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01/28/2013 9:29 AM EST
Players defend Pro Bowl after 62-35 NFC win
NFC 62, AFC 35

By OSKAR GARCIA
Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- After a week in Hawaii and a blowout game, the
NFL's all-stars are defending the Pro Bowl as a worthy reward
for top players who don't make the Super Bowl.



"I hope we keep it here and keep it here for a long time,"
Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph said after winning Pro Bowl MVP
in a 62-35 NFC win on Sunday.



Rudolph called the award icing on a cake of being named to the
roster and getting to spend time with other Pro Bowl players in
Hawaii.



"That was the big emphasis this week, making sure that we were
competitive and I think we showed that," he said.



The shenanigans were limited. The teams scored plenty of points.
Yet the results were familiar - another ho-hum Pro Bowl.



Now, the future of the game depends on how Commissioner Roger
Goodell sees it.



"That's for him to decide," Denver quarterback Peyton Manning
said. "I thought it was a good, competitive game."



Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson 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.



"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 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.



Watt said after the game that he wanted to stay in even as
things got lopsided.



"I'm sure some guys thought about (letting up), but I'm not
going to sit out," Watt said. "I like to play football, it's
fun, so I just tried to enjoy it."



Goodell has said the Pro Bowl won't be played again if play
didn't improve this year. Last year, fans in Hawaii booed as
lineman were clearly not trying. On one play in that game,
Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen did a barrel roll to switch
positions with a teammate.



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."



Saturday played 13 seasons in Indianapolis, all with Manning -
except 2011, when Manning was out with a neck injury. Saturday
then played later in the game for the NFC, snapping to Peyton's
brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.



Saturday's last play on the field was a passing touchdown by Eli
Manning.



Peyton Manning said it was nice for the NFL to allow the play to
happen.



"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.



In the second quarter, referee Ed Hochuli drew cheers when
announcing a pass interference penalty on Denver cornerback
Champ Bailey in the second quarter - the first flag of the game.



"Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl," Hochuli said,
drawing laughs and loud cheers.



Giants wideout Victor Cruz broke a Pro Bowl record with 10
catches. Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson had 91 yards and two
touchdowns. Eli Manning threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns.



Cincinnati's A.J. Green had three TD catches for the AFC.



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."



---



Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at
http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

---



Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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