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Pro Bowl notebook: Redskins' Taylor honored

HONOLULU -- Taking a page out of the Washington Redskins' playbook, the NFC lined up in a missing-man formation on defense to open the 2008 Pro Bowl on Sunday.

To honor the late Sean Taylor, the Redskins safety who was shot to death in November by intruders in his Miami home, the NFC lined up against Peyton Manning and the AFC with just one safety, Darren Sharper of the Minnesota Vikings. Dallas' Ken Hamlin returned to the field after Manning completed a 4-yard pass to his Indianapolis Colts teammate, running back Joseph Addai, in the right flat.

Gregg Williams, the former Redskins defensive coordinator, called for a 10-man formation in a game against Buffalo four days after Taylor's death. Williams was approached by his defensive players, who requested the tribute.

Taylor's teammates in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl requested the same from Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, head coach of the NFC team who started game-planning the play in the last few days of practice.

"We just wanted to honor Sean, and this was one way we could do it," said McCarthy. "He was a Pro Bowl starter and he deserved to be out there with us."

Taylor's family, including his father, Pedro Taylor, were in attendance on Sunday to see the 10-man tribute. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder had paid for the family to spend the week in Hawaii and attend Sunday's game.

The family also got to see all three RedskinsPro Bowl representatives -- tight end Chris Cooley, tackle Chris Samuels and long snapper Ethan Albright -- wear Taylor's "21" jersey and come out for the ceremonial coin toss as team captains.

"We really appreciate them (NFC coaching staff) doing that for Sean," said Samuels, referring to the missing-man formation. "We love and miss Sean, and it felt like he was out there with us today."

Almost Taylor-made

Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, making his first Pro Bowl appearance after 10 years in the league, came close to scoring his first Pro Bowl touchdown -- twice -- but came up short both times.

In the second quarter, the AFC had a first-and-goal at the 2-yard-line when Turner called for a run play up the middle. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger handed off to Taylor, who was stacked up and gained only 1 yard. On the next play, Roethlisberger found T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone for the Bengals receiver's second touchdown of the game.

In the third quarter, Taylor had another opportunity to score but dropped a swing pass from Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson in the red zone that would have given Taylor a chance to score had he hung on to the ball.

"I'm not sure if I had Pro Bowl jitters or what, but the ball just slipped out of my fingers," Taylor said. "I wanted that one."

Putting 'special' in special teams

The NFC and AFC put on a special teams clinic, pulling out nearly every trick play in the limited playbooks.

Attempting to stymie Devin Hester, the Chicago Bears' return-man extraordinaire, AFC coach Norv Turner called for an onside kick in the first quarter. It would have been successful had the AFC not jumped offsides. On the ensuing kick, Tennessee's Rob Bironas kicked a line drive to Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, who tried to gain extra yardage and eventually fumbled the ball back to the AFC.

That series of special teams plays came just after McCarthy had called for a fake punt on fourth-and-8 at the NFC 48. San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee took the snap and found Minnesota Vikings fullback Tony Richardson for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Five plays later, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hit Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald for a 6-yard touchdown.

In the third quarter, Bironas kicked off to Hester, who ran up the right sideline before lateraling the ball across the field to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Witten caught the ball, and with blockers in front of him, took it 35 yards into AFC territory.

Hester had five kickoff returns for 165 yards, a 33-yard average.

Fit to be tied

Peyton Manning has set his share of NFL records, and will no doubt set many more by the time he retires. On Sunday he helped the two teams tie a Pro Bowl record he helped set in 2001 for most combined points in a half. When Manning hooked up with Cooley for a 17-yard touchdown late in the first half, the AFC (27) and NFC (21) had combined for 48 points at intermission.

Having worked with his receivers for only a week, Manning was nearly perfect in a less-than-perfect environment for a quarterback. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 147 yards, with a touchdown and a QB rating of 118.5. He was replaced in the second quarter by Roethlisberger.

Extra points

» Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who led the league with 10 interceptions in the regular season and added two more in three playoff games, had two picks in the Pro Bowl, bringing his overall total to 14.

» Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was criticized harshly by wide receiver Terrell Owens when the two played together in San Francisco, found Owens on a 6-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, giving the NFC a lead it wouldn't relinquish. "It seemed just like old times out there," Garcia said. "It didn't seem like we missed a beat."

» Albright on Jim Zorn, his new coach in Washington: "I know I'm dating myself by saying this, but I have one of his cards in my football card collection." Associate Editor Adam Rank contributed to this report.

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