NFL Nation: 2014 Pro Bowl

What was Johnson supposed to do?

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
5:15
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The hit by linebacker Derrick Johnson on Kansas City Chiefs teammate Jamaal Charles in the Pro Bowl seems to have angered a few fans. No argument here that Johnson lowered his shoulder and hit Charles hard in the head-and-shoulder area in knocking him to the ground.

Charles
Johnson
No penalty was called. It was a nice tackle by Johnson, and in any other game he would have been applauded for a job well done.

But this was the Pro Bowl and Charles is a teammate. So should Johnson have laid off?

Sorry, that one doesn’t work.

This year’s Pro Bowl was one of the most competitive in recent years, perhaps because the NFL mixed up the rosters rather than playing by conference. Whatever the reason, it was a better and more entertaining game, so let’s not get on a player who was doing things the right way.

This kind of play was inevitable when the league went to the new Pro Bowl format. It wasn’t the only teammate-on-teammate hit. Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward upended teammate Josh Gordon as well.

It’s also true that Charles was coming off a concussion and Johnson might have hit him in the head. But if the injury hadn’t resolved itself and Charles was still concussed, he shouldn’t have been playing.

Even Charles didn’t seem upset by Johnson's hit, telling The Associated Press after the game, "I can't get mad at him. It's just about football, and you've just got to be ready."

Johnson was in the proper spirit of the hit on Charles as well. He tweeted, “Have to give my fellow teammate some friendly fire. LOL! I can't lie. It felt pretty good!"

It was football. It should have felt good.

Pair of Rams fare well in Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
4:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams were finally represented again in the Pro Bowl on Sunday night and punter Johnny Hekker and defensive end Robert Quinn mostly did what they did all year in their opportunities.

As part of Team Rice, named for captain Jerry Rice, Quinn and Hekker did their part in helping their team to a 22-21 victory against Team (Deion) Sanders.

Hekker and Quinn had vowed earlier in the week to play with their usual effort and hoped that their fellow players would as well. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, that's exactly what happened as this Pro Bowl appeared far more competitive than any in recent vintage.

Although some bad weather (yes, at the Pro Bowl) threw things off a bit for both sides, the game featured some big hits and came down to the final seconds before Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker's 67-yard field goal came up short to clinch the victory for Team Rice.

As for Quinn and Hekker, both showed at least glimpses of the qualities that landed them in Hawaii in the first place.

Quinn actually opened the game with an apparent sack and nearly forced a fumble of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck on the first play from scrimmage. A late flag came in saying Quinn was offsides but in real time it appeared Quinn had just timed the snap perfectly. Later, Quinn would make up for it by chasing down Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and dropping him for a sack. Both Luck and Newton were on Quinn's regular season sack victim list.

All told, Quinn finished with a tackle, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass defended and a quarterback hit. Team Rice finished with five total sacks.

Hekker, meanwhile, was up to his usual tricks of hitting high, well-angled punts that were difficult to return. He had four opportunities and finished with a gross average of 49 yards with two of those punts landing inside the 20. Likewise, Hekker's hang time and directional punts were effective in terms of limiting returns as Team Sanders managed 8 punt return yards to leave Hekker with a net average of 47 yards per punt.

It was a solid showing for the two Rams participants in a game that finally showed some signs of life under its new format.

Pair of Rams fare well in Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
4:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams were finally represented again in the Pro Bowl on Sunday night and punter Johnny Hekker and defensive end Robert Quinn mostly did what they did all year in their opportunities.

As part of Team Rice, named for captain Jerry Rice, Quinn and Hekker did their part in helping their team to a 22-21 victory against Team (Deion) Sanders.

Hekker and Quinn had vowed earlier in the week to play with their usual effort and hoped that their fellow players would as well. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, that's exactly what happened as this Pro Bowl appeared far more competitive than any in recent vintage.

Although some bad weather (yes, at the Pro Bowl) threw things off a bit for both sides, the game featured some big hits and came down to the final seconds before Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker's 67-yard field goal came up short to clinch the victory for Team Rice.

As for Quinn and Hekker, both showed at least glimpses of the qualities that landed them in Hawaii in the first place.

Quinn actually opened the game with an apparent sack and nearly forced a fumble of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck on the first play from scrimmage. A late flag came in saying Quinn was offsides but in real time it appeared Quinn had just timed the snap perfectly. Later, Quinn would make up for it by chasing down Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and dropping him for a sack. Both Luck and Newton were on Quinn's regular season sack victim list.

All told, Quinn finished with a tackle, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass defended and a quarterback hit. Team Rice finished with five total sacks.

Hekker, meanwhile, was up to his usual tricks of hitting high, well-angled punts that were difficult to return. He had four opportunities and finished with a gross average of 49 yards with two of those punts landing inside the 20. Likewise, Hekker's hang time and directional punts were effective in terms of limiting returns as Team Sanders managed 8 punt return yards to leave Hekker with a net average of 47 yards per punt.

It was a solid showing for the two Rams participants in a game that finally showed some signs of life under its new format.

Chiefs star in Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
11:00
AM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were represented by 10 players at the Pro Bowl and some figured prominently. A look at how they fared:

-- Linebacker Derrick Johnson was the game's defensive MVP with eight tackles and a forced fumble. He also had a big hit on his Chiefs teammate, running back Jamaal Charles, in the first quarter.

-- Quarterback Alex Smith was just 9-of-22 for 116 yards, but he threw the winning touchdown pass, a 20-yarder to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

-- Charles rushed five times for 43 yards and caught a pass for four yards.

-- Dexter McCluster returned five punts for an 11-yard average, including a 26-yard return.

-- Safety Eric Berry and nose tackle Dontari Poe each had an interception. Berry also had four tackles.

-- Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Brandon Flowers each had a pair of tackles.

-- Linebacker Justin Houston registered no stats. Neither did offensive tackle Branden Albert, but he had a good time nonetheless in his first Pro Bowl game. Albert tweeted afterward, "Hawaii.... I'll see you next year."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Several Carolina Panthers made an impression in Sunday night's Pro Bowl.

And none made a bigger one than fullback Mike Tolbert, one of the least known of his six teammates who participated in the annual all-star game in Hawaii.

In case you missed it, Tolbert barreled over the right side for a 2-point conversion with 41 seconds remaining to give the team coached by Ron Rivera and the Carolina staff a 22-21 victory.

He then playfully mocked Cam Newton, a member of the opposing team, with the "Superman'' celebration the Carolina quarterback does after scoring touchdowns.

"I told Cam I was going to mess with him if I got in the end zone, so I had to," Tolbert told Panthers.com.

Among those that couldn't stop Tolbert, known as the human bowling ball to his teammates because of his 5-foot-9, 245-pound frame, was linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Kuechly, who led the opposing team with 12 tackles, also went backwards in an earlier collision with Tolbert on a short first-down run.

"We kind of came to an agreement before the game that he would take a side and we would go peacefully in the night,'' Tolbert told the team's official website. "But he squared up on me, so I was like, 'OK, let's go,'

"He told me later his shoulder was hurt. I said, 'Please don't tell Coach.' ''

Kuechly is fine.

And nobody has to tell Rivera that Tolbert is one of the toughest players on a squad that finished the regular-season 12-4 and won the NFC South. He may be one of the least known of a backfield that includes DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but when it comes time for a tough yard he's the go-to guy.

So when Rivera's team scored to pull within one on Sunday, there was little hesitation. It was fitting that the coach who earned the nickname "Riverboat Ron'' this season for his willingness to gamble gave the ball to one of his own.

“I’m not surprised by any means that Ron wasn’t going to go for the tie,'' Tolbert told the Charlotte Observer after the game. "They call him Riverboat Ron in Carolina for a reason.”

And they call Tolbert a human bowling ball for a reason, too.

Other notables for the Panthers:

Newton: It was a better Pro Bowl experience than he had after the 2011 season when he threw three interceptions in a losing effort. He completed 8 of 17 pass attempts for 95 yards and had a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

On a down note, he was sacked four times in the second quarter and threw an interception. Rivera couldn't be happy with that.

Kuechly: The middle linebacker once against proved why he is known as a tackling machine with 12. He also had a sack. Had his team won he surely would have been the most valuable player.

Greg Hardy: Carolina's sack leader with 15 had a sack in his first Pro Bowl experience. Next up for the defensive end is whether he will get the franchise tag from the Panthers, a long-term deal or enter free agency.
It’s a safe bet that if new Browns coach Mike Pettine or anyone else in the organization was watching the Pro Bowl, their hearts skipped a beat early in the second quarter.

That was when Josh Gordon ran a reverse and safety T.J. Ward torpedoed Gordon for the tackle. The result sent Gordon flipping head over heels.

Great drama, especially for a practice game.

Except the hit from Ward looked pretty close to the hit that demolished the knee of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Had Gordon been planted or extended, the result easily could have been a serious injury to the Browns premier player.

Ward went low, knee level. Just like he did to Gronkowski. Luckily for Gordon and the Browns, Gordon was able to see Ward coming and he jumped just before the hit, which resulted in the flip (the play is at the 50 second mark here).

Which shows the folly of the game, and the folly of the league’s publicity ploy that wound up having teammates play teammates (or teammates playing soon-to-be-free-agent-teammates) in a game that is supposed to approximate preseason play.

All the Browns would have needed would have been for the Gordon to be lost for the season with a knee injury in the Pro Bowl.

That it could have happened shows how silly the game has become, prime time draft or no prime time draft. It’s essentially is a Hawaiian vacation to the league’s best players with a sort-of-game at the end of the week, a game where nobody is supposed to get hurt.

Imagine the feelings in Cleveland had Gordon been injured.

The NFL’s newest format received positive reviews -- Tropical Thriller was the way that NFL.com labeled the game, an alliterative form of hyperbole if ever there was one -- but it’s still a practice game.

Gordon’s numbers and the touchdown passes caught by Gordon and Jordan Cameron were impressive. It was a great experience for the Browns six Pro Bowlers -- Gordon, Cameron, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Joe Thomas and Ward.

But it sure wouldn’t have been worth an injury, especially from a teammate.

How the Redskins fared in the Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
8:30
AM ET
In case you were doing something productive last night and missed the Pro Bowl, here’s how the Redskins' three players fared:
  • Trent Williams alternated between left and right tackle and did nothing of note. But that’s probably a good thing considering how much pressure was applied on the quarterbacks all game. Players displayed much more intensity than a year ago when the game resembled flag football. And it was noticeable on pass rushes as the quarterbacks were under pressure much of the game (a combined nine sacks; makes sense as this sort of setup is not good for offensive linemen, who fare better when working as a group). But Williams did not give up any sacks. He did allow a little pressure in the fourth quarter off a stunt, but it did not result in a hit.
  • Linebacker Brian Orakpo never rushed the passer, but that’s because the teams used a 4-3 front so he was dropping into coverage whenever he played. Orakpo played the strong side and often played man versus Atlanta tight end, and future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez. There was one big gain on Orakpo’s side when he dropped into zone and Gonzalez found a big opening on the right seam.
  • Running back Alfred Morris had the most noteworthy game with four receptions for 69 yards. He made someone miss every time he ran in the open field. Yes, it’s an all-star game so there’s a different sense of urgency perhaps by defenders and it might have impacted one 19-yard catch (at least initially). But, again, the hitting was pretty good much of the night so it’s not like defenders were letting them do whatever they wanted.
  • Morris has caught 20 passes in his first two years combined, with a one-game high of three.
  • Morris ran the ball twice for 4 yards. I liked how he cleanly caught the ball, more so than he’s shown the past two years. But Morris also fumbled at the end of one reception, when he ran into a group of defenders. He lost the ball after his first carry, too, but it came after he was down. I’d say this likely stems from not having any contact for nearly a month, but Morris also had some issues with this during the season.
  • Morris had a 27-yard catch and run, but that wasn’t his best moment. Rather, that came when quarterback Cam Newton was in trouble and ran to his right, dumping the ball to his back. Morris should have lost a couple yards as Dallas’ Jason Hatcher grabbed his jersey and spun him around. But he broke free and another defender grabbed his jersey, only to lose a grip. Morris then broke a tackle and managed a 19-yard gain. Morris broke a tackle on his next catch as well, pushing the ball inside the 5.
  • In Jay Gruden’s three seasons with Cincinnati, there was only one season in which a running back caught more than 22 passes. But it happened to be this past season when rookie Giovani Bernard caught 56; he split time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the primary back (both players carried the ball at least 170 times). If Morris improved in this area it certainly would help and keep the defense guessing a little more. But if Morris is going to carry the ball around 300 times, then it’s still wise to use Roy Helu in this area on third downs just to limit the punishment.
  • Alas, these three Redskins could not even get a win in the Pro Bowl as Team Rice beat Team Prime, 22-21, on a late touchdown and two-point conversion. That's nine straight games these three have lost. I'm guessing this one did not sting the same as the other eight.

It was an eventful Pro Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles' representatives.

Quarterback Nick Foles was named offensive MVP after completing 7 of 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Foles threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron in the fourth quarter. Foles entered a 14-14 game just before the fourth quarter. On his second full drive, he found Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown deep to get “Team Sanders” into the red zone. He hit Cameron on a corner route to make it 21-14.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson caught the first touchdown of the game from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck got the ball back on a flea flicker and threw a jump ball into the end zone. Jackson was there with two defenders. He tore the ball from the grasp of Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner for the 36-yard score.

It wasn't all good news. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher in 2013, left the game in the second half with what was announced as an ankle injury. He didn't return to the game, but that didn't mean much considering the nature of the game. The nature and severity of the injury were not immediately known.

Before getting hurt, McCoy lost a fumble. Jackson had a ball taken out of his hands for an interception.

Eagles left guard Evan Mathis got plenty of playing time for Team Rice along with McCoy. Mathis played both guard positions, and helped Carolina running back Mike Tolbert win the game -- 22-21 -- with a 2-point conversion with 41 seconds left in the game.

Perhaps Mathis' finest moment was on Twitter. With Foles in the game, Mathis tweeted, “Throw a pick, @NFoles_9! Is that weird? #Pro Bowl #TeamRice.”

After Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker missed a 67-yard field-goal attempt on the game's final play, the NBC cameras caught Foles talking with Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

“We've got to get a picture with you, me and Justin,” Foles said.

Foles, Brees and Tucker are all graduates of Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

Following up on Bills in Pro Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
5:00
AM ET
Four members of the Buffalo Bills took the field Sunday for one final time this season.

If you didn't watch the game (or weren't among the lucky ones in the stands in Hawaii), here's what you need to know:
  • Safety Jairus Byrd left in the first quarter with a back injury, after making a tackle on a 6-yard Jordan Cameron catch. He did not return to the game, but Byrd later tweeted the following:

TEMPE, Ariz. -- He wore No. 21.

He was chosen by Deion Sanders.

Peterson
Peterson
He lived up to the hype.

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson put on a Prime Time-esque performance in Sunday's Pro Bowl, won by Team Rice, 22-21, in Hawaii. He had an interception in the second quarter, two passes defended and a tackle.

But, more importantly, and on a national stage, no less, Peterson continued to establish himself as one of the preeminent corners in the NFL. He allowed just one completion for a yard, in the second quarter. His performance drew rave reviews from NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth.

“Patrick Peterson may be the Deion Sanders of this era,” Collinsworth said. "This guy can do everything."

Collinsworth went on to talk about Peterson's ability to be an impact player on offense as well as what he's already doing on defense. While correct, Collinsworth probably wasn't aware that the Peterson experiment on offense didn't work out as well as the Cardinals would've hoped -- most likely because Collinsworth didn't have a chance to watch the Cards because they weren't on Sunday night football. But Peterson is becoming the current-day Sanders. His athleticism makes him a hassle for defenders and his ability has forced teams to stay away from him, much like Sanders did when he played.

Yet, Peterson's athleticism still makes him a dynamic threat in all phases of the game.

After Peterson picked off a pass intended for Chicago's Brandon Marshall in the second quarter, Sanders hugged his protégé and told him Team Rice shouldn't have tested him. High praise from the best ever.

But it wasn't just Peterson who impressed at the Pro Bowl.

Justin Bethel made sure everyone left Hawaii knowing who he was. He had two special teams tackles and yielded just one yard in returns on two coverages.

Larry Fitzgerald was the only receiver on Team Rice to not record a catch despite being targeted four times. And John Abraham had a tackle.
The New Orleans Saints' Pro Bowlers made the most out of their Hawaiian vacation on Sunday night when they wound up on the winning side of the NFL's annual all-star game.

Brees
Graham
All five Saints Pro Bowlers (quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs and defensive end Cameron Jordan) started for Team Rice, which came back in the final minute to beat Team Sanders, 22-21.

Brees threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Graham in the second quarter to help the cause. Brees floated up a jump ball for his go-to guy, and Graham went up in front of Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes to snag it. Graham then finished with his trademark dunk over the goal post, even though San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle tried to contest it (who says these guys aren't trying?)

Earlier, however, Brees threw an interception in the end zone while targeting Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The pass was tipped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis and picked by Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry.

At least he wasn't alone. There was a total of six interceptions and eight turnovers in the game.

Brees left the game after his touchdown pass and finished 9-of-19 for 81 yards. Graham caught five passes for 51 yards. Jordan later added a sack against Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for a 13-yard loss and got a hit on Newton that forced an incomplete pass.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was on the same team as his coach, Chuck Pagano, but it was linebacker Robert Mathis and long snapper Matt Overton who were on the winning Pro Bowl team that earned a $53,000 check compared to the $26,000 for the losing team.

Mathis' team, Team Jerry Rice, beat Luck's team, Team Deion Sanders, 22-21 in Honolulu.

Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the Pro Bowl draft and started at quarterback over Carolina's Cam Newton, who had more votes than him. But it's understandable that Luck started since he was playing for his head coach.

Luck was 5-of-7 for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His lone touchdown pass came on a flea flicker play where Kansas City's Jamaal Charles tossed the ball back to Luck, who launched a pass to Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson that looked like it would be intercepted . Jackson went up into double coverage and hauled the pass in.

Luck's interception happened when St. Louis' Robert Quinn tipped his pass and Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict picked it off. It's a good thing Luck won't have to see Quinn anytime soon again. Quinn sacked the Colts' quarterback twice during the regular-season meeting that St. Louis won 38-8.

The NFL did away with the traditional AFC-NFC Pro Bowl teams in favor of a draft. That meant there would be opportunities for teammates during the regular season to go against each other on Sunday.

Mathis didn't get an opportunity to sack Luck. Mathis, who led the league in sacks with 19.5, finished with four tackles.
SAN DIEGO -- In the battle of Hall of Famers, receiver Jerry Rice's team outlasted cornerback Deion Sanders' squad 22-21 in the first Pro Bowl pitting two all-star rosters selected by the former NFL standouts, who served as captains.

Rice's team closed to within a point on a DeMarco Murray 20-yard touchdown reception from Alex Smith. Team Rice then took the lead for good on former San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert's 2-point conversation.

Team Sanders got into field-goal position, but Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker's game-winning attempt from 67 yards away fell short.

San Diego signal caller Philip Rivers finished 8-of-13 for 94 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon. Rivers also threw two interceptions.

Chargers safety Eric Weddle finished with a tackle for Team Sanders.
Kicker Justin Tucker, the Baltimore Ravens' Most Valuable Player this season, almost became the hero of the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

Tucker
Tucker had a chance to win the Pro Bowl in the final seconds but his 67-yard field-goal attempt came up short. This led to a 22-21 loss for Team Sanders, which had all three Ravens' Pro Bowl players.

In his first Pro Bowl, Tucker made all three of his extra points but missed both of this field-goal attempts, which were from extremely long range. Tucker, who has a career long of 61 yards, was 2 yards short on a 66-yard attempt at the end of the first half.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs third on Team Sanders with four tackles. He stopped quarterback Drew Brees 2 yards short of the end zone in the first quarter.

Right guard Marshal Yanda, the Ravens' other Pro Bowl player, played in the second half.

Recapping Patriots in the Pro Bowl

January, 26, 2014
Jan 26
10:55
PM ET
The Pro Bowl is in the books, and it was a relatively quiet one from a Patriots perspective.

The Patriots had three players participate -- left guard Logan Mankins, special teams captain Matthew Slater and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Two others, quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Aqib Talib, were original selections who didn't participate.

Mankins and Slater were original selections and were part of "Team Sanders" as they donned gray uniforms in the new non-conferenced format. Gostkowski, who was a replacement for Broncos kicker Matt Prater, was part of "Team Rice" (white jerseys).

Our biggest takeaway from a Patriots perspective?

Mankins has shaved his beard, which had generated notable momentum by the playoffs. No word on if that was a game-time decision.

He showed up a few times getting out in front on screen plays, touching down a defender after a lost fumble by running back Alfred Morris in the second quarter, and giving up a sack to Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

With no kickoffs in the game, Gostkowski was called upon for point-after attempts and clanged a 53-yard field goal off the right upright in the fourth quarter. We only saw Slater on the punt return and punt coverage units.

The new Pro Bowl format led to a more competitive game, with "Team Rice" winning 22-21.

Players on the winning team earn $53,000, while those on the losing side get $26,000.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Roster Advisor