New York Giant quarterback Phil Simms, pressed into extensive duty because Jim McMahon was hobbled by a bruised knee, sparked a second-half comeback Sunday to rally the National Football Conference to a 28-24 victory over the American Conference in the Pro Bowl game.
Simms, making his first appearance in the NFL’s all-star game, threw three touchdown passes in the second half, the last a 15-yarder to Tampa Bay’s Jimmie Giles with 2:47 remaining, to rally the NFC from a 24-7 halftime deficit.
McMahon, the brash star of the Chicago Bears’ 46-10 rout of New England in the Super Bowl a week ago, was victimized for two turnovers that set up 10 AFC points during his brief stint in the second quarter.
McMahon didn’t play any more after aggravating a knee injury he suffered in the Super Bowl.
“When Jim got hurt, I knew I was going to play the rest of the game,” said Simms, named the Pro Bowl MVP. “I can’t say I was real thrilled about Jim getting hurt. . . . But it turned out well.”
Simms, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 212 yards and was not intercepted, added: “This is a real nice way to end my season. After our divisional loss to the Bears in Chicago last month (21-0), I was down.”
“Phil Simms is a cool professional and he had a great game,” said NFC Coach John Robinson of the Rams. “He called most of his own plays, spoke to his receivers and coach on the sidelines, and simply took control.”
McMahon said of the decision to keep him out of the second half, “Coach Robinson didn’t want anyone to get seriously injured, and I wasn’t too thrilled about going out there with my knee hurting.”
Simms, the first Giant quarterback to start in the Pro Bowl, passed 15 yards to Washington’s Art Monk for a touchdown in the third quarter, and two yards to Dallas tight end Doug Cosbie early in the fourth.
He then connected with Giles on the winning touchdown pass in the waning minutes.
The AFC had taken advantage of a McMahon fumble and an interception thrown by the Bears’ quarterback to pull away in the second quarter.
The Raiders’ Marcus Allen, the NFL’s most valuable player this past season, provided the AFC’s first two touchdowns, running two yards for one score and throwing a 51-yard scoring pass to San Diego’s Wes Chandler for the other.
Cornerback LeRoy Irvin of the Rams was a standout for the NFC defense, with two interceptions off AFC quarterback Dan Fouts of San Diego. Irvin preserved the victory with his second interception, a Fouts’ pass in the NFC end zone with 1 1/2 minutes remaining and the AFC at the National Conference 34-yard line.
The NFC’s other score came in the second quarter on a 48-yard interception return by Minnesota’s Joey Browner, with Fouts again the victim.
Chicago’s Walter Payton, the NFL’s all-time career rushing leader, was suffering from the flu and carried just three times for 14 yards.
The victory gives the NFC a 10-6 edge over the AFC since the present format was adopted.