MIAMI -- Some thoughts on the NFC’s 41-34 loss to the AFC in the Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium:
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers completed 15 of 19 passes for 197 yards and two scores as the NFC’s starting quarterback. He said he spent part of the week battling an illness, but added: “Overall, it was a great experience for me.” It was interesting to see Rodgers throw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson in the second quarter. They would have been teammates for one year at Cal if Rodgers hadn’t entered the draft after his junior season. “I was teasing him after I threw that quick screen for the touchdown,” Rodgers said. “What could have been if I had stayed in my senior year?”
Jackson caught two touchdowns, including a 58-yarder from Donovan McNabb in which he ran away from the defense on a short screen. “It’s been a dream all year to come out here and put on a show,” Jackson said. The play spurred a discussion on our Pro Bowl live chat: Who was the fastest player on the field Sunday night? Jackson or Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson? On Sunday, it was Jackson.
Coach Wade Phillips called it a “no-defense game.” The teams combined for 987 yards of offense. “They decided the defense was going to put their hands behind their backs, so you are going to have a lot of scoring. But that is what we wanted to see.” If by putting “their hands behind their backs,” Phillips meant “pass-rushers taking two steps and stopping,” then I understand what he was talking about. Defensive linemen on both teams made almost no effort to get to the quarterback. That always happens in the Pro Bowl, but the level of disinterest was so high that it prompted Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett to make the following observation via Twitter: “I promise this!! If I ever get in I don't care what is going on I will play like I always do!! One speed!!! Hard!!!"
Facing no pass rush, Phillips’ team threw on 48 of 59 plays. That's a lot.
Let’s make one exception to the defensive observation: Washington linebacker London Fletcher recorded the tackle on three of the NFC defense’s first four plays, clearly excited to be making his first-ever Pro Bowl appearance. “Guys were saying this should have happened a long time ago,” Fletcher said. “But it was a lot of fun and I’m blessed to have been here.” Unofficially, Fletcher finished second among NFC defenders with five tackles.
There was a brief downpour prior to the game and misty conditions prevailed for much of the night. But the Super Bowl-ready field held up well and suffered minimal damage, according to players. “The field was great,” Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen said. “It was great. It was wet out tonight, but no one was slopping and sliding.”
The NFL sold and/or distributed 70,697 tickets, making for the second-largest Pro Bowl crowd ever. There were also 34 players originally named to one of the teams who didn’t participate. In other words, more people watched more backups than at any point in history.
The Saturday dismissal of Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie had its expected result: Philadelphia’s Jason Peters played the whole game at left tackle and the New York Giants’ David Diehl went the whole way on the right side. McKinnie’s Vikings teammates didn’t have much to say on the matter. “That’s a personal issue for him,” Allen said. “You have to check with him.” Like Allen, tailback Adrian Peterson said he hadn’t spoken with McKinnie. “You guys probably know more than me about the whole thing,” Peterson said.