NFL 2021-2022 Pro Bowl Recap

NFL 2021-2022 Pro Bowl Recap

The NFL 2021 regular season has come and gone. The AFC and NFC Title Games are in the history books. The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will play at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. Yet there is still football’s equivalent of the all-star game. From the Las Vegas Death Star, home of the Raiders, the NFL gave us the Pro Bowl. After decades in Honolulu, Hawaii and several years in Miami, Florida, now it was Las Vegas. Gone was the beautifully warm weather. Las Vegas is not Fargo, North Dakota, but it in winter it is not that warm either. Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans staff led the AFC while the NFC was coached by Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers staff. 

The rules for this game were meant to severely limit the chance of injuries. No kickoffs. All drives start at the 25 yard line. Tight end and running back on every play. No nickel or dime packages and no blitzing. Most importantly, there was no tackling. Yes, tackle football was now played without tackling. This was the equivalent of two-hand touch. There was mild blocking, but nothing too intense. After seeing the Pro Bowl last year wiped out by Covid, at least this was something. Barely. Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals was intercepted by Darrius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, who returned it 45 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 7-0 AFC lead.

Instead of an onside kick, the team that scored was given one chance to keep the ball. They would start with a 4th and 15 from their own 25. The AFC went with that option but came up one yard short, giving the NFC the ball at the AFC 39. Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings took over as NFC quarterback for Murray and threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk of the San Francisco 49ers for a 7-7 game. The NFC tried the 4th and 15 option. Cousins went deep and was intercepted. The return had the AFC setting up at the NFC 15 yard line. Justin Herbert of the Chargers came in as AFC quarterback and needed only one play to throw a touchdown pass to Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens for a 14-7 AFC Lead.

The AFC went with the 4th and 15 option and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs came in for the AFC. Mahomes threw deep incomplete to give the NFC another short field. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks came in as NFC quarterback. On 4th and goal at the 6, going for it is the way things are done in the Pro Bowl. Wilson had Juszczyk in the end zone, but it bounced off of his hands and was intercepted by JC Jackson of the New England Patriots. 10 minutes into the game, all 3 NFC quarterbacks had thrown an interception. The AFC got it back at went for it on 4th and 12. Mahomes went deep and was intercepted by Antoine winfield of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who faked a lateral and took it himself 64 yards for a defensive touchdown. The NFC went for the 2 point conversion but failed as the NFC Trailed 14-13 at the end of the first quarter. 

Cousins came in for the 4th and 15 try. He had the ball stripped as he was throwing by TJ Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns plucked the ball out of the air and returned it for the defensive touchdown. Mac Jones of the Patriots hit Diontae Johnson of the Steelers for the 2 point conversion to make it 22-13 AFC. Jones went for the 4th and 15 and was intercepted by Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys. With the NFC facing 4th and 6 from the AFC 19, Murray rolled out under heavy pressure by Pro Bowl standards and threw a prayer to the end zone that was somehow caught by Mike Evans of the Buccaneers for the touchdown. Murray hit CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys to get the NFC within 22-21. 

Herbert threw a 7 yard touchdown to Andrews to make it 28-21 AFC at the half. Penalties and punts are virtually non-existent in this game, but the referees did have to call one false start at the end of the half. No field goals or punts were attempted in the first half. 

After a pinball first half, the pace slowed in the second half as the teams began to take the game more seriously. This usually happens in the Pro Bowl as the game goes on. A 14 play, 95 yard drive saw Jones throw a 6 yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow of the Las Vegas Raiders for a 34-21 AFC lead midway through the third quarter. The drive took 7 1/2 minutes. After a combined 7 failed 4th and 15 attempts, this time the AFC just let the NFC have the ball from their own 25. The winning team gets twice as much money as the losing team, so as the game reaches the fourth quarter and the money becomes real, the intensity level ratchets up. Even without tackling, players start getting some mild hits in up to a certain point. Yet on 4th and 7 from their own 28, the NFC still was not willing to punt. So another incompletion meant another short field for the AFC. Diggs took a double lateral 4 yards for a touchdown and a 41-21 AFC lead after three quarters. 

With 10 1/2 minutes left in the game, Murray hit Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons for a 5 yard touchdown to get the NFC within 41-28. The NFC got the ball back and Murray threw a 6 yard touchdown pass to Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, the NFC was within 6 points. On 4th and 2, Jones hit Najee Harris of the Steelers for a first down to lock up the win. Jones took 3 knees as the AFC won the Pro Bowl for the 5th consecutive year.  Herbert was the offensive MVP and Maxx Crosby of the Raiders was the defensive MVP.  41-35 AFC

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