HONOLULU - With its future in doubt, the Pro Bowl offered a handful of shenanigans and plenty of points.
Whether that will enough to have the NFL's all-star game return next season is a something the league will ponder the next few months after the NFC's 62-35 blowout of the AFC on Sunday at Aloha Stadium.
"It's been an unbelievable week," said Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw three touchdown passes as the NFC set a Pro Bowl record for points. "And the thing was, if you watched us, everybody was competing today and it was really awesome."
The NFC’s Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks looks for running room during the second quarter of his team’s 62-35 victory over the AFC in Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt went out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver for the AFC, and retiring Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday snapped to two Mannings, on opposite teams.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was selected as the game's MVP after catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
"Guys were competing, guys wanted to win and guys want to keep the game here," Rudolph insisted. "That was the point before the game. We want to keep this game rolling for future Pro Bowlers."
The NFC's eight touchdowns tied the mark set last year by the AFC. Victor Cruz of the New York Giants broke a record with 10 catches.
The AFC turned the ball over five times and scored most of its points after the game was no longer close.
Watt, who had 20 1/2 sacks in the regular season, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Watt was targeted one more time, but didn't make a catch.
He later showed a television camera a bloody left pinkie, joking with NBC broadcasters that it was proof that the players were trying.
"Hey, Commish, we're playing hard," Watt said as he showed his finger.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the Pro Bowl wouldn't take place again if play didn't improve this year. Last year, fans booed as linemen clearly were not trying.
If players were coasting this time around, it was less obvious. The AFC just played poorly. Fans also didn't boo much - the stands were relatively empty even though the game sold enough tickets to lift a local television blackout.
The game was trending on Twitter in the U.S. early on, but quickly gave way to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the WWE Royal Rumble.
Saturday, retiring at the end of this season, played for both teams, though he came representing the NFC. He lined up on a single play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time to Manning, his former Indianapolis Colts teammate.
Saturday said Manning orchestrated the stunt.
"He's got a little more pull than I got," Saturday said. "He got it all set up and timed up for me, so it was really nice of him to do that."
Saturday played later in the game for the NFC, snapping to Peyton's brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Peyton Manning said he was happy the NFL allowed the play to happen.
"It's something that I'll always remember, that he'll always remember to kind of get that one, final snap together after the thousands that we've taken together," he said.
In the second quarter, ref-eree Ed Hochuli went for some humor in announcing a pass-interference penalty on Denver's Champ Bailey - the first flag of the game.
"Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl," Hochuli said, drawing laughs and cheers.
AFC-Green 6 pass from P.Manning (Dawson kick), 14:01.
NFC-Jackson 36 pass from Brees (Walsh kick), 10:09.
NFC-FG Walsh 48, 14:54.
AFC-D.Johnson 42 interception return (Dawson kick), 11:14.
NFC-Cruz 9 pass from E.Manning (Walsh kick), 7:00.
NFC-Lynch 1 run (Walsh kick), 1:41.
NFC-Rudolph 3 pass from E.Manning (Walsh kick), :00.
NFC-Martin 28 pass from Wilson (Walsh kick), 12:56.
AFC-Cribbs 4 pass from Schaub (Dawson kick), 6:21.
NFC-Fitzgerald 9 pass from Wilson (Walsh kick), 3:52.
NFC-Jackson 5 pass from Wilson (Walsh kick), 1:51.
NFC-FG Walsh 26, 14:38.
AFC-Green 4 pass from Luck (Dawson kick), 11:36.
NFC-Felton 3 run (Walsh kick), 7:55.
AFC-Green 49 pass from Luck (Dawson kick), 5:54.
|Total net yards||356||478|
|Time of possession||26:55||33:05|
RUSHING-AFC, Charles 3-12, Schaub 1-11, Reece 1-1, Luck 1-0, Foster 3-(minus 2), Spiller 1-(minus 2), Wayne 1-(minus 5). NFC, Lynch 4-21, Felton 4-18, A.Peterson 5-13, Wilson 4-10, Martin 3-8, L.Washington 5-7, Brees 2-1.
PASSING-AFC, Luck 12-19-1-205, Schaub 12-22-2-113, P.Manning 6-12-0-43. NFC, E.Manning 16-23-1-191, Brees 8-11-0-131, Wilson 8-10-0-98.
RECEIVING-AFC, Green 7-119, D.Thomas 5-52, Daniels 4-45, Spiller 4-25, Cribbs 3-56, A.Johnson 3-34, Wayne 2-12, Slater 1-13, Gresham 1-5. NFC, Cruz 10-96, Jackson 6-91, Fitzgerald 6-59, Rudolph 5-122, Martin 3-40, Witten 2-12.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-None.