NFC blows out AFC, 62-35, in Pro Bowl
Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCloud (28) of the NFC tackles Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) of the AFC in the third quarter of the NFL football Pro Bowl game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) of the AFC attempts to chase down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) of the NFC in the third quarter of the NFL Pro Bowl football game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) of the AFC and his teammate strong safety Eric Berry (29) tackle Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) of the NFC in the second quarter of the NFL Pro Bowl football game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) of the NFC makes a pass during the second quarter of the NFL Pro Bowl football game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) hands off the football to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) of the AFC in the first quarter of the NFL football Pro Bowl game against the NFC in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) of the AFC manages to throw a pass just as Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) of the NFC grabs Schaub during the third quarter of the NFL Pro Bowl football game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) of the NFC breaks away from Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (98) and Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) of the AFC to score a touchdown in the second quarter of the NFL football Pro Bowl game in Honolulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
HONOLULU – Sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt went out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver, retiring center Jeff Saturday snapped to two Mannings on opposite teams and the NFC blew past the AFC, 62-35, in a Pro Bowl that could be the league’s last.
Whether the NFL’s all-star game will return or not is a question league officials will ponder the next few months. And the players gave plenty to consider on both sides of the argument yesterday.
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.
Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the game’s MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Watt, who had 20 1∕ 2 sacks for Houston, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC’s third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. He was targeted one more time, but didn’t make a catch.
He later showed a television camera a bloody left pinkie, joking with NBC telecasters that the players were trying.
“Hey, Commish, we’re playing hard,” Watt said as he showed his bloodied finger.
Roger 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 linemen 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.
Saturday, the Green Bay center retiring at the end of this season, played for both teams though he came representing the NFC. He lined up on one play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time to Manning, his longtime former Colts teammate. 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.
Even as the NFC piled up touchdowns, the game struggled for memorable moments after Saturday’s momentary switch.
In the second quarter, 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.
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.