What we learned from AFC's victory in Pro Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The AFC held off a heavily favored NFC, 20-13, to win the Pro Bowl here at Camping World Stadium. Here's what we learned from the game:

  1. Seattle Seahawks players don't plan on coming to the Pro Bowl every year. Understandably, the players are quite disappointed when their season ends without a trip to the Super Bowl. But over the last two seasons, there has been no more enjoyable group of players to watch here at the NFL's annual All-Star game, and Camping World Stadium was thankful for three Seahawks, in particular, for regenerating the crowd before halftime in an oddly low-scoring affair. After Richard Sherman picked off a pass and weaved through defenders to return the ball near midfield, Doug Baldwin hauled in a deep touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tie the score 7-7. A few minutes later, Michael Bennett logged a sack and did an interactive Key & Peele three-pump sack dance, which was jokingly interrupted by an official who tried to censor him.
  1. I pestered a small group of people throughout the week -- mostly the NFL's social media team, who had the yeoman's task of sharing their rental car with me during the Pro Bowl -- about my prediction that the AFC would win by three scores. I later doubled down on Twitter before kickoff. While that didn't quite pan out, my confidence in the heavy underdog AFC was well-placed. The reason? Andy Reid is still a good, meticulously prepared head coach even during a meaningless All-Star game. He saved his best quarterback, Philip Rivers, for the end of the game and chipped away in the same brick-by-brick style that he calls a regular-season NFL game. Did anyone see his face when the fake field goal flip to Kelce worked late in the third quarter? Reid was on the sidelines smirking and waving for a first down. He then unleashed a full-speed Kyle Juszczyk into the heart of a soft-tackling NFC defense. Some coaches go to the Pro Bowl to have fun. Reid goes for the extra $32,000.

By the way, Reid's live interview with the ESPN broadcast before the AFC's first touchdown was hilarious. "We're gonna get one right here," he said, while describing the four-vertical play which resulted in an over-the-shoulder score for Delanie Walker. He must be that guy in your 50-plus pickup league.

  1. A noticeable -- and disappointing -- lack of Odell Beckham hijinks during the game, which was surprising given that he was by far the most popular player down here. Jason Garrett had a wildly fun team (Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Beckham, Mike Evans, Drew Brees, Baldwin) and opted to stick with a relatively milquetoast game plan. It's what you'd expect even if the assembled crowd would have preferred a five-wide Texas Tech-style shootout. Beckham finished with six catches for 93 yards. The highlight for me? When he was subbed out and did a balletic, three-skip sashay to the sideline. This should be legal and entirely acceptable for all regular-season games.

UPDATE: Odell did indeed take part in some minor high jinks after the game:

  1. Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (defense) and Kelce (offense) were named the most valuable players of the Pro Bowl following a pair of strong performances. Both players received new cars for their efforts. "It feels pretty good," Kelce said. "These are the moments to keep making life surreal ... It gives me a little motivation to keep striving to be the best."
  1. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was on hand to see his miniature armada of Pro Bowl talent. I thought that might translate to a banner day for Dak Prescott, but instead it meant that many of Dallas' players were used strategically and kept largely out of harm's way. Elliott had eight carries for 20 yards while Prescott attempted just 13 passes.
  1. Some final thoughts on Orlando: While nothing can surpass the beauty of Hawaii and the genuine enthusiasm of the locals who got amped up for Pro Bowl practices every year, the functionality of a Pro Bowl in Orlando was pretty seamless in Year One. Should the NFL opt for a similar idea a year from now, they would seemingly do so with a steady foundation of support based on what I saw during practice. The Disney tie-in made plenty of sense given how many young fans were dotting the fields each workout and lining the bleachers during the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown. The stadium was close to full at kickoff. I think this has always been, and always will be, an event driven by the younger crowd and it fits nicely into what some locals told me was a down time in theme park attendance. Families could skate from practice to a park and not be swamped by long lines and hot Orlando summers.
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