Fittingly, in a game dominated by defense, the Pro Bowl's most valuable player was a cornerback, Jerry Gray of the Rams.
Gray provided one defensive touchdown, on a Pro Bowl record 51-yard interception return, and Minnesota nose tackle Keith Millard provided another with a fumble return of eight yards for as the NFC beat the AFC, 27-21, Sunday at Aloha Stadium.
"We have so many special athletes on defense, especially the outside linebackers, that to be selected as the MVP is really an honor," said Gray, who also had six solo tackles and one assist.
The NFC built a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter, but Seattle's Dave Krieg rallied the AFC to two late touchdowns and came within a penalty of pulling out the victory.
Krieg threw an apparent game-winning, 2-yard touchdown pass to Seattle teammate Brian Blades with five seconds remaining, but the AFC was called for an illegal substitution.
Krieg then threw incomplete as time ran out.
"It was really like a regular-season game," Gray said of the intensity in the final minutes.
"We worked so hard during the first three quarters that we didn't want to lose at the end.
"The intensity was on our side."
Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham, who provided one NFC touchdown with an 11-yard pass to the Giants' Dave Meggett, agreed with Gray.
"The defense really did the job," he said. "Jerry Gray picked one off for a touchdown and then Keith Millard went in for a touchdown a few minutes later and that was the difference in the game."
Krieg, a late fill-in at quarterback for the AFC, had the best game of all four quarterbacks. He said he thought his team had won it.
"I thought, 'That's a great way to end the game,' " Krieg said. "Then I saw the flag."
The penalty was called because tackle Chris Hinton of the Colts had reported as an eligible receiver on the previous play, then switched back to his tackle spot. He should have played another play as an eligible receiver or left the game for a play before returning to tackle.
"The penalty is illegal substitution," explained umpire Gordon Walls, who called the penalty. "It's a loss of five yards and that's what I called."
Krieg had marched his team from its own nine-yard line before time finally ran out on him.
He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to the Miami Dolphins' Ferrell Edmunds to pull the AFC to within 27-14 with 8:08 remaining.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Mike Johnson then provided a defensive touchdown for the AFC, when he intercepted Mark Rypien's pass--one of three interceptions off the Washington quarterback--and returned it 23 yards to pull the AFC to within six points.
Although Krieg was 15 of 23 for 148 yards, the other three quarterbacks in the game generally had a rough time.
Warren Moon of Houston, the only one of the four quarterbacks voted into the game who actually showed up, was under constant pressure from the rush and completed just 5 of 12 for 20 yards.
For the NFC, Cunningham was 9 of 19 for 97 yards, and Rypien was 4 of 10 for 65 yards with three interceptions.
San Francisco's Joe Montana and Denver's John Elway both did not come to the game because of sore elbows. Cincinnati's Boomer Esiason had pulled out earlier with injuries, and Green Bay's Don Majkowski apparently didn't come because his contract had just expired and he didn't want to risk injury.
Krieg, a late addition to the AFC squad after Elway and Esiason pulled out, guided the AFC to a touchdown on his first series in the game.
Krieg replaced Moon midway through the second quarter and marched the AFC from its own 21-yard line to a 1-yard touchdown run by Christian Okoye of Kansas City.
Strong safety David Fulcher of Cincinnati stopped two NFC drives in the second quarter with a pair of interceptions off Rypien.
Fulcher's first interception came after the NFC had driven to the AFC 33, and the second came with the NFC at the AFC 46.
The NFC has won the last two Pro Bowl games and holds a 12-8 lead in the series.