I was all set before the weekend even started for the title of this blog post to be "upon further review, yep the Pro Bowl still sucks". Truth be told: I wanted it to be awful. The game had progressively gotten worse and worse every year, with the effort had all but completely gone by the wayside. Quaterbacks were free to survey the field for as long as necessary and the combined scores were often approaching the 100s. It was so bad that Roger Goodell threatened to axe the game and he proposed a slew of changes this year in an effort to save it. Knowing what you know about my opinion of Goodell, I wanted this to be an even bigger disaster. I wanted the Pro Bowl to continue at the accelerated rate of irrelevance and boredom, if not be burned at the stake with Goodell's proposed changes. But against all odds, and as much as it kills me to admit this, the changes at least for now seem to have drastically improved the game.
Playing against teammates and playing for NFL greats in Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders seemed to be motivating factors. The game saw terrific effort from the defensive lines as evidenced by the 9 sacks and 8 turnovers. While the effort wasn't always there on every play, there were lots of hits and some very rough ones. Honestly I'm surprised no one got hurt, especially with the high volume of quarterback hits. The score was more reflective of a real NFL game, 22-21 in favor of the Jerry Rice team. Deion Sanders' team attempted a 67 yard field goal by Justin Tucker of the Ravens as time expired that fell short.
As far as the Saints in the game, I thought overall it was ok. They all played for the winning team of Jerry Rice. Drew Brees was under constant pressure and took numerous hits. It seemed pretty clear to me that the game's best pass rushers are much better than the game's best pass protectors right now. Brees took hits from J. J. Watt more than once, Suh, Mario Williams and Suggs. Based on that I'm just glad he's still standing. He started 0-4 and was way off the mark, both due to pressure and his wearing of the infamous gloves (it was apparently raining off and on). He ditched the gloves after a couple three and outs and finished 9 of 19 for 81 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His TD pass was a beautiful fade to Jimmy Graham, which was a special moment in the game. Graham finished with 5 catches for 51 yards and the score.
On the other side of the ball, Cam Jordan looked very good even against top tier talent blocking. He had 2 tackles, a sack on Cam Newton, and he broke up a pass by hitting Newton's arm as he was throwing. While the offensive lines in general were getting dominated, I thought Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs both did ok. I wasn't watching or grading the players like I normally do for Saints games, but they seemed to hold up well. Most of the pressure the team was seeing was coming from the edges. Kudos to Grubbs who after the final touchdown with 41 seconds left was in on the 2 point conversion that would give "team Rice" the win. Grubbs got good interior push on the handoff to Mike Tolbert that won the game.
While most of you were watching that atrocity they dare to still call the Grammys these days, I have to say I was surprisingly satisfied watching the Pro Bowl. No one had a quicker trigger to blast it, but against all odds I actually enjoyed the game. Admittedly the expectations were set to an all time low. And the Saints team won, so no complaints there.
I agree. I liked it ... well any real game would most likely be better, but hey. it was a huge improvement over the previous years.
Also..Good thing Sanders lost. Hate the guy. I know you hate him for the asshole he was on the field. I did not know him then. But I hate him for the asshole he is off the field. Besides... his beard is nice. It mocks him and he doesn't shave (except for the top of his head)