Posted: 10 p.m.
HoushmandzadehHONOLULU - For the first three quarters of his Pro Bowl debut, Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh looked like the game's MVP.
But thanks to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson turning this annual air show into a roller derby during the NFC's 42-30 victory, Houshmandzadeh couldn't duplicate teammate Carson Palmer's MVP show last year. So he settled for two touchdown catches and a couple of Chad Johnson hugs here at Aloha Stadium.
"He should have been the MVP; I don't care if we did lose," said Johnson as he ran off the field after his fifth Pro Bowl. "I showed off my first year here and he showed off this year."
Houshmandzadeh did all his damage in the first half with four catches for 44 yards. He caught a touchdown each from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in becoming the first Bengal to ever have a multi touchdown game in the Pro Bowl as the AFC shot to a 24-7 lead with 12:08 left in the first half.
"Maybe I'm more tired than I thought I was going to be, but other than that, no surprises. I had fun. I had fun all week," Houshmandzadeh said. "It comes down to just being yourself."
For the for first time in a few Pro Bowls, Johnson didn't score in finishing with two catches for 30 yards. But a week ago he didn't even know he was going to be here until a spot opened up with an injury to Randy Moss.
"It's my fifth time here so I just kind of sit back and enjoy," Johnson said.
Johnson won't be doing any of that any time soon. He plans to go to Spain to follow his favorite soccer player, Thierry Henry, now toiling for Barcelona.
He also plans to visit Kenya again for the charity Feed The Children.
Johnson "But only until after the war is over," he said of the civil strife.
He has said he also plans to have arthroscopic ankle surgery, a procedure he said only sidelined him for two weeks two years ago.
The NFL, apparently on high alert that Johnson might try to alter or even eliminate the stripes on his helmet to make a statement, had nothing to worry about. As he held his helmet after the game, Johnson jogged to the locker room before turning in the runway and pointing to the sky when asked if he'd be wearing it again despite his pronouncements of displeasure.
"It's up to the big man in the sky," he said.
Sunday's other big man, Manning, found Houshmandzadeh matched up on Vikings safety Darren Sharper in the slot from 16 yards out to give the AFC a 14-7 lead with 2:42 left.
"Nice move by T.J. right there," said Manning of an out and in. "He finds the holes. "
Then Roethlisberger sent Houshmandzadeh on a fade to the corner from the 1-yard line and Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant got outmuscled. From behind, Houshmandzadeh reached over and ripped it away from Trufant to make it 24-7 three minutes into the second quarter.
"Maybe we can bring people together," said Houshmandzadeh of the Steelers' Roethlisberger, one of the Bengals' arch villains. "We said we were going to try and hook up. Ben let me just go up and make a play."
As for Houshmandzadeh's plans, pretty basic.
"I'm coming back next year," he said.