QB Jeff Garcia's Pro Bowl week was highlighted by the NFC's second-half rally
Jeff Garcia remembers tossing big-play passes to Brian Westbrook and Terrell Owens as if it were yesterday.
And, actually, it was yesterday.
It took the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl to bring Garcia back into the huddle with his former Philadelphia (Westbrook) and San Francisco (Owens) teammates. It took about 10 minutes for that trio to produce the game-winning points.
Garcia was the third quarterback into the game for the NFC squad in this year's Pro Bowl. Not surprisingly, that put him on the hot seat, as the offensive-minded all-star game often turns into a down-to-the-wire shootout.
Garcia was the lone representative at the Pro Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, in fact, the entire NFC South division. When he entered the game following quarterbacks Tony Romo and Matt Hasselbeck, the NFC was trailing, 30-28. The senior circuit had already made an impressive comeback from a 24-7 deficit, but it was up to Garcia to finish the rally.
And that he did, thanks in part to the help of his former teammates.
After his first drive ended on a tipped-ball interception inside the red zone, Garcia took the NFC 80 yards for what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown. A 27-yard hookup with Owens got the drive moving, and an eight-yard pass to Westbrook produced a crucial first down in AFC territory. After a five-yard run by the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson made it first-and-goal at the six, Garcia hurried a snap and a quick slant pass to Owens for the score.
That touchdown put the NFC up, 35-28, with 12 minutes to play. After the AFC's ensuing drive fizzled at the NFC's 27-yard line, the NFC drove 73 yards for the clinching score. Peterson, who would be named the game's MVP in recognition of his 129 yards and two touchdowns, powered it in from the 17 with a tackle-breaking run, and the AFC could do nothing with the game's last three minutes.
Garcia threw just three times on that final NFC drive, but he completed all three for a total of 39 yards, with Owens catching two of those throws. Despite that one interception, on a ball that was tipped at the line and then fluttered through the hands of WR Torry Holt before it was corralled by San Diego CB Antonio Cromartie, Garcia finished the game with a passer rating of 109.2. The Bucs quarterback completed eight of 10 passes for 117 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
Just the third quarterback in Buccaneer history to appear in the league's all-star game, Garcia was making his fourth Pro Bowl appearance. The first three came during his five-year stint with the 49ers, following the 2000-02 seasons. As was highlighted during Sunday's Pro Bowl broadcast on FOX, Garcia is the first quarterback in league history to start for five different teams in five consecutive seasons. That means he has had past opportunities to play with several of his 2008 Pro Bowl teammates, most notably Owens.
Owens was Garcia's primary target during their time together in San Francisco, and the two wasted little time re-establishing that connection on Sunday in Honolulu. Thanks in large part to four passes from Garcia, Owens led all Pro Bowlers with 101 receiving yards.
More importantly, Garcia and the NFC crew walked away with the winners' shares on Sunday, a feat that has been relatively uncommon for that crew. The NFC had won just four of the previous 13 Pro Bowls.