both sides of the line of scrimmage to virtually stand in place after the snap.

In the second half, however, the tempo changed, shortly after Newton scrambled for a first down. Quarterbacks rarely run in the Pro Bowl given the relaxed nature of action at the line of scrimmage, and it appeared to fuel the AFC defense as the game approached a conclusion – especially with each member of the winning team getting $50,000 versus $25,000 for the losing team.

When the AFC defense picked up the intensity, the NFC offense wasn't able to adequately respond, and Newton found himself involved in another highlight-reel play – this one for the opposition. The AFC sealed the victory when San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle picked off a fourth-down pass by Newton and returned it 27 yards before lateraling to Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who weaved his way 60 yards for a touchdown.

Weddle was responsible for two of Newton's three interceptions.

"None of us want to go out and lose, so we picked it up and went out and made some plays," Weddle said. "Got the 'W,' that's the main thing."

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall was named MVP after catching a Pro Bowl-record four touchdowns. He finished with six receptions for 176 yards.

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