The NFL Pro Bowl has caught a lot of flak from fans, sportswriters, and more recently, the players themselves, for lack of competition and the pathetic lack of effort. A lot of the blame for the diminished product has to be directed towards the NFL for the silly rules the league has imposed that reduces the game to a powder-puff farce rather than an engaging match fans would actually want to see.
Like any reasonable fan, I recognize the exhibition nature of this game and the importance of avoiding injuries, but if the level of competition is so lacking, why play it at all? Why wear pads? Why not come out in sweats and flip-flops to complete the image of a backyard game of touch rather than an earnest competition between professionals?
Aaron Rodgers said that some on his side "embarrassed themselves" with their effort, or lack thereof, during last year's game. Despite high ratings, Roger Goodell apparently considered canceling this year's Pro Bowl. Peyton Manning entreated his fellow all-stars to go "full-speed" to prevent the annual tradition from going the way of the dodo. Will it work? Will the farce continue, or will we see a game worth watching? I figured I'd watch and give you my thoughts. Who knows, I might actually enjoy it.
The Pro Bowl rules are silly—no shifting on offense? No blitzing on defense? It would be more fun to throw in some really ridiculous rules. How about only skill players (WRs, RBs, QBs) can play on the offensive line, and only offensive linemen can play the skill positions. Now that would really show how talented these players are.
15:00—First play of the game, AD fumbles the ball and gives the AFC a 1st-and-goal. I thought he had solved that fumbling problem of his. Have to give him respect though—second most rushing yards ever nine months after tearing his ACL? Unreal.
14:03—Charles Tillman covering J.J. Watt who is playing wide receiver/tight end. That's awesome—I hope we see a few more of these as the game goes on.
14:09—Peyton Manning to A.J. Green for the touchdown. Manning is so good—he threw Green open on that play.
10:10—Brees to Vincent Jackson for a pretty throw and catch for the score. Collinsworth makes a point of saying that the game has been very competitive at least so far, and I'm inclined to agree with him after seeing J.J. Watt with a bleeding pinkie.
5:33—Geno Atkins sacks Drew Brees for a loss. This is insane, another punt. No one is going to confuse this for a playoff game, but it is more intense than a run-of-the-mill regular-season game.
4:56—Jeff Saturday, who plays for Green Bay and hence the NFC, just snapped for the AFC with his longtime teammate Peyton Manning before retiring. I love this Pro Bowl.
11:14—Wow, what a play by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson—that was a nasty pick-6. Fantastic instincts and speed to finish; Kansas City has six players in the Pro Bowl. How in the world did the Chiefs only win two games? This is harsh, but the Chiefs' front office had to have been kind of terrible. Andy Reid should be able to turn that team around.
7:00—10 plays, 73 yards. The NFC just wrapped up a scoring drive culminating with Eli Manning to Victor Cruz for a touchdown. I am not going to lie, Peyton Manning’s speech might have worked too well. This game is getting kind of boring, giving me ample time to watch Louis C.K. stand-up on the side.
0:45—First half MVP: Kyle Rudolph to the tune of 5 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD. Eli loses out because of the pick-6.
12:56—I still think RG3 should win Rookie of the Year, but Russell Wilson is something special. Escapes the sack from Watt and then floats a perfect pass to Doug Martin, another rookie, to give the NFC a 38-14 lead. I am looking forward to seeing if Luck comes out on the next series and responds.
0:45—Russell Wilson has thrown six passes, completed five, three for TDs to Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Doug Martin. Can’t say enough about the guy besides that I wish he hadn’t played the Redskins in the playoffs this year.
11:36—Andrew Luck just led a nine-play, 80-yard drive to throw a pretty good pass to A.J. Green. It’s been said before, but I have to echo this sentiment: The league is going to have some excellent quarterback play for the next 10 years. RG3 is 22, Luck is 23, Wilson is 24, Kaepernick is 25, Andy Dalton is 25, Cam Newton is 23, Matt Ryan is 27 and the list goes on. I’m excited to see some awesome rivalries develop over the next decade.
5:54—Andrew Luck puts it in a basket for A.J. Green as he runs past Charles Tillman for his third touchdown of the afternoon. Is Megatron still the premiere receiving threat in the NFL or has A.J. Green wrested that crown for himself? Andre Johnson has to be in the running as well.
That was a thoroughly entertaining Pro Bowl. It was played tough but still had the high scoring and big plays on both sides of the ball that make a shootout fun to watch. Game MVP is a tough call—officially it went to Kyle Rudolph, but I thought A.J. Green or Russell Wilson could have taken it as well. Mr. Commissioner, it’s your call—I think the Pro Bowl needs to have some additions going forward (skills competition, etc.), but this year’s competition may have saved the tradition. Now it’s time to get serious. See you next week for the Super Bowl!