Odell Beckham Jr., J.J. Watt steal Pro Bowl show
The Pro Bowl may be little more than streetball — that word came from Team Carter quarterback Drew Brees — but for the sellout crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, the 2015 version served its purpose.
OK, so maybe the majority of those 63,225 fans cleared out early, well before Team Irvin sealed its 32-28 win over Team Carter in a rather thrilling final three minutes. They’d already gotten their fill.
Rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made another incredible diving catch on a 48-yard pass from the game’s Offensive MVP Matthew Stafford, Defensive MVP J.J. Watt accounted for two turnovers favoring Team Carter and the pro-Cardinals crowd saw a humorous moment between Arizona teammates Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie.
The tackling was hardly beyond two-hand touch. But the stars expected to steal the show did.
Team Irvin found itself behind 28-25 and on the 1-yard line with 3:14 to play. But on 4th-and-1, Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan with Cromartie in coverage for the go-ahead points. It was Graham’s second touchdown and, thus, his second chance to dunk over the goal posts.
It’s to-be-determined if he’ll be fined by the NFL.
"I really wanted to catch one here because this is I guess the only place I can dunk without a flag," said Graham, who was fined for dunking over the goal posts in the preseason. "But you know, the league called down and told me not to hang on it, so I didn’t. Maybe they’ll change the rule in the future and I’ll be able to just dunk it like that."
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton responded by leading Team Carter inside the Team Irvin red zone, but four straight incompletions from the 19-yard line brought the drive to an end with 46 seconds to play and sealed the win for Team Irvin.
If anything, Cardinals fans got out their distaste for the NFC West division rival Seattle Seahawks. During one break, the stadium video board went to an interview of the Seahawks Pro Bowlers sitting out this week in preparation for the Super Bowl.
And yeah, the reception wasn’t a warm one.
The boos also rang out on Team Irvin’s first drive of the game, when Team Carter’s hugging technique on attempted tackles inspired some upset fans to show their displeasure. DeMarco Murray hit a wall of defenders on a run up the middle on the first drive of the game. He bounced to the outside but three defenders met him, none of whom did more than give the running back a bear hug before the whistles blew.
Overall, the turnout in Glendale was officially 63,225, a sellout a week before the big game.
"It’s been fantastic," said Team Irvin and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. "The turnout here at the stadium is just like an NFL game. It’s just a great thing to see."
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Seahawks corner Richard Sherman produced an innocent back-and-forth Twitter trash talk in the past year, but this picture nabbed by the NFL account shows they seem to be good enough pals.
— NFL (@nfl) January 26, 2015
Peterson nearly had an interception on Sunday, but Cromartie, operating on the same side of the field, tipped the pass trying to make the catch. Peterson picked up the dead ball and playfully tried to peg a kneeling Cromartie with it.
— NFL (@nfl) January 26, 2015
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri made all 50 of his extra points this season.
The veteran’s perfect record was tarnished quickly on Sunday night, however, when he missed two extra points in the Pro Bowl while battling a longer kick and slimmed down goal posts. For this game, PATs were snapped from the 15-yard line — almost 13 yards farther back than typical PATs — and the goal posts were reduced from 18.5-feet apart to just 14.
Vinatieri also missed 38-yard field goal.
"Them moving extra points back, it’s definitely different and this is the first time all week we’ve gotten to kick on them," Team Carter kicker Cody Parkey said. "So it’s definitely different, but at the same time you just go out there and kick your ball, and a little more accuracy is definitely needed."
Parkey was 2 of 2 on his extra points and did not attempt a field goal.
But again, Graham sure found the goal posts to his liking:
Who else? Just before halftime, Team Carter captain Watt came up with an interception at the line of scrimmage to halt a Team Irvin drive four yards from the end zone. Watt picked up right where he left off in the third quarter, jumping on a botched handoff for a fumble recovery.
For his services, Watt earned Defensive MVP, and with that, a GMC truck.
"I wanted it last year and I didn’t get it," he said during the game, "so maybe a flashy play like a pick will help me out."
Stafford led Team Irvin by completing 15 of 25 passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
Or were there two?
Beckham caught a diving 48-yard grab on an arching pass from Stafford, giving the football world one last dazzler before the offseason. The pass gave Beckham enough time to adjust his route before diving and keeping the ball off the turf as he fell on it, hands underneath.
"Stafford just put it out there," Beckham said. "I saw it late and it was kind of breaking left, so I just broke and dove after it and thankfully I came up with it."
Beckham caught five passes for 89 yards.
The other highlight came courtesy of Team Irvin and Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who stole a touchdown by taking the ball out of receiver T.Y. Hilton’s grip in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter.
Watt’s pick probably earned him third place.