Whether the NFL's all-star game will return next season is something the league will ponder the next few months after the NFC's 62-35 blowout of the AFC on Sunday.
"It's been an unbelievable week," Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson said, "and the thing was, if you watched us, everybody was competing today and it was really awesome."
Wilson at least got the crowd pumped up in the second half with some nifty scrambles and three passing touchdowns. There was also Houston's sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt going out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver, and retiring Green Bay center Jeff Saturday snapping to two Mannings on opposite teams.
But while the NFC appeared unstoppable on offense, with nearly each player putting up fantasy-worthy lines in limited play, the AFC had five turnovers and scored most of its points well after the game was no longer competitive.
Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the game's MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
"Guys were competing, guys wanted to win and guys want to keep the game here," Rudolph insisted. "That was the point before the game. We want to keep this game rolling for future Pro Bowlers."
Watt, who had 20 1/2 sacks for Houston, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. He was targeted one more time, but didn't make a catch.
He later showed a television camera a bloody left pinkie, joking with NBC broadcasters that it was proof that the players were trying.
"Hey, Commish, we're playing hard," Watt said as he showed his finger.
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If players were coasting this time around, it was less obvious. The AFC just played poorly. And fans didn't boo much - the stands were relatively empty even though the game sold enough tickets to lift a local television blackout.
The game was trending on Twitter in the United States early on, but quickly gave way to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the WWE Royal Rumble.
Saturday, retiring at the end of this season, played for both teams, though he came representing the NFC. He lined up on one play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time to Manning, his longtime former Colts teammate.
Saturday said it meant a lot to him that the Broncos quarterback, whom Saturday called a true friend, orchestrated the stunt.
"He's got a little more pull than I got," Saturday said. "He got it all set up and timed up for me, so it was really nice of him to do that."
"It's something that I'll always remember," he said, "that he'll always remember to kind of get that one, final snap together after the thousands that we've taken together."
Even as the NFC piled up touchdowns, the game struggled for memorable moments after Saturday's momentary switch.
NFL officials said earlier in the week that the league wants to decide the future of the Pro Bowl by the time next season's schedule is released in April.
"We understood exactly what (Goodell) wanted, guys were making plays all over the field," Cruz said. "There was a little bit more high intensity than in years past and we were excited to play."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press