Cris Carter and Michael Irvin spent most of the 1990s—and plenty of time since—being compared to each other as two of the best wide receivers to ever play the game.
On Sunday, Michael Irvin got a leg up as a general manager and captain when his squad knocked off Team Carter, 32-28, to win the Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
For all the flak the "meaningless" exhibition receives, it was an exciting back-and-forth affair that came down to the final minutes for the second consecutive year. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal highlighted the interest fans had in the game:
Bengals writer Joe Goodberry was not impressed with Dalton's performance:
Matthew Stafford won offensive MVP for Team Irvin, throwing for 316 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. J.J. Watt took home defensive MVP honors in the losing effort, as he recorded three pass deflections, one interception and a fumble recovery.
The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett and the Houston Chronicle's John McClain had the news:
ESPN NFL spotlighted some other notable stat lines:
Part of the allure of the Pro Bowl, which isn't exactly known for its competitiveness or intensity, is seeing the player interaction and abnormal scenarios. For example, when Richard Sherman went bananas mid-interview as former teammate Golden Tate pulled in a 60-yard reception:
Or when Jordy Nelson celebrated his 21-yard touchdown grab with Packers teammate Clay Matthews, who happened to be on the other team:
Or when the players live-tweeted from the sideline. The best of those, unsurprisingly, came from Colts punter Pat McAfee:
Of course, there were plenty of things NFL fans have become accustomed to seeing from their beloved players, as well.
Watt was dominant, once again proving he doesn't have an "off" switch. Antonio Brown caught six of his eight targets for 98 yards. Elvis Dumervil had the only two sacks of the game. Brent Grimes had five pass deflections and an interception. Odell Beckham Jr. had 89 yards receiving and made a couple of spectacular grabs look extremely easy.
NFL's Twitter feed provided a look at the best of the bunch from Beckham:
Perhaps Beckham, who buried a 46-yard field goal before the game, should have done the kicking for Adam Vinatieri, who didn't have a typical day at the office. The most accurate kicker on the season missed a pair of 35-yard PAT's, as well as a 38-yard field goal.
As Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter noted, Vinatieri probably isn't an advocate for using the narrow goalposts permanently:
It didn't matter in the end, though, as Ryan orchestrated a pair of long touchdown drives, Team Carter's offense stalled under Dalton and Team Carter erased a nine-point second-half deficit.
In the five games before the NFL changed the Pro Bowl to the "fantasy draft" format, there were an average of 83.8 points per game and a margin of victory of 15. In the two games since the change, those numbers are down to 51.5 and 2.5.
The Pro Bowl will never win over all of its critics, but there are plenty of reasons to be satisfied with the annual showcase this year.