photo by Shawn McCullough (Sports Radio Service): Spectrum Stadium the home of the 2020 Pro Bowl as seen before kick off
By Daniel Dullum
Sports Radio Service
Sunday, January 26, 2020
The AFC defeated the NFC 38-33 in the annual Pro Bowl played in Orlando, Fla. But the players’ collective minds were elsewhere.
Word reached the players shortly before kickoff about the tragic helicopter crash in California that took the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and five others.
Green Bay’s Za’Darius Smith suggested to his NFC teammates that the best way to pay tribute to Bryant was to impersonate the late star’s fadeaway jumper after big plays.
Davonte Adams of Green Bay pointed toward the sky and flashed No. 24 on his fingers after making a third-quartrer touchdown pass. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led a prayer for Bryant prior to the game.
A moment of silence was held for Bryant at the two-minute warning in the first half as the late NBA star’s picture was on the scoreboards.
Aside from the tributes to Kobe, the NFL’s all-star game went along as usual, with a lot of offense and a lack of tackling. The AFC and NFC combined for 834 total yards and 10 touchdowns.
With that, there were a few defensive gems turned in. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt ran a fumble back 82 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Calais Campbell of Jacksonville made that play happen when he sacked Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, stripped the ball, and Watt picked it up and his return gave the AFC a 38-27 lead.
Then, the NFC tried to take advantage of a new rule that allows the scoring team to retain possession by facing 4th down-and-15 from its own 25-yard line. Cousins was intercepted by Ravens safety Earl Thomas.
Other highlights: Ryan Tannehill of Tennessee threw a 60-yard scoring pass to DJ Chark of Jacksonville on a play where officials chose not to rule him down after he was touched by two defenders.
Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox ran 61 yards for an NFC touchdown. Harrison Smith of Minnesota intercepted a pass by Houston’s Deshaun Watson at the 3, returning it to the 39 before lateraling to Cox. Denver wideout Courtland Sutton didn’t try to tackle the 310-pound Cox; he slapped at the ball for the final 20 yards of Cox’s ramble instead.
Cousins, Drew Brees of New Orleans and Wilson each threw three touchdown passes for the NFC. Ezekiel Elliott and Adams each threw a pass as well — Elliott was intercepted, while Adams threw an incompletion.
Wilson was to start for the NFC, but turned his position over to Brees, who is considering retirement.
Campbell was tabbed as the defensive player of the game, while Lamar Jackson of Baltimore was selected as the offensive MVP. Jackson threw for 185 yards, two TD’s and an interception. Watson threw a touchdown, a pick, and 148 yards.
The winner’s share was $70,000 apiece, while the losers received $35,000 each.