In Defense of the Indefensible 2022 Pro Bowl

The+NFL+Pro+Bowl+has+received+a+ton+of+backlash+due+to+the+lack+of+real+football+play%2C+but+still+remains+a+big+deal+for+the+players.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

The NFL Pro Bowl has received a ton of backlash due to the lack of real football play, but still remains a big deal for the players. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Brett Tulip, Contributing Writer

The NFL’s annual game celebrating the supposed “best of the best” talent across all 32 teams took place on Sunday in Las Vegas. From the average football watcher to the most avid of fans, the sentiment is almost always the same regarding the league’s Pro Bowl: it simply isn’t good.

I’m not here to tell you that gimmicky rule changes, a lack of true superstar players due to opt-outs and players’ obvious lack of full effort don’t diminish the football product on the field in comparison to a non-exhibition game. In fact, this past Sunday’s game involved less tackling than even the negatively received Pro Bowl’s of years past. Nonetheless, there is still merit in watching the game for what it is and entertainment to be had in getting to see many of the league’s best go up against each other in the classic AFC versus NFC format.

For a quick recap of this weekend’s game, the AFC defeated the NFC for the fifth year in a row with a final score of 41-35. Los Angeles Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert led the way with 98 yards and two touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl offensive MVP honors. The Pro Bowl defensive MVP was awarded to Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive end Maxx Crosby for his two sacks, three tackles for loss and three pass deflections.

The first half was filled with interceptions and three defensive scores. In this half alone, there were six interceptions thrown, and by the end of the game, all six quarterbacks that were selected for the game threw at least one. At the end of the first half, the AFC led 28-21 over the NFC. In the second half, the energy started to ramp up. Players started tackling just a bit more and playing slightly closer to a real game speed. It became a close game near the end, as the NFC cut it to a one-possession game with 2:36 left. After working to come back from being down for almost the whole game, their efforts were still not enough and the AFC ended up securing the victory.

Despite its flaws, the Pro Bowl was and is still a compelling watch, showing players who would never usually be able to play with each other in a game. For example, it was a pleasure to see Herbert send a spiral for a touchdown to Ravens’ tight end Mark Andrews twice. It was satisfying to see Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray reconnect on a two point conversion with Cowboys’ wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for the first time since their college days at the University of Oklahoma. Any big defense appreciators marveled at two of the top pass rushers in the NFL with Steelers’ linebacker TJ Watt and Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett lining up next to each other to help force a turnover. It is moments like these that really make the Pro Bowl truly worth the watch despite its shortcomings. Being able to see players together that likely would only play in fans’ dreams will always garner interest and appeal.

Finally, it was great to watch just how much fun all the players were having. Sunday’s Pro Bowl featured events that would never happen in a true NFL game. Brothers Stefon and Trevon Diggs, a wide receiver and a cornerback respectively, lined up at opposite positions and competed against each other on a pass play that included so much physicality  it would have certainly been a penalty in a regular game setting. Another fun moment included Patriots’ quarterback Mac Jones sprinting down the field, even after the play was called dead, to get into the endzone and start dancing. This game isn’t taken as seriously by the players as other regular season games, but that’s okay. It is excellent to see players out having fun and celebrating after a stressful year of intense games and hard training.

After watching the 2022 Pro Bowl, it became ever more apparent that this game will likely never live up to its full potential of viewers being able to see all the best players fight to truly reveal which conference contains the most talent in the NFL. And, yes, it would simply be unfair to say criticism of the game is not completely warranted.

But if you tuned in this weekend and watched the 2022 Pro Bowl, I definitely think it was worth your time.