It's Come To This: A Pro Bowl Liveblog*
* - It's not even live. I DVR'd it.
I've always liked the Pro Bowl because I think writers complaining about it so consistently has actually left the event a bit underrated. Sure, they can't blitz... the defenders basically walk away during extra point attempts. I know "nobody cares." But I think all of these things are just part of the charm. No matter what, you'll always get to see some great plays. And there are always those moments... like seeing Mike Vick's arm strength on display, or the late Sean Taylor jacking up Brian Moorman. Plus it's the last football we'll get to watch for an unthinkable amount of time.
Well, let's get crackin'.
- I totally forgot Al Michaels has to call this game. Luckily for Madden, he does the "no flying" thing... and I don't think the cruiser floats.
"After 65 pre-season games and 256 regular season games, and 11 post-season games... this is your final football fix for sixth months. This is the last game until Sunday night, August the 9th."
And that far away game in August is just the pre-season. What are we going to do with our lives?
- In to replace Madden is... Cris Collinsworth! Rock on.
"We go from double expresso last week to decaffeinated this week," Collinsworth says.
He brought his fastball.
- They throw it down to Andrea Kramer who is doing a joint interview with James Harrison and Kurt Warner discussing the legendary pick-six in the Super Bowl last week. It's quite awkward.
"What lingers for you about that play?" she asks Warner.
"If you could just have one play back, obviously that would be one I'd love to have back."
I've played sports with so many guys like Warner. Very talented, though you can tell that, in the end, he'll play his heart out but the weight of the finish -- no matter how horrible the outcome -- will never weigh on his mind. He just shakes it off immediately. Damn him and his undying satisfaction with his existence.
- Peyton and Eli get interviewed by Tiki Barber. I really think Peyton might be my favorite Pro Bowl player of all-time. Say what you want about the guy, but he clearly feels honored to be at the game. And you can't say that about every NFL QB who makes it on a regular basis. Most of them treat it like nothing and act pretty ungrateful to the millions of fans who voted for them.
- Ray Lewis is leading a heartfelt pre-game speech in the AFC locker room. I love the Pro Bowl.
"These moments will never be again... Ask yourself a question... when you buckle up your chinstraps, no matter who you was playing against, you gave 110% for your damn teammates?"
He even pounded his chest during the speech. Michaels wonders if Lewis understands the concept of exhibition games.
- Rundown of the offensive rules -- No motion, no shifting, intentional grounding allowed.
Defense -- 4-3, no sub packages, no blitzing, no coaches reviews.
And we're off.
- Warner is in at QB for the first NFC drive. It's weird, no matter how the Super Bowl ends, so many of those guys end up in this weird game a week later. No matter what. Moving this game to two weeks earlier next year was probably a good idea. I can't believe that Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Warner all are on the field right now.
- Warner completes his first pass to Fitzgerald.
- Has there ever been a major injury in the Pro Bowl? I've watched my fair share, and I don't think I've ever seen one happen. Good to see it hasn't happened, but there's always the bad part of me that kind of, sort of would like to see it.
- Big Andy Reid is our coach for the NFC. Michaels said Reid joked about having a timeshare in Hawaii because he's lost so many NFC championship games which forces him to coach the Pro Bowl. Poor Andy's taking shots already.
- Collinsworth says it's the hardest thing in the world to lose the Super Bowl and come down to Hawaii the next week later. I believed we already covered this.
- Another new Pro Bowl rule I just learned: the defensive backs have to play five yards off. So I guess that takes jamming out of the equation.
- "It's weird seeing Peyton Manning in a huddle," Michaels quips. I have a feeling that may have been written in advance.
- Another great feature of the Pro Bowl is having the QB mic'd up for all the huddles. Manning is such a goofy bastard.
- For all the negative stereotypes about the intelligence of football players, I always thought learning an offense -- no matter how simple -- in just a short week of practices was always pretty impressive.
- The AFC busts out the Wildcat with 8:21 to play in the first quarter. The copycat league reaches a new low. Or... high?
- Manning to Tony Gonzalez for the touchdown! Feel the excitement.
AFC - 7 | NFC - 0
- Probably a good time to mention that the Pro Bowl spread was the NFC (-2.5). The lesson being gambling on the Pro Bowl might be more pathetic than blogging the Pro Bowl.
- Something Corporate is used on a commercial transition. I have absolutely no idea how this happened. I figured, after hearing the Beach Boys during an earlier commercial break, that emo had no place in this game.
- Peyton Manning's Pro Bowl nickname is The Mayor. I cannot let myself forget this. During his in-game interview, Manning mentions he's not sure what to expect from the new Colts regime. Hearing him talk about the dynamic of coaching, I would be stunned if Manning himself wasn't coaching a team a dozen years from now.
- Tiki interviews Kurt Warner on the sideline. Warner says he has no idea what he wants to do with his future: "If I feel like God's pulling me into something else, then I think I'm ready to do that."
As a Bears fan, I think it's pretty obvious that no God would advise Warner to come to Chicago.
- Adrian Peterson rips through the defense for a moderate gain. Injury? Injury? Nope.
- NBC shows their 83rd replay of the Harrison interception. Believe it or not, other plays happened in the Super Bowl. But I guess since Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger aren't in the Pro Bowl, maybe they didn't.
- We now get a cut to a pre-game discussion of Warner talking to Harrison, walking him through his decision making on the Super Bowl pick-six. Harrison just kind of stares at Warner without ever changing the his facial expression. It's almost like Harrison feels worse about the play than Warner does.
- NBC shows the pick-six again. You've got to believe the fourth and final Cardinals fan has turned this game off. I'm setting the over/under of the pick-six replay showing for the rest of the Pro Bowl at 2.5.
- Giants kicker John Carney is in the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1994.
- Weezer's "Island In The Sun" and Carney drilling a field goal send us to a commercial break.
AFC - 7 | NFC - 3
- Baltimore OC Cam Cameron is calling plays while covering his mouth with the play sheet. Luckily, NBC has him mic'd up so his tactics are completely inconsequential.
- Man, between the no-replays, in-game interviews, and me DVRing the game, this thing is just flying by.
- Ronnie Brown runs out of the Wildcat and gets "sacked" for an eight yard loss.
- Cameron radios the call to Manning, and based solely on the numbers and jargon, Collinsworth is able to decipher the whole play.
"I thought it was air traffic control bring in a G5," Michaels jokes.
He's on fire.
- After The Mayor carves up the defense and brings the AFC down to the goal line, Brandon Marshall drops a 4th down touchdown pass on a slant.
- Collinsworth laughs at his own joke about Manning possibly losing the MVP on that play.
- With baseball, I feel like you have most of the American sports public watching the all-star game. With the NBA and NHL, you'll always get the hardcores tuning in. But I literally feel like no one is watching -- or, I guess, was watching -- the game besides me. Everybody I know that loves football hates this game. I mean, if we're going to speak philosophically using the tree falling in the forest metaphor, did this game actually happen?
- Julius Peppers gets interviewed by Tiki, who asks him if there's anything the Panthers could do to bring him back.
"I'm just out here right now enjoying the Pro Bowl."
He's, uh, not coming back to Carolina.
- Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha is out of the game after losing a contact lens. Oooh, the drama.
- Kerry Collins replaces Manning and completes his first pass to Wes Welker. After seeing Manning chucking it to Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, and Tony Gonzalez, this Collins-Welker duo seems a little less dynamic.
- Naperville's own Owen Daniels makes a great catch in traffic to bring the AFC down to the 8 yard-line with :42 seconds left.
- Collins' last Pro Bowl was in 1996...
- ...but that doesn't matter, because he just hit Daniels for the touchdown to give the AFC a commanding 14-3 lead heading into halftime!
AFC - 14 | NFC - 3
- During an in-game interview to the mainland, Madden tells the booth he didn't sleep until Tuesday following the Super Bowl.
- I get a text from a friend and confirm via the internet: blink-182 is back. This is the newsiest of news on TUP.
- I spoke too soon on my presumed halftime score. Larry Fitzgerland makes an amazing jump ball catch in the end zone to take us to halftime.
AFC - 14 | NFC - 10
- Michaels just flat-lines comatose Cardinals fans by saying something like, "Imagine if Fitzgerald had a chance to do that on the last play of the Super Bowl which didn't get to happen."
That just stings.
[Forgive me for fast-forwarding through half-time]
- I love Thomas Jones probably more than most Bears fans, and I think he's good and everything, but it is just excruciatingly boring to watch him run the football.
- A little "Take A Picture" by Filter heading into the commercial break. NBC is throwing down the gauntlet of great late-90s/early-00s music.
- Eli Manning makes his first appearance under center...
- Michaels makes a joke about Marty Morningweg covering his mouth with the play sheet. I'm none to pleased with him stealing my material.
- Manning completes his first pass to Larry Fitzgerald, who makes a beautiful catch on a ball thrown totally behind him. He's filling Plaxico's shoes quite nicely.
- NBC runs a graphic of Larry Fitzgerald's post-season stats. For all the press he got going into the Super Bowl, his numbers after the game make him look even better. The guy had 7 TDs in the post-season. That's easily more than any Bears WR will total during the 2009 campaign.
- Vikings CB Antoine Winfield picks off Kerry Collins. You can almost hear the Jay Cutler chants brewing.
- Adrian Peterson makes a video game-level cut on a screen pass to extend the NFC drive. He will never leave the NFC North.
- Jets CB Darrell Revis one-hand intercepts Eli in the endzone in what is probably the play of the game at this point.
- Jared "DUI" Allen strips Collins and the NFC recovers the ball inside the AFC 10 yard-line. Following the strip, Allen does his incredibly idiotic lasso celebration. Allen is my least favorite player in the NFL for reasons like these and many, many more.
- Adrian Peterson punches it in and gives the NFC a three-point lead.
AFC - 14 | NFC - 17
- NBC graphic: Winning team 45,000 / Losing team, 22,500.
Collinsworth believes putting the money on the field in cash would be a huge motivator for players in terms of deciding the outcome of the game. Cash over checks, baby. Randy agrees.
- Jay Cutler makes his way into the game. I expect fireworks.
- Tiki interviews Anquan Boldin for some more Cardinals-heart-ripping.
"You'd rather get blown out than lose on the last play like that," Boldin says.
- Collinsworth puts the Boldin face injury into perspective: "Could you imagine having that kind of surgery? They literally took his upper jaw, pulled it out of his mouth, put those screws in there, put it back in. And he played three weeks later..."
- Tiki interviews Fitzgerald. After breezing through some Boldin contract stuff, Tiki brings up Fitzgerald's incredible post-season numbers. Things are going smooth.
- And it all gets de-railed with some more "you lost the Super Bowl, how does it feel?" talk.
- All game, the players have been chanting "45!" during huddle breaks. Me, being stupid, just figured out that it was short for the $45,000 game-winner check.
- Brandon Marshall catches a great fade from Jay Cutler, but Al Harris pushes him out of bounds to cancel out an AFC touchdown.
"That's a touchdown a year ago," says Collinsworth, alluding to the force-out rule change.
- 2nd and Goal and the AFC runs... the fumblerooski! Le'Ron McClain goes into the end zone on the trick play.
AFC - 21 | NFC - 17
- NBC cuts to a shot of Andy Reid. Even in the Pro Bowl, poor Andy's getting out-schemed.
- Wikipedia sez: "In American football, the fumblerooski is a trick play, most famously used by the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers against the University of Miami Hurricanes in the 1984 Orange Bowl. It is no longer allowed in high school, college, or the NFL. It was invented by John Heisman. In the Fumblerooski, the quarterback deliberately places the ball on the ground, technically fumbling it. The backs will run to the right, and the right guard will pick up the ball and run to the left."
- Scrolling through the Fumblerooski Wikipedia page, I see it's already been modified: "In the 2009 Pro Bowl, Le'Ron McClain scored a touchdown on a modified fumblerooski."
Even though I clearly just saw it happen on TV, I feel like it wasn't really official until I read it on Wikipedia.
- Fade route to Larry Fitzgerald, who hauls it in against 1-on-1 coverage from Cortland Finnegan... and Eli's post-season heroics continue. Touchdown for the NFC with 4:03 left.
AFC - 21 | NFC - 24
- "It's like watchin a six foot three guy trying to rebound against Bill Russell -- it's not happening!" Collinsworth exclaims.
- Peyton Manning paces the AFC sideline nervously.
- Cutler flicks his wrist and the ball goes, like, 40 yards. Tony Gonzalez is getting a lot of looks.
- Peppers intercepts Cutler with 2:26 left. Things are not looking good for the AFC.
- After one running play, Eli throws two incompletes in a row to breathe new life into an AFC comeback... Carney puts a field goal through.
AFC - 21 | NFC - 27
- 1:55 left in the game, Jay Cutler with a chance to start a legacy.
- After three bad incompletions, it's 4th and 10 with 1:40 left.
- It's incomplete.
- After Manning's hijinks earlier this week, you've got to wonder if he's upset he didn't take out Cutler permanently.
- Peyton Manning was mic'd up during brother Eli's jump ball fade route TD to Fitzgerald. His remark after the throw: "Well, Olivia could throw that."
- Carney puts yet another FG through to ice the game for the NFC. The spread is covered.
- MVP goes to Larry Fitzgerald (5 catches, 81 yards, 2 TDs)... but I'm giving mine to Ray Lewis' failed pre-game speech.
AFC - 21 | NFC - 30
* * *
Well, that's it for football. We now turn our attention to the Bulls landing Amare and White Sox-related disillusion. In 2009, hope springs eternal.