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NFC, AFC players deliver improved effort in Pro Bowl

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel future Pro Bowls if the players didn't pick up the effort. He got his wish -- for the most part.

The NFC won 62-35 and the game didn't have any blatant episodes of guys loafing like the 2012 version. Part of that can be attributed to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who spoke to the entire group of participants and called the last two years "unacceptable."

"Peyton said some things and guys took it personal," Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said during a sideline interview.

New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz agreed.

"It was a little more high intensity than in years' past," he said. "It really did feel like a real game out there. People were hitting. It wasn't touch football; guys were laying some licks. It had the energy of a real game. My body feels like it just went through a real game."


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Peterson's teammate, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching five balls for 122 yards during a second-quarter stretch when the NFC pulled away.

There were a few questionable moments. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil pulled up when he had a blindside shot to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees at one point. But there were also hustle moments. Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Chiefs safety Eric Berry from behind and was carried into the end zone during an interception return after a botched field-goal attempt. There were even a few solid hits.

Goodell got what he wanted. Defenders actually tackled. No one was injured. There was a reverse on a kick return and a trick onside kick. Watt even got bloody early in the game.

"It definitely was better, especially compared to last few years," said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who played in a record-tying 12th Pro Bowl. "That's all they (NFL decision-makers) really want to see. It felt more like a real game. No one let people run past them."

The overall feeling was that Sunday was a marked improvement from recent Pro Bowls.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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