49er-heavy NFC squad falls 59-41 in Pro Bowl shootout

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49er-heavy NFC squad falls 59-41 in Pro Bowl shootout

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HONOLULU (AP) While everyone was playing at half-speed and ready to extend their Hawaiian vacation, Brandon Marshall played as if it was his last game.The Miami Dolphins wide receiver caught six passes for 176 yards and a Pro Bowl-record four touchdowns, and the AFC used a second-half surge to beat the NFC 59-41 on Sunday."You never know when you're going to be back," Marshall said, "and I wanted to go all out today because it could be my last Pro Bowl."

Marshall had a touchdown catch in each quarter, including an early 74-yarder and a 3-yarder in the fourth, in a game filled with highlight-reel grabs.He was selected the game's MVP, and his name now will join the likes of Walter Payton and Jerry Rice on the MVP banners at Aloha Stadium."You know what? I wanted it," he said. "It's a Pro Bowl. Some guys are playing 100 (percent), some guys are playing 90, some guys aren't playing at all, but it means a lot to be up in the rafters with some of these guys."The 59 points by the AFC set a Pro Bowl mark, and the 100 points scored by the teams combined was the second highest, a touchdown shy of the 107 scored in 2004.But it was clear from the start it was Marshall's day. He hauled in a deflected, go-ahead 47-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton, while on his back, to give the AFC a 38-35 lead late in the third quarter. It was Marshall's third TD catch of the game, tying Jimmy Smith's Pro Bowl record set in 2004."It was the most unathletic highlight I ever had," he said. "Andy put it up there for me to make a play. I saw the ball, got nervous, fell, saw the ball, kicked it up and it just fell in my hands."Marshall, making his third Pro Bowl appearance, then nabbed a 3-yard TD pass from Dalton that gave the AFC a 52-35 lead with 8:25 left and put the game away."People were saying throw to him. I saw the matchup I had and he's a great receiver, so I knew he could make the play," Dalton said.Hawaii has been kind to Marshall, who also won MVP honors at Aloha Stadium in his final game at Central Florida in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, where he caught 11 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.Marshall noted he had six TDs this season, but four this game."It says a lot when you're playing with these type of quarterbacks," Marshall said. "They just put it in the right place and I just made the play. Hats off to those guys throwing me the ball."The game featured 36 first-timers, including rookie quarterbacks Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, who replaced Super Bowl quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tom Brady. Their selection made this Pro Bowl the first to feature two rookie signal callers.Dalton and Newton played the entire second half.While Dalton looked composed, Newton played horribly - struggling to move the ball, stay in the pocket and find his targets, which drew some boos from the sun-splashed, sellout crowd of 48,423."No excuses," Newton said. "When you hang the ball up there, against these kind 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."Newton finished 9 of 27 for 186 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Dalton, meanwhile, was 7 of 9 for 99 yards and two TDs.On his first series, Newton overthrew a wide-open Tony Gonzalez over the middle, with the ball sailing into Eric Weddle's hands. The San Diego Chargers safety popped up to his feet and returned it 63 yards to the NFC 23, leading to a 37-yard FG by Sebastian Janikowski, which gave the AFC its first lead of the game at 31-28.Newton recovered on the next series, airing out a 55-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Panthers teammate Steve Smith, making it 34-31. But he was intercepted again on the next series.Weddle also intercepted another pass by Newton late in the game. After picking off the deep pass, he pitched it to teammate Derrick Johnson, who rumbled 60 yards for the AFC's final score."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."With the Pro Bowlers unable to get out of third gear - particularly on the offensive and defensive lines - and hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight, the Pro Bowl featured some good, bad and real ugly - sometimes on the same play. For example, Aaron Rodgers caught a pass from himself. His throw was deflected at the line and he leaped to catch the ball and backpedaled for a 15-yard loss.Rodgers was 13 of 17 for 141 yards and two TDs, giving him a quarterback rating of 139.6, higher than his NFL record 122.5 rating during the season. But he was watching late in the game as Newton struggled.Rodgers said it's easier to play in the first quarter when the game isn't as intense."It's tough to be the last guy in, when it's the fourth quarter and money becomes an issue," he said. "Guys are playing a little bit harder. They come at you."The NFC had three players with 100-yard yard receiving: Gonzalez (seven for 114), Larry Fitzgerald (6 for 111) and Smith (5 for 118).The AFC and NFC traded score after score, and turnover after turnover in the first half.Rodgers and Fitzgerald connected for a pair of scores on back-to-back plays to put the NFC up 14-0 early in the game.After stopping the AFC on fourth down at midfield, Rodgers drove the NFC down the field and threw a 10-yard TD toss to Fitzgerald. Six seconds later, Rodgers aired a 44-yard rainbow in the end zone to Fitzgerald for another score after the NFC got the ball back with a surprise onside kick.The reception was Fitzgerald's sixth career TD catch in the Pro Bowl, tying Gonzalez's record. He would break the record with the game's last touchdown, on a 36-yard pass from Newton.The AFC came right back and tied it up on two deep TD passes on the right side by Ben Roethlisberger. He threw a 34-yarder to rookie A.J. Green, and then connected with Marshall on a 74-yarder.But Drew Brees and the NFC kept the scoring going. Just like in the regular season, Brees and Saints teammate Jimmy Graham hooked up to give the NFC a 21-14 lead in the second quarter. On fourth-and-goal, Brees zipped a pass to Graham for a 6-yard score and would later find Greg Jennings for an 11-yard TD. Brees finished 10 of 14 for 146 yards and two touchdowns.Antonio Gates pulled in a 27-yard TD from Chargers teammate Rivers as time expired in the half to tie it at 28.Each AFC player earned a record 50,000 for the win, while the NFC players received 25,000.

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

SANTA CLARA – Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold, who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem last season, will not continue the protest this season.

Reid said Wednesday they achieved their goal of bringing attention to racial inequality in the United States.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Reid and Harold are back with the 49ers, while Kaepernick remains a free agent. The 49ers have expressed no interest in retaining Kaepernick after opting to sign free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, instead.

“I stay in touch with him,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “I’m rooting for him. Obviously, he isn’t on a team, yet, but I’m rooting for him but hopefully he gets that call after the draft.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate.”

When asked if thought Kaepernick was paying the price for his protest, Reid answered, “I think so. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem (protest), they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

 

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

SANTA CLARA – NaVorro Bowman, who sustained a season-ending torn Achilles in Week 4 of the 2016 season, has been a full participant as the 49ers return to the practice field this week.

Bowman worked with the first team at middle linebacker Wednesday and appeared to move at top speed as the 49ers went through the second day of on-field workouts at a voluntary minicamp.

The 49ers, under new coach Kyle Shanahan, are allowed an extra voluntary minicamp as part of their offseason program. Bowman's return to the practice field was the highlight as the 49ers enter their third-week of the offseason program.

In other notes:

--The 49ers had tryouts with three unsigned veteran players: cornerback Steve Williams, and offensive linemen Tim Barnes and Kitt O’Brien.

--Wide receiver DeAndre Carter made the best catch of the day on a deep throw from quarterback Matt Barkley. Carter beat Williams on the reception.

--Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who is a candidate to play the “Leo” position, was held out of competitive drills as he continues to recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

--Ronald Blair lined up at the “Leo” position with the first-team defense and beat No. 2 right tackle Garry Gilliam for a sack in the “non-contract” drills. Aaron Lynch was at the “Leo” position with the second team.

--Tank Carradine lined up at the 5-technique, which is a position where the 49ers could target Stanford’s Solomon Thomas with the No. 2 overall pick.

--Kyle Juszczyk showed the versatility that prompted the 49ers to make him the highest-paid fullback in the league with several pass receptions during the 90-minute practice.

--Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerbacks with the first-team defense. Robinson made a leaping interception of a Brian Hoyer deep sideline pass against Rashad Ross during 7-on-7 drills.

--Hoyer and receiver Pierre Garçon teamed up for a 20-yard completion on the opening play of the 11-on-11 period.

--Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who spent all of last season on injured reserve, did not practice due to a soft-tissue injury not related to his hamstring injury of a year ago.

--Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (soft tissue), tight end Je’Ron Hamm (leg), running back Raheem Mostert (soft tissue), linebacker Eli Harold (toe) and tight end Blake Bell (cut forehead) did not practice.