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Players defend Pro Bowl after NFC routs AFC

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:02 a.m. HST, Jan 28, 2013

After a week in Hawaii and a blowout game, the NFL's all-stars are defending the Pro Bowl as a worthy reward for top players who don't make the Super Bowl.

"I hope we keep it here and keep it here for a long time," Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph said after winning Pro Bowl MVP in a 62-35 NFC win on Sunday.

Rudolph called the award icing on a cake of being named to the roster and getting to spend time with other Pro Bowl players in Hawaii.

"That was the big emphasis this week, making sure that we were competitive and I think we showed that," he said.

The shenanigans were limited. The teams scored plenty of points. Yet the results were familiar — another ho-hum Pro Bowl.

Now, the future of the game depends on how Commissioner Roger Goodell sees it.

"That's for him to decide," Denver quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I thought it was a good, competitive game."

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson got the crowd pumped up in the second half with some nifty scrambles and three passing touchdowns. There was also Houston's sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt going out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver, and retiring Green Bay center Jeff Saturday snapping to two Mannings on opposite teams.

But while the NFC appeared unstoppable on offense, with nearly each player putting up fantasy-worthy lines in limited play, the AFC had five turnovers and scored most of its points well after the game was no longer competitive.

"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."

Watt, who had 20½ sacks for Houston, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from 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 broadcasters that it was proof that the players were trying.

"Hey, Commish, we're playing hard," Watt said as he showed his finger.

Watt said after the game that he wanted to stay in even as things got lopsided.

"I'm sure some guys thought about (letting up), but I'm not going to sit out," Watt said. "I like to play football, it's fun, so I just tried to enjoy it."

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 lineman 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.

The game was trending on Twitter in the United States 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 one play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time to Manning, his longtime former Colts teammate.

Saturday said it meant a lot to him that the Broncos quarterback, whom Saturday called a true friend, 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 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.

Saturday's last play on the field was a passing touchdown by Eli Manning.

Peyton Manning said it was nice for the NFL to allow the play to happen.

"It's something that I'll always remember," he said, "that he'll always remember to kind of get that one, final snap together after the thousands that we've taken together."

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.

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.

"We understood exactly what (Goodell) wanted, guys were making plays all over the field," Cruz said. "There was a little bit more high intensity than in years past and we were excited to play."

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Bdpapa wrote:
I watched some of it on TV. I thought it had pretty good entertainment value.
on January 28,2013 | 05:23AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
I thought it was exactly what it should have been - a good fun game. That Russell Wilson is really fun to watch, and where else to you see a member from one team (Jeff Saturday) SWITCH SIDES for one play just so he can snap the ball to his former QB Payten Manning one last time? Yes it was all good fun and lets hope we can have a repeat next year.
on January 28,2013 | 05:41AM
ShibaiDakine wrote:
I watched the Pro Bowl from Hawaii's largest major market and, other than short video vignettes of highly selected scenery throughout the state mostly taken from a helecopter, there was nothing of marketing genius or substance about Hawaii forthcoming from the show. During the show there were numerous inviting clips of New Orleans that included their stadium, daily tourist activities and nightlife. I saw not one hotel, airline or other private enterprise doing tourist related busness in Hawaii by advertising during the telecast. Next week the Hawaii Tourism Authority or some third party NFL hack will come out with some inflated numbers about the economic activity and advertising value of the Pro Bowl therein overstating the justification for the millions of taxpayer dollars spent each year on this non-event. like everything else coming from the State government, which has yet to publish its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), it is near impossible to verify the numbers.
on January 28,2013 | 05:56AM
pakeheat wrote:
Scoring 65 points and the players say it played with more intensity from the defensive side? Yeah right, LOL.
on January 28,2013 | 06:22AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The theory is that the Pro Bowl is worth the millions we taxpayers fork over to keep the NFL fat and happy and here in Hawaii. But, frankly, it seemed that Hawaii got the short end of the stick in terms of exposure. Maybe the mainland markets got more advertising but from what we cab tell here, he return on our money was poor. Then, too, the empty seats are embarrassing. The supposedly premier players of the top sport can not draw a full house in a relatively small stadium.

I think it's time to say goodnight to this "marketing" program and divert those millions to something that actually promotes Hawaii tourism more strongly.

on January 28,2013 | 06:49AM
scooters wrote:
The score indicated nothing but a high school basketball game score. Still played school yard ball. A waste of time and money watching this shame.
on January 28,2013 | 07:27AM
lowtone123 wrote:
They showed more of an effort. It is what it is. It is an exhibition game. Anyone expecting more is surely going to be dissappointed. It is good for the state of Hawaii. Good exposure, fan and players come, the NFL gives something back and everyone has a good time.
on January 28,2013 | 07:58AM
gsr wrote:
It was better than last year but frankly there's more action in a good high school game.
on January 28,2013 | 08:01AM
derek_millennium wrote:
I miss seeing superbowl players in the pro bowl. Can you imagine seeing Ray Lewis of the Ravens playing his last game at Aloha Stadium?
on January 28,2013 | 08:39AM
64hoo wrote:
watch how much of our tax dollars are state had to pay, bet we lost over 2 million dollars for this pro bowl dump it even though the majority wants it here.
on January 28,2013 | 04:58PM
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