Pro Bowl a testing range for quirky rules
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The odd rules that the NFL tried in the Pro Bowl made for a strange sideshow.
No kickoffs, no blitzing, alternate possessions to start each quarter, two-minute warnings for each quarter and stopping the clock when a running play doesn’t gain a yard in the final two minutes.
And skinny little goal posts, particularly hard to hit on longer extra-point kicks.
A capacity crowd of 63,225 watched Team Irvin beat Team Carter 32-28. Chances are no one came to see if Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri – who had not missed a PAT in five years – could squeeze a 33-yard extra point through 14-foot wide uprights.
Twice he couldn’t.
Vinatieri’s counterpart on Team Carter, rookie Cody Parkey, didn’t miss. But he didn’t like the experiment.
”It’s just unfortunate that they’re trying to make it harder us for a lot of guys’ success in the league,” he said.
Vinatieri also missed a field goal.
Parkey, who kicks for Philadelphia, said his job got a lot tougher with the smaller target and the added distance.
”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.”
It was the second Pro Bowl in which the NFL dropped the AFC vs. NFC format and had big-name former players pick their teams in a draft.
”The guys enjoy it,” Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said. ”The new style where you pick teams make it like schoolyard ball, I’ve said that before, it’s competitive.”
Some things we learned from Sunday’s Pro Bowl:
STARS COME OUT: The best players usually make the biggest plays, and that was true on Sunday.
At the top of the list was Watt, who intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Named the game’s defensive MVP, he also showed how much fun he was having, dancing during commercial breaks.
”I just tried to enjoy it. That’s what the Pro Bowl is all about, giving the fans a good show,” he said.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans’ superb tight end, caught two touchdown passes and dunked over the goal post both times. In a real game that would have been a penalty.
”That was amazing. For me, it made the entire week,” he said. ”Hopefully, one day they’ll look back and change this rule so I can do it in a real game. And hopefully one day in the Super Bowl.”
Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck completed 9 of 10 passes for 119 yards and two scores. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, the offensive MVP, was 15 for 25 for 316 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
And rookie Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants caught five passes for 89 yards, including a diving ground-level grab of a 48-yard pass from Stafford.
BIG CROWD: The Pro Bowl has just a one-year run in the desert. Next year it will be back in Hawaii, where the crowds are nothing like the one that showed up in Glendale on Sunday.
The NFL staged the Pro Bowl on the same field where the Super Bowl will be played next Sunday. That meant a big media contingent, too.
”The people have been fantastic,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. ”They’ve got a lot of passionate fans. It’s been a great week.”
TEAMMATES: With Michael Irvin and Cris Carter picking the teams, there were some NFL teammates on the same side and some going against each other.
T.Y. Hilton caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from his Indianapolis quarterback Luck.
Stafford connected with Detroit teammate Golden Tate on a 60-yard play.
”Golden came out here and played fantastic tonight, had some big plays,” Stafford said. ”Obviously got me off to a fast start and he’s been doing that for me for a long time.”
Even when players faced a teammate, they couldn’t help but cheer them on.
When Jordy Nelson caught a caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees for Team Carter, he jumped up in celebration with Green Bay teammate Clay Matthews, who was playing for Team Irvin.
LOTS OF OFFENSE: As usual, offense ruled in the Pro Bowl.
The teams combined for 1,067 yards and 54 first downs.
And the wealth was spread around.
Ten players caught at least one pass for each team.
OPEN ROOF: Arizona Cardinals fans may have forgotten, but the roof does slide open at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Sunday marked the first time it was open for a game since the Cardinals played San Francisco on Dec. 29, 2013.
The Cardinals like it closed because it’s a lot louder.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL