Jerry Rice caught 197 career touchdowns, and many consider him to be the best wide receiver in NFL history. Michael Irvin caught 65 and lives in Rice's enormous shadow alongside every other receiver to play the game.
Rice may have the receiving records, but Irvin gained bragging rights as his team won Sunday's Pro Bowl, 49-27.
Team Irvin dominated Team Rice in Hawaii behind an impressive aerial attack that netted seven touchdowns. Russell Wilson threw for 164 yards and three scores, while Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston tossed two touchdowns each. Wilson's Seattle Seahawks may have failed to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in three years, but at least he won the Pro Bowl Offensive MVP award as a small consolation prize.
NFL on ESPN captured some of the lasting images:
The Team Irvin quarterbacks spread the ball around, and seven players caught touchdowns. Allen Robinson paced his squad with 105 receiving yards, although Team Rice's Travis Kelce caught two touchdowns on the other side.
Unfortunately for Team Rice, Derek Carr (two), Tyrod Taylor (three) and Eli Manning (one) combined for six interceptions.
The game took a back seat to Charles Woodson, at least before the action started. In December, the legendary defensive back announced he would retire following the 2015 campaign, and Sunday's contest was the final time he took the field as a player. He received an appropriate greeting, per the NFL:
On the field, Team Rice marched its way to a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the first possession to start the scoring. Manning hit Kelce for a four-yard touchdown, and Henry Hodgson of NFL.com asked, "Did Team Rice script their first 20 plays?"
Team Irvin answered with a touchdown as Wilson found Julio Jones from 14 yards out (the two-point attempt failed). Trey Wingo of ESPN reacted to the play:
The Wilson-to-Falcons connection kept rolling when the Seahawks quarterback hit Devonta Freeman for a six-yard touchdown and found Jones for the two-point conversion to give Team Irvin a 14-7 lead. The Atlanta Falcons reacted to their team's early success:
Wilson threw his third touchdown of the game, this time to Todd Gurley, to help open up a 21-7 advantage. He set up the score with an impressive 48-yard strike to Robinson, per the NFL:
Team Rice got back into the game when Carr found Kelce for a touchdown, but Team Irvin built its lead back to 28-14 by halftime after Bridgewater hit Darren Sproles for a score. At least Team Rice had a bonding moment for two rivals, as NFL on ESPN highlighted:
Team Rice started the second half with a touchdown drive that Doug Martin capped off, but Woodson's presence on offense turned heads. NFL on CBS captured the moment:
Team Irvin immediately responded with a touchdown as Bridgewater hit Robinson for a 50-yard score to help make it 35-21. All the scoring bored one particular position, as NFL on ESPN shared:
Robinson was the NFL's co-leader in touchdown catches with 14 because of plays like this, per the NFL:
Perhaps the most excitement of the second half came when regular-season teammates matched up against one another. Bobby Wagner flattened fellow Seahawks playmaker Richard Sherman, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off a pass that was intended for Giants teammate Odell Beckham Jr.
NFL Network shared the Seahawks-on-Seahawks crime:
NFL on ESPN weighed in on the play between the Giants:
Team Irvin busted the game open when Winston hit Delanie Walker for a 53-yard score, which helped the team seize a 42-21 lead. The Tennessee Titans were glad to introduce new fans to their playmaking tight end:
Team Irvin piled it on with a touchdown strike from Winston to DeAndre Hopkins, but the wide receiver's windmill dunk caught the most attention, per NFL on ESPN:
Team Rice made the final score somewhat more respectable when Taylor connected with Jarvis Landry for a 31-yard touchdown, but it was far too little, too late. Team Irvin finished the victory, 49-27.
The Super Bowl is the only game remaining before another long, pigskin-less offseason now that the Pro Bowl is in the rearview mirror.
Woodson will now wait for his eventual Hall of Fame call following his ninth Pro Bowl. The three-time first-team All-Pro tallied at least one interception in each of his 18 seasons in the league and capped off his career with five in 2015 even though he turned 39 years old in October.
NFL on ESPN shared his final exit:
A defense-optional Pro Bowl may not have been the ideal send-off for one of the best players of a generation, but few will remember that when he is forever idolized in Canton, Ohio.
Michael Bennett was named defensive MVP in the aftermath, and Wilson weighed in on the Seahawks' performances, per Kalani Takase of the Associated Press (h/t ABCNews.go.com): “To see us Seahawks out there is a real special thing. It’s a testament to our hard work and to see two Seahawks out there as MVPs is really cool.”
Wilson weighed in on the entire game, per Takase:
Any time you have the opportunity to play the great game of football, you take advantage of the opportunity. Playing in the Pro Bowl is a special thing because to be able to see all the amazing players across the league, who are the best players in the world and to be able to play on one field together is a really, really cool thing.
While the Seahawks made headlines, the real story was Woodson’s final contest. He discussed his emotional state, per Takase: “I really got all the emotions out of the way a few weeks back, but this one is just the icing on the cake for me to be able to make the Pro Bowl, be able to bring my family over here and hang out in Hawaii. It's been great.”
So has his career.