Steve Tasker never blocked a field goal before. Of course, he never
HONOLULU (AP) _ Steve Tasker never blocked a field goal before. Of course, he never blocked a punt in the Super Bowl, either. In the span of a week, he did both.
Tasker also earned recognition most special teams players only dream of - Pro Bowl MVP.
″It’s a big thrill just to play with guys like this,″ the Buffalo Bills’ special teams star said after the AFC beat the NFC 23-20 on Sunday in the first Pro Bowl to go overtime.
With the game tied at 13 in the fourth quarter, Tasker blocked a field goal try by New Orleans’ Morten Andersen. AFC teammate Terry McDaniel of the Los Angeles Raiders scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.
After blocking the kick, Tasker bobbled the ball downfield and was finally dragged down from behind, but he saw McDaniel pick up the ball and go the final 28 yards.
″After I blocked it, it seemed like I swatted it about 50,000 times trying to pick it up,″ said Tasker, whose blocked punt in the Super Bowl set up the Bills’ first touchdown in a 52-17 loss to Dallas. ″It seemed like everything was happening in slow motion.
″Terry got it in full stride. It was really a heads-up play by him.″
Miami’s Don Shula, the AFC coach, said ″Steve was unbelievable. We’ve admired him from the opposing sideline for a long time. He came up with the big field goal block when we had to have it.″
Earlier, Tasker forced a fumble by Johnny Bailey of Phoenix on a punt return, although the AFC wasn’t able to capitalize on the turnover.
On that play, Tasker was knocked down by two blockers and got off the ground and trailed the play, finally catching Bailey and reaching around to knock the ball free. It bounced into the arms of AFC punter Rohn Stark of Indianapolis.
After the AFC went ahead 20-13 on McDaniel’s score with eight minutes left, Steve Young of San Francisco brought the NFC back for a tying touchdown. He threw a 23-yard scoring pass to Rodney Hampton of the New York Giants on fourth-and-12 with 10 seconds left.
But Young, who had three interceptions, lost a fumble in the overtime when Derrick Thomas of Kansas City tackled him from behind. Howie Long of the Los Angeles Raiders fell on the ball at the NFC 28 to set up Nick Lowery’s winning 33-yard field goal 4:09 into the overtime.
The AFC, capitalizing on turnovers for all its points, was outgained by the NFC 472 yards, a Pro Bowl record, to 114. But the AFC made its breaks.
The AFC’s other scores came on a 31-yard return by San Diego’s Junior Seau of an interception off Young; a 42-yard field goal by Lowery after the Chargers’ Leslie O’Neal blocked an Andersen field goal try and Miami’s Bryan Cox returned the ball to the NFC 35; and Lowery’s 29-yard field goal after the Bills’ Henry Jones intercepted a Troy Aikman pass.
Said the 49ers’ George Seifert, the NFC coach: ″It was an awfully exciting game. There were a lot of big plays. The kicking game obviously was our Achilles heel and ultimately cost us the game.″
The NFC kicking game suffered because Joel Hilgenberg of the Saints, the long-snap specialist, had a sore thumb and Mark Stepnoski of the Cowboys filled in.
″They were all slow and that’s to be expected,″ Stepnoski said. ″I’m not a snapper. Joel can really snap but he’s got a bad thumb so I had to do it.″
The game also provided a mysterious disappearance by Aikman, who left Aloha Stadium in the fourth quarter.
It turned out Aikman had an early flight from Hawaii to Dallas, and he forgot tell Seifert or book a later flight.
″The problem was I had an 8 o’clock flight that I had to catch,″ he said Monday. ″And I talked to some of the players. I had failed to tell the coaches that I had an 8 o’clock flight. I didn’t think I’d have to leave the game early to make it, until I realized at halftime it had taken over two hours to play the first half.″
Seifert said he didn’t believe Aikman would have played any more if he had remained.
Aikman played in the second quarter and the first series of the third, completing 10 of 15 passes for 120 yards and a 9-yard scoring pass to Dallas teammate Michael Irvin.