The NFC beat the AFC in another offensive blowout of a Pro-Bowl on Sunday that could well be the last of the annual NFL all-star games.
Half-hearted defense and a growing reluctance of some players to be involved had created debate about whether to keep the Pro Bowls going. Sunday’s 62-35 result delivered evidence for both sides of the argument.
The NFC was unstoppable on offense, while the AFC had five turnovers and scored most of their points well after the game was no longer competitive.
Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, who had 20.5 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 did not make a catch.
Whether the Pro Bowl will return is a question league officials will ponder the next few months, with a decision expected by April, when next season’s fixtures are released.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the Pro Bowl would not be played again if play did not improve this year. Last year, fans in Hawaii booed as linemen were clearly not trying.
If players were coasting this time around, it was less obvious. The AFC just played poorly. And fans did not boo much — the stands were relatively empty, even though the game sold enough tickets to lift a local TV blackout.
Jeff Saturday, the Green Bay center retiring at the end of this season, played for both teams, although 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.