Pro Bowl players prepared by reading news speculating that the game might be cancelled if they did not play harder, and that the NFL might not be around in 30 years because the hitting is so hard it has led to brain injuries and lawsuits. The Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph and Bengals’ AJ Green shrugged that aside and showed the skills that helped them take teams to the playoffs despite mediocre quarterbacks.
Green broke open into the end zone to give the Bengals a chance to win the first round of the NFL playoffs against the Texans only to be overthrown. He had to enjoyed seeing the football hit him seven times by guys named Andrew Luck (receptions of 24, 23, 49 for a TD and 4 for a TD), Matt Shaub (8) and Peyton Manning (7 and 8 for a TD).
Rudolph had to suffer through a playoff game with virtually no passes from a backup quarterback. He enjoyed seeing the ball come in from Eli Manning (52, 20 and a 3-yard touchdown) and Drew Brees (24 and 23).
Rudolph’s NFC walked away with a 62-35 win, and despite the fact that defenders did not have injury-causing hits, the game received good marks for both teams going after the win after speculation that another effort like last year’s game, when players seemed to jog through the motions, might result in the end of future Pro Bowls. Much as the tie baseball All-Star game led to the game determining home advantage in the World Series, that game lit a fire under the league office to let players know they expected an effort from the players.
For a day it was a fun chance for fans to see a lot of their favorite players in a meaningless game, and put the thoughts of lawsuits potentially threatening the existence of the league one day.