NFC edges AFC 35-33 in inaugural flag football edition of Pro Bowl

AFC middle linebacker C.J. Mosley of the New York Jets, left, grabs a flag off NFC return specialist KaVontae Turpin (9) of the Dallas Cowboys during the Pro Bowl flag football at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sun Feb 5, 2023 (AP News photo)

By Daniel Dullum
Sunday, February 5, 2023

In the December 1964 issue of Sport magazine, Jim Brown was asked to select what he thought were his five greatest games. One of them was the 1962-63 Pro Bowl, in which he led the Eastern Conference to a 30-20 win over the West while gaining 144 rushing yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.

Moments like that are truly buried in history.

Way back in the day, the winners’ share in the pro football all-star games was sometimes more than some of the participants made for the season. Therefore, they went out and got after it. It wasn’t until the last 30 years or so that the annual all-star game started being compared to touch football, and not in a complimentary way.

This year, the NFL decided to head in that direction anyway.

The NFL came up with a plan to revamp its all-star game for this season. It involved three segments of flag football mixed in with skills competitions. In the end of the festivities at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday, the NFC prevailed over the AFC 35-33.

In the final flag football segment, Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes. That’s the spot NFC coach Eli Manning wanted Cousins in, and the veteran delivered, completing 15 of 19 passes for 150 yards.

The AFC, coached by Peyton Manning, had built a 20-15 lead going into the final flag football session, based on points from the first two flag games and the skills competitions which included rec league-type games for kickers, punters and long-snappers, and the linemen. The games were played on a 50-yard field with no goalposts.

Even with the idea of keeping injuries to a minimum, there was still at least one injury – Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett suffered a dislocated toe. X-rays were negative.

Cousins said he hopes youngsters watching this year’s Pro Bowl Games will be encouraged to participate in flag football, and there’s a good chance of that, with growing safety concerns about football at the youth level.

The skills competitions seemed like a reach, they’re not as good as the NHL skills competition, but it’s something that can be reevaluated. Frankly, if the league had, say, a $2 million pot for a winner-take-all situation, you could go back and play real football and forego the gimmicks. That is unlikely to happen, as the players seemed to enjoy an afternoon in the park playing schoolyard ball and the fans didn’t seem to mind watching.

It will be interesting to see what the ratings were for this experiment. As bad as the Pro Bowl usually is, the ratings were usually solid. And attendance was good in Vegas – the announced crowd of 58,331 was 2,000 more than last year’s attendance, also in Las Vegas.

Ticket prices for this year’s Pro Bowl Games ranged from $37 to $1,335. There’s no word yet on where next year’s event will be held, since the league doesn’t like to have the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in the same venue. Allegiant Stadium is the host of next year’s Super Bowl.

AFC hangs on to win Pro Bowl 41-35

AFC quarterback Justin Herbert (10) of the Los Angeles Chargers and AFC defensive end Maxx Crosby (98), of the Las Vegas Raiders were named the offensive and defensive MVPs Sun Feb 6, 2022 Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (AP News photo)

By Daniel Dullum
Sunday, February 6, 2022

In a game plagued by sloppy play, the AFC hung on for a 41-35 win over the NFC in the annual Pro Bowl, played in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

The all-star teams from both conferences combined for eight turnovers, seven of them on interceptions. Six of the miscues occurred in the first half.

Justin Herbert was voted most outstanding player of the game. The Los Angeles Chargers’ signalcaller completed 7 of 11 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

The AFC pulled away in the second half by scoring 13 straight points, opening a 20-point lead. An interception thrown by Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers provided the NFC with a chance to cut its deficit to six.

But on the AFC’s next drive, Mac Jones of New England completed a fourth-down pass to Najee Harris of Pittsburgh to maintain a game-ending drive.

Neither team was successful running the ball. The NFC ran eight times for one net yard, while the AFC gained 52 rushing yards on 21 attempts.

The AFC and NFC threw a combined 92 passes. The only player to throw a pass that wasn’t intercepted was Stefon Diggs of Buffalo, who also ran for a touchdown.

There were two pick-6’s – one by Darius Leonard of Indianapolis and the other by Antoine Winfield Jr. of Tampa Bay. Leonard intercepted Kyler Murray of Arizona for his TD, while Winfield picked off Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City to get his score.

Murray was 18 of 27 for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Jones finished 16 of 32 for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. No field goals were attempted.

The winning share for the AFC players is $80,000 per player, while the NFC players each received $40,000.

San Francisco 49ers preview: Rams Seek Revenge While Niners Need to Get On Track

file photo from 49ers corner Richard Sherman (left) and tight end George Kittle (right) pose for a selfie with fans

By: Joe Lami

SANTA CLARA — The Niners stumbled in a trap game, yet still, control their own destiny to the NFC one-seed. If they win out, they take the top seed. A loss to the Rams before the NFC West winner-take-all matchup with the Seahawks would give home-field to either Green Bay or New Orleans. Even with a loss this week, San Francisco would win the NFC West with a win in Seattle, thanks to a tiebreaker.

The importance of retaining the #1 seed is crucial for San Francisco. Three of the five 49ers’ Super Bowl victories came when they were the top-seed in the conference.

The good news for San Francisco is they are beginning to get healthier. Both Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams are set to return this Sunday after missing Sunday’s loss. The return of Sherman will be important to get him game time before next weekend’s gauntlet in Seattle. Guard, Mike Person is listed as questionable, fighting a neck injury. Jaquiski Tart (broken ribs) and Dee Ford (quad, hamstring) are listed as out.

The Niners will use this matchup against the Rams to get back on track. San Francisco’s won five of their last eight games against LA, including this year’s week four 20-7 win.

In that win, San Francisco’s defense completely shut down Jared Goff, allowing only 78 passing yards on 24 attempts. The Niners shutout the Rams on third-down, holding them to 0-for-9. The offense was just okay, as Garoppolo threw for 243 yards, 101 of them were caught by George Kittle, of course. Even though Jimmy didn’t throw a TD, he rushed one in San Francisco’s second touchdown of the afternoon.

The Rams have been Jekyll and Hyde this season, looking great at times, beating the Seahawks and Saints, but then getting boat raced by the Cowboys.

Kyle Shanahan mentioned last week about preparing for Atlanta’s Super Bowl. His team didn’t answer, and they’ll face another desperate team this week. LA’s playoff hopes have pretty much gone up in smoke, as they need to win out and pray for a miracle that Minnesota doesn’t beat the Packers or Bears. They hold the final tiebreaker over the Vikings.

His team will need to be ready for everything that the Rams will bring. Todd Gurley has been much more active these last three weeks, nearly totaling 200 yards and three touchdowns. He was inactive when the Niners completely shut down the Rams in week six, expect him to get a lot of carries on Saturday.

Jared Goff is currently fourth in the NFL in passing yards, just shy of 4,000. His 17-15 TD to INT ratio is shocking, however, and can be taken advantage of a hungry 49ers’ defense.

The Niners offense fell back to earth last week, scoring just 22 points. After the best month of his career, Garoppolo finished with 200 yards and a touchdown for a 90.3 rating, the lowest in the last five games. It was also the second-lowest in the last eight weeks. TLDR, Garoppolo has been one of the best QBs in the second half of the season.

If the Niners can contain Gurley, and get to Goff, like they did four times already this year, they should be able to slow down LA’s offense. Meanwhile, their defense is susceptible to the run. Breida only had four carries last week, while Raheem Mostert had 14. Mostert’s been excellent these past few weeks, giving the Niners a multi-headed monster in the backfield.