Wild, wacky Pro Bowl blowout
Pick-six by Chiefs’ Johnson was AFC’s highlight in 62-35 loss that had odd moments.
It took the NFL players all of four plays to call commissioner Roger Goodell’s bluff at Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
Goodell had threatened to cancel the NFL all-star game if the quality of play didn’t improve.
In the NFC’s 62-35 victory Sunday in Hawaii, the AFC recovered a fumble on the first play and set up shop at the 7-yard line. Facing a third-and-goal, the AFC sent in defensive lineman J.J. Watt of the Texans — at receiver.
Watt, who had 201/2 sacks for Houston, ran a slant pattern, but failed to catch the pass from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.
“They can’t say we’re not playing hard in this game,” Watt told an NBC reporter. “Hey Commish, we’re playing hard!”
The Packers’ Jeff Saturday played center — for both teams. Saturday, the longtime Colt, is retiring after the season, so he get one snap with his former Indy teammate, Peyton Manning of the Broncos.
Saturday played 13 seasons in Indianapolis, all with Manning — except 2011, when Manning was out with a neck injury. Saturday then played later in the game for the NFC, snapping to Peyton’s brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The NFC was unstoppable on offense, with nearly each player putting up fantasy-worthy lines in limited play. The AFC, meanwhile, had five turnovers and scored most of its points well after the game was no longer competitive.
Oh, and the AFC also tried an onside kick in which Phil Dawson kicked the ball with his heel.
It was that kind of a game.
Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the game’s MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Goodell has said the Pro Bowl won’t be played again if play didn’t improve this year. Last year, fans in Hawaii booed as lineman were clearly not trying. On one play in that game, Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen did a barrel roll to switch positions with a teammate.
If players were coasting this time around, it was less obvious. The AFC just played poorly. And fans didn’t boo much — the stands were relatively empty even though the game sold enough tickets to lift a local television blackout.
Even as the NFC piled up touchdowns, the game struggled for memorable moments after Saturday’s momentary switch, although the Chiefs’ Derrick Johnson did intercept a pass by the Giants’ Manning and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown that gave the AFC a 14-10 lead.
The NFC ended the half by scoring three straight touchdowns. On one of the scoring drives, referee Ed Hochuli drew cheers when announcing a pass interference penalty on Denver cornerback Champ Bailey in the second quarter — the first flag of the game.
“Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl,” Hochuli said, drawing laughs and loud cheers.
The NFC didn’t let up in the third quarter, outscoring the AFC 21-7 and took a 52-21 lead.
That limited the number of carries for Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who rushed three times for 12 yards. Johnson led the AFC with six tackles, while safety Eric Berry had five, Justin Houston had three and Tamba Hali had 1. Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt had a 48-yard average in four punts.
Giants wideout Victor Cruz broke a Pro Bowl record with 10 catches. Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson had 91 yards and two touchdowns. Eli Manning threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns, while Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had three touchdown passes in the second half.
Cincinnati’s A.J. Green had three TD catches for the AFC.
NFL officials said earlier in the week that the league wants to decide the future of the Pro Bowl by the time next season’s schedule is released in April.