AFC wins Pro Bowl, 41-34

Saints quarterback Drew Brees, right, shares a laugh with Redskins linebacker London Fletcher (59) before the Pro Bowl.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, right, shares a laugh with Redskins linebacker London Fletcher (59) before the Pro Bowl. (David J. Phillip/associated Press)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 1, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. -- Redskins linebacker London Fletcher waited 12 seasons before appearing in his first Pro Bowl. He doesn't plan on waiting that long before playing in his second.

"This was something that I'm definitely ready to experience again," Fletcher said with a laugh, just minutes after the conclusion of Sunday's game.

In a game that will be remembered for where it wasn't played (Hawaii) and for the players who didn't show up (34 total), Fletcher, an undersized linebacker who'd waited years for this day, bounced all over the field, treating the game as much more than an exhibition.

"It worked out well for me. God has been good to me," said Fletcher, passed over every other year for a spot on a Pro Bowl and finally making his debut in the annual all-star game Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

Despite his best efforts, the AFC beat the NFC, 41-34, courtesy of Chris Johnson's two-yard touchdown plunge late in the fourth quarter that snapped a tie. For much of the night, Fletcher found himself in the middle of several plays. His five tackles were second-most of any Pro Bowler on Sunday.

While Fletcher was initially an alternate for the game, he earned a spot on the roster when the Saints won the NFC title and New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma was no longer available. Then, Fletcher found himself in the starting rotation when San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis withdrew because of injury. Fletcher was joined in the starting lineup by fellow Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo.

"London was long overdue, so it felt good to be there starting with him, right alongside my fellow Redskin," Orakpo said.

While Fletcher will surely remember the night fondly, Sunday's game will likely receive mixed reviews from others. The game was relocated to Miami from Hawaii this year, and the NFL moved the annual contest up on its calendar, staging the Pro Bowl one week before the Super Bowl, rather than after.

"It's beautiful, it's paradise," said Giants wide receiver Steve Smith. "Too bad it's not in Hawaii, but we're having a great time."

The game also featured a mix of the NFL's top-shelf talent and its B-list stars. Fourteen players from Indianapolis and New Orleans elected to the game were unavailable, as they continue preparations for this weekend's Super Bowl. In addition, 17 other players bowed out because of injuries, and one -- Minnesota tackle Bryant McKinnie -- was dismissed.

"Man, to just look around and see all of these guys' faces, all these famous guys is just special," said Johnson, who finished the game with 19 yards on four carries. "It means a lot to just get to be around them and to have fun."

For most, the game was treated strictly as an exhibition, as offenses threw the ball eagerly and defenses, limited by rules that curb their effectiveness, did their best to slow the scoring.

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