By Phil Perry
Patriots coach Bill Belichick would have liked to have spent Sunday preparing for a trip to Dallas to coach in next week's Super Bowl.
Instead, he spent the day patrolling the AFC sideline during a typically light-hitting, but particularly uninspired, Pro Bowl game in Hawaii.
His AFC squad turned the ball over six times and fell to the NFC, 55-41.
The Belichick-led side -- which fell behind 42-0 in the second quarter -- was short on highlights, but the seven Patriots players involved provided a few relative bright spots:
Cornerback Devin McCourty capped off his accomplished rookie season by mostly holding his own against a slew of the NFL's best receivers. He covered Atlanta's Roddy White, Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Dallas' Miles Austin in the game. He also recorded his first-ever Pro Bowl interception.
On the first play of the second quarter, Atlanta's Matt Ryan tested McCourty and tried to hit Austin deep downfield. McCourty, in single coverage, out-jumped the Cowboys receiver and came down with the AFC's only interception of the game.
McCourty was burned for a touchdown by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, but he also recorded four tackles and defended two passes.
Wes Welker couldn't reel in any of the bombs thrown his way in the second half as the AFC attempted a comeback, but he tied for the team lead in receptions with 5 for 34 yards.
Welker had one of the AFC's lowlights of the game when in the second quarter, he was stripped by Washington's DeAngelo Hall at the AFC 34-yard line. Hall scooped up the fumble and scored to put the AFC down, 27-0.
In Jerod Mayo's first Pro Bowl game, the All-Pro linebacker finished with seven tackles, which was the second-most on the team.
Safety Brandon Meriweather chipped in with three tackles.
The game was devoid of hard-nosed play in the trenches, meaning it was a fairly uneventful day for Patriots offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork's day was spent mostly leaning lackadaisically into NFC offensive linemen and raising an arm to try to block passes thrown over his head.
Interestingly, Mankins and Light finished the game with as many tackles as Wilfork; each player had one.
Light tackled London Fletcher after the Redskins' linebacker intercepted San Diego's Philip Rivers in the first quarter. Mankins got his name in the box score by tackling Hall, the game's MVP, after he intercepted Rivers on the AFC's next possession.
Rivers started in place of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was voted in as the AFC's starter. Brady elected not to make the trip to Hawaii, opting instead to have foot surgery Jan. 20 to repair a chronic stress fracture.
Kansas City's Matt Cassel was named to the AFC team in Brady's place. He went 5-12 for 95 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.