As I watched the Pro Bowl, my wife commented on how cool she thought it was that the were playing this game. I asked her what she was talking about and she told me how she thought it was a good idea that the NFL now had an All-Star game like the rest of the major sports. And then it hit me. In my 13 years of marriage I'd never sat down and watched the Pro Bowl. Once the hype of the Super Bowl is over, the Pro Bowl just feels like an after thought and I've moved on to other sports. But this year the Pro Bowl is part of the hype, complete with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning adding commentary. Then again, almost 40% of the rosters were made up of players replacing injured (see disinterested) players, or those who couldn't play because they were playing in the Super Bowl next week. With an anounced crowed of 70,697, the second largest ever to see a Pro Bowl game, Roger Goodell proclaimed the one year experiment a success. But considering the stands were half empty by the 3rd quarter, I'm guessing a lot of those tickets were given away. Either that or they're really defensive minded fans who can't stand the sight of D-lineman making a half hearted attempt to sack the QB. I know you don't want to get injured but can you at least pretend that you're trying. Professional wrestlers do it all the time. Justin Smith, who actually did end up with a sack, said during the game of the pace, "The pace is nice. You don't have to worry about working too hard." At least he's honest.
The NFC's coach, Wade Phillips, called it the "no-defense game". Both teams combined for 987 yards of offense, with 833 of those yards coming through the air. "They decided the defense was going to put their hands behind their backs, so you are going to have a lot of scoring," Phillips told reporters. "But that is what [the fans] wanted to see." The lack of defense so enraged Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett, who wasn't chosen for the game, that he said through his 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!!!" And in response to Barnett I will say, "OK!!! We get it!!! You don't have to yell so loud!!!" It's a good thing Andy Lee was the holder on FG/PAT attempts otherwise he would have only been in for two plays. Both teams combined to punt the ball 3 times.
But what surprised me more than the lack of defense, or penalties for that matter (their were only 2), was when I saw Vince Young, and then latter David Garrard, step out onto the field. Those guys are Pro Bowl QB's? Apparently Garrard made it as a 5th alternate. I'm not making that up. Manning couldn't play since he's playing in a little game next week, and Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger all turned it down. Jaguars GM Gene Smith gave this ringing endorsement of his QB's selection, "I know he probably didn't have a year like he did a couple years ago, if you want to be very critical of his play, but I'm happy for him for who he is." I'm not even sure what that means. But at least Garrard had a good game completing 8 of his 14 passes for 183 yards and 1 TD. Unlike Young who only completed 6 of his 12 passes for 47 yards and 1 interception for a QB rating of 25.3. Proving once again why he needs to be down on his knees every day thanking God for Chris Johnson. Assuming you believe in that sort of thing.
Aaron Rodgers started the game for the NFC and looked good throwing for 197 yards and 2 TD's, including a 7 yard TD to DeSean Jackson. Afterwards Rodgers joked with Jackson about what could have been if he stayed on for his Senior year and they had a chance to play together at Cal. Of course they could have played together with the 49ers as well if the 49ers hadn't passed on Rodgers in favor of Alex Smith, or passed on Jackson twice in favor of Kentwan Balmer and Chilo Rachal. And who says the 49ers have had some bad drafts?
The Ironmen of the game were the NFC's Tackles David Diehl and Jason Peters, who had to play every play since Vikings Tackle Bryant McKinnie was kicked off the team for not being able to take a break from his partying long enough to pose for the team photo. And this from a guy who's been begging to go for the last 8 years. Diehl said afterwards, "I'm honored to be here. Granted I wasn't expecting to play the whole game." Although I can't imagine it was too hard for them considering they do that every week during the season.
Their was also some talk that Chad Ochocinco, who I secretly believe was only invited to generate some buzz for the game, would get involved with the kicking game by getting a chance to either punt or kick a PAT. Since the AFC's punter, the Raiders very own Shane Lechler, only punted one time, their was no chance for Ochocinco to do that. But he could have gone in for the last PAT. However the coaches decided the game was too close. "The game was too close for me to go out there and have fun," Ochocinco said afterwards. "Usually, if we were up by a little bit, it would've been fun to go do it, but it was too close to even attempt it." Right, because winning this game was so important. I know the winning players make an extra $20,000, but considering the amount of money they're already making, it would be the equivalentof me walking home from my poker game with an extra $20.
In the end, the AFC held on to win 41-34 and the Texans QB Matt Schaub (13/17, 189 yards, 2 TD's) was named the MVP. But as is inevitably the case with these games, most of the talk featured what was going on in the off-season. And for the 49ers, no news is more welcomed the the retirement of Kurt Warner. Vernon Davis, who had 3 catches for 67 yards and looked like he was going to make the first down signal after every catch, said with a smile, "It means good things for the 49ers, bad things for the Cardinals." In response, the Cardinals Darnell Dockett said, "If we don't keep our talent, I'll be the first person to tell you, yeah. You look at our biggest rival and they are getting better -- with young guys, too. And if we don't keep our talent, I don't know." Sounds like they have a lot of confidence in Matt Leinart.
Extras: Frank Gore carried the ball 2 times for 4 yards and caught 2 passes for 11 yards.