The much-maligned NFL all-star game has been an embarrassment the last several years, but the new system—unconferenced rosters drafted by Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders—helped inject some energy into this year's version at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Surprisingly enough, the defenses shined brightest in Hawaii, as the teams combined for nine sacks and eight takeaways. Team Rice escaped with a 22-21 victory after Mike Tolbert ran in the game-winning two-point conversion with 41 seconds left.
The 43 combined points—that's 19 less than the NFC scored last year—mark the lowest total since the 2006 Pro Bowl (40 points).
ESPN Stats & Info also added this tidbit:
This was the 1st Pro Bowl decided by 1 point since the 1982 Pro Bowl— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 27, 2014
Derrick Johnson, with nine solo tackles, came away with Defensive MVP honors, while Nick Foles won Offensive MVP. Foles finished 7-of-10 for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Foles talked about winning MVP after the game, courtesy of Eagles Insider:
Team Sanders started off the scoring when Andrew Luck took a flea-flicker from Jamaal Charles and fired a jump-ball into the end zone. The pass wasn't for notable big guys A.J. Green or Dez Bryant, but for speedster DeSean Jackson, who came down with it for the 36-yard score.
Luck finished 5-of-7 for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Jackson hauled in three catches for 40 yards.
Drew Brees, who struggled with Team Sanders' unbelievable pass rush early on, answered in the second quarter when he connected with teammate Jimmy Graham to tie the game. Brees completed just 9-of-19 passes for 81 yards, but Graham finished with five catches and 51 yards.
After Cam Newton scored on a quarterback sneak, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who finished with a team-high six catches and 66 yards, tied things back up for Team Rice just before halftime with a 10-yard TD catch from Philip Rivers.
That still might not have been the most notable moment of the night for Gordon, though, who earlier took a big hit from T.J. Ward that sent him into a complete flip:
Teammates being on opposite sidelines was a large reason for the added physicality. In addition to that Brown-on-Brown violence, Kansas City's Johnson put a lick on Jamaal Charles and Carolina's Tolbert attempted to flatten Luke Kuechly.
Finally, after Alex Smith took the ball with 1:24 left and cruised down the field, finding DeMarco Murray for the score, Tolbert converted the go-ahead two-point conversation.
Justin Tucker had a chance to win it in the end for Team Sanders with a 67-yard field goal, but it came up short.
Team Sanders Front Seven: A
It was pretty apparent from the start what Prime Time was trying to do. After grabbing J.J. Watt as one of his captains, he spent early picks on Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, giving his team a ferocious pass rush.
And it worked.
Watt was constantly in the backfield and finished with a sack, countless QB pressures and one awesome dance:
McCoy added two sacks, Greg Hardy recorded one and Dontari Poe came away with an interception. Throw in Kuechly flying to the ball and finishing with a game-high 12 tackles, and it was a dominant performance from Team Sanders up front.
Derrick Johnson, LB, Team Rice: A
I think someone forgot to tell Johnson he was playing in the Pro Bowl.
Leading the team in tackles? Check; he had nine of them. Contributing against the passing game? Check; he had a pass deflection. Big hit on your teammate? Checkmate.
Of course, after a hit like that, Johnson couldn't wait until the end of the game to brag:
Have to give my fellow teammate some friendly fire. LOL! I can't lie, it felt pretty good! #probowl— Derrick Johnson (@superdj56) January 27, 2014
From the gridiron to his social media game, just a terrific effort all-around from the nine-year veteran.