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Team Rice defeats Team Sanders in NFL Pro Bowl

HONOLULU -- The NFL wanted to manufacture excitement with the new Pro Bowl Draft format and changes to the rules. They got it.

Alex Smith led a final-minute game-winning touchdown drive as Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21 on a rain-soaked field Sunday at Aloha Stadium.

Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert dove into the end zone for the two-point conversion, giving Team Rice the one-point edge it would not relinquish.

"Philip (Rivers) told them to give it to me. My old teammate, he made them give it to me," Tolbert said.

After the play he mocked Panthers teammate Cam Newton's Superman celebration.

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

Defense ruled the day, which is not something we've seen out of recent Pro Bowls. But while the scoring stayed low, the sloppy conditions actually added to the early excitement.

Turnovers were key as Team Sanders coughed it up for three fumbles (losing one), while Team Rice fumbled twice (also losing one). The teams combined for six interceptions and nine sacks.

Nick Foles of Team Sanders was named offensive MVP, while Derrick Johnson of Team Rice won the defensive award.

Vontaze Burfict made a fantastic diving interception for Team Rice in the first quarter as he snagged a tipped ball off the hands of Andrew Luck.

Team Sanders defensive tackle Dontari Poe returned the favor, grabbing a batted ball and returning it to the 7-yard line to set up a Newton touchdown run.

The defensive lines dominated from the start. Drew Brees was hit twice on the first drive, including a blindside sack from Gerald McCoy. On the other side, Newton was sacked four times in the second quarter alone; obviously Ron Rivera didn't ask his D-linemen to go easy on his franchise quarterback.

The teams combined for nine sacks.

"Early there was a lot of turnovers because of the weather. There was a lot of rain. and obviously that is part of the things that factor into it," Team Sanders' captain J.J. Watt said after the contest. 

A bevy of exhilarating plays ensued from the outset.

Team Prime opened the scoring with a flea-flicker touchdown from Luck to DeSean Jackson. DJax snatched the ball away from Team Rice defenders to put his team up 7-0.

Team Sanders ended the first quarter with an Eric Berry interception of Brees. Given the new rules (in which possession changes at the end of each quarter), a pitch drill ensued and Darrelle Revis almost broke loose. It's the type of exciting play the NFL was hoping to manufacture with the new format.

Injury Notes: Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd suffered an undisclosed injury early in the first quarter. He did not return. Byrd tweeted during the contest that he felt fine. Byrd is a 2014 free agent. Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy suffered an ankle injury.

We handed out awards for the 2014 coaching class and talked all the latest headlines in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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