NFL 2019-2020 Pro Bowl Recap

NFL 2019-2020 Pro Bowl Recap

The Week between the NFL Conference Title Games and the Super Bowl is known as dead week. This year, that term took on tragic new meaning. The Pro Bowl is often an afterthought, and this year real life and death issues made the game tertiary at best. Just as the football game was starting, news out of the basketball world rocked sports fans and non-fans alike. A helicopter crash in Los Angeles took the lives of 9 people. Among the dead were basketball great Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter Gianna. NFL players got the news as the game was started.

As horrific a tragedy as this is, Elton John once sang, “The show must go on.” So from Orlando, Florida, here is the Recap of this year’s AFC vs. NFC Pro Bowl.

The NFL is desperately trying to find ways to make the game meaningful. Various experiments including teams led by Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin have not moved the needle. The game often resembles a game of two-hand touch rather than tackle football. So this year the NFL just eliminated tackling. Yes. You read that correctly. In this Pro Bowl, there was no tackling. It was slightly more than 2-hand touch. Once a player was wrapped up, the play ended. Even seeing a quarterback knocked to the ground was unusual, and that was a shove with two hands rather than an actual hit. Because of this, passing was emphasized over running. John Harbaugh and the Ravens staff coached the AFC while Sean Payton and the Saints staff led the NFC.

There were no kickoffs. The NFC got the ball first at their own 25 automatically, as did every team after a score. Russell Wilson of the Seahawks was supposed to be the starter, but in a very classy move he deferred to Saints great Drew Brees. Lamar Jackson of the Ravens started for the AFC. Jackson moved the AFC from their own 37 to a 1st and 10 goal at the 10. After a pair of incompletions, Jackson went to the end zone and was intercepted by Baker. The NFC took over at their own 10. Brees went to Saints teammate Michael Thomas for 11 yards. Brees then went deep to Kenny Golladay of the Seahawks for 59 yards. Brees then went to Thomas for a 16 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 NFC. Jackson went to Mark Andrews for 11, Andre Roberts for 25, Jack Doyle for 16, Andrews for 3 and 4, and Roberts for a 5 yard touchdown. After one quarter, the game was tied 7-7.

Brees was done for the day. The second quarter began with a sack of Wilson giving the NFC 2nd and 17 at their own 18. Wilson went to Thomas for 20 yards. On 2nd and 4 from the NFC 44, Wilson fumbled a snap out of the shotgun. He picked it up and went to Jared Cook of the Saints for a 45 yard gain. On 3rd and 5 from the AFC 6, Wilson went to Amari Cooper of the Cowboys for a touchdown and a 14-7 NFC lead. After that the AFC took over. On 4th and 1 from their own 34, John Harbaugh decided to go for it. Jackson ran for 3.Jackson went deep to Doyle for 34 and to Cortland Sutton of the Broncos for 12 and 11 more. On 4th and goal at the 3, again Harbaugh went for it. Jackson hit Andrews for the touchdown to make it 14-14 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half.

At the 2 minute warning, a false start had the NFC facing 4th and 13 at the AFC 44. In a regular season or playoff game, this means a punt. In the Pro Bowl, it means Sean Payton going for it. Wilson threw incomplete. Jackson played the first 28 minutes, but now it was Deshaun Watson of the Texans taking over. Watson hit Andrews for 5, Keenan Allen of the Chargers for 9, Andrews for 29, and Doyle for the 13 yard touchdown. With 40 seconds left in the half, the AFC led 21-14. Wilson threw 3 straight incompletions. The AFC got it back at their own 38 with 20 seconds left. Watson hit Mark Ingram of the Ravens for 17 and Jarvis Landry of the Browns for 13. Justin Tucker of the Ravens nailed a 50 yard field goal as the half expired to put the AFC up 24-14.

In the third quarter Watson led a 13 play, 55 yard drive that took 7 1/2 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and 12 from the NFC, Watson was intercepted at the goal line. The ball was then lateraled to Fletcher Cox. Big man with football rumbled past people who had no interest in trying to touch much less tackle him. In the regular season or playoff he doesn’t even get the lateral. Only in the Pro Bowl could men much faster than him all but let him score. The 100 yard interception return including 61 yards by Cox had the NFC within 24-21 midway through the third quarter. 2 minutes later the NFC got the ball back at their own 31. Kirk Cousins of the Vikings took over for the NFC. He hit Devontae Adams of the rival Packers for 11, Thomas for 7, Thomas again deep for 38 yards, and back to Adams for the 13 yard touchdown. With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, the NFC had retaken the lead 27-24.  The extra point try by Wil Lutz of the Saints was blocked in spectacular fashion by Josh Allen of the Jaguars. Initially a flag was thrown, but after a brief conference, it was determined that Allen jumped over the line cleanly without leveraging any other players. The move first done by Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks led to a rule change. The play in this game was legal, but highly aggressive given the low-key nature of the Pro Bowl. This was a good thing.

This time the AFC responded quickly. Ryan Tannehill of the Titans took over for the AFC. Nick Chubb of the Browns ran for 8 and 7. Tannehill’s first pass was a 60 yard touchdown to DJ Chark to put the AFC back on top 31-27. Then came 3 straight turnovers. First Sean Payton went to the bag of tricks and had Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys try a halfback option pass. It was intercepted. 2 plays later Tannehill was intercepted as the NFC began the fourth quarter just shy of midfield. Despite 1st and goal at the 9, Cousins threw 3 straight incompletions. Sean Payton decided to go for it on 4th and goal. Disaster struck as a fumble was picked by by TJ Watt and returned 82 yards for a score. The defensive touchdown had the AFC up 38-27 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Needing 2 score, the NFC came back 75 yards in 11 plays and nearly 6 minutes. Cousins hit Cooper for 8, Adams for 13, Cooper for 10, Adams for 8, Elliott for 11, and Golladay for 16. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Cousins hit Adams for the touchdown. Because of the earlier blocked extra point, the NFC needed to go for the 2 point conversion. Cousins was sacked as the NFC trailed by 5 rather than just a field goal. A new rule change implemented just for the Pro Bowl eliminated the onsides kick. The NFC was given one chance on 4th and 15 from their own 20. If they convert, they keep the ball. Instead, Cousins was intercepted. 4 1/2 minutes still remained. Although the Pro Bowl is a passing bonanza, the AFC closed out the game the traditional way on the ground. On 3rd and 1 from the NFC 26, Derrick Henry of the Titans gained 4. On 2nd and 2 from the NFC 14, Mark Ingram gained 4. Tannehill took three knees to end it. There would be no running up the score. Jackson was the offensive player of the game. Calais Campbell of the Jaguars was the defensive MVP. In 7 days, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will play in Super Bowl (54) XLIV. That game will be tackling football. The Pro Bowl from Florida and not Hawaii is now in the books. Four years ago Orlando stole the game from Waikiki in Honolulu. The AFC has won all 4 times in the Disney hub. 38-33 AFC

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