Lack Of Tackling, Picks Aplenty At Pro Bowl

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caught two touchdowns in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. Photo from the Baltimore Sun.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 6, 2022

Today the NFL season officially concluded (for most players) with the Pro Bowl. The game features all of the league’s best players: top performers from the AFC and NFC battled it out for what’s essentially a consolation prize. (If you can’t make it to the Super Bowl, winning in the Pro Bowl is the next best thing. It is also lucrative: players on the winning team will receive bonus checks of $80,000. The losers get $40,000.)

The event was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 event was marred by Kobe Bryant’s untimely death that day; the 2021 Bowl never happened. This year’s event proceeded without any tragedy or major snafus. But it also went on without much tackling or defensive energy.

Things got popping almost immediately, when Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray’s pass was batted by Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby. Mr. Crosby caught the ball and nearly had an interception but left tackle Brian O’Neill snatched the ball from him. But then Murray was intercepted by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who ran nearly untouched with the ball in one hand into the end zone. It was a 45 yard interception return touchdown.

Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker nailed the extra point to give the AFC a 7-0 lead. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett came over to congratulate Leonard. This touchdown pick means a donation to Leonard’s charity of choice: the disease awareness prevention Lupus Foundation of America. Leonard chose the charity in honor of his sister, who has lupus.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the immune system — which normally fights infections — attacks healthy cells and tissues instead. The result can be painful swelling and inflammation. Lupus commonly affects the skin, joints and internal organs like the kidneys and heart.

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Vikings QB Kirk Cousins comes in at quarterback for the NFC, and thanks to the live mic, you could hear the play he called. “Snug right, fake right, keep left, wide slide,” he told his huddle. Whatever that means, it worked: Cousins faked a pass and then threw to 49ers fullback Kyle Juszcyzk, who ran in for the touchdown.

Cousins then gets intercepted by Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard, who took off and then lobbed a pass to Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II. The AFC took over. Chargers QB Justin Herbert threw to Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews for the touchdown. That 15-yard touchdown reception earned Andrews a donation to his charity of choice. (The charity is the JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Andrews has Type 1 diabetes.)

As he explained in an essay for USA Today: “I was 9 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease where my immune system destroys cells in my pancreas that make insulin. Managing diabetes is a 24/7 job, and one that requires constant glucose monitoring and insulin injections.” Andrews manages his condition with a glucose monitor. As he explains in the essay, the device “uses a tiny sensor to measure and send glucose values to my phone. It alerts me whenever my numbers spike or drop above or below a safe range, and sends predictive alerts when I’m headed low or high.”

Mark Andrews with his continuous glucose monitor. Photo from Family Handout.
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The NFC began a drive, led by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. But Wilson struggled to convert. What could’ve been a simple touchdown to Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson on 3rd and goal was foiled by Browns corner Denzel Ward. On 4th and goal, the NFC went for it. But then the referee called a timeout. That gave Lisa Salters time to talk to 49ers player Deebo Samuel, who’s playing in his first Pro Bowl. She asked Samuel:

“Now are you a running back now, or are you a wide receiver? How would you describe you?”

“We got a new position. It’s called ‘wide back.’ Wide receiver playing running back.”

What do you like about doing both?”

“Ummm…I can get the ball. That’s what I really like: the ball is in my hands all the time.”

No sooner had Samuel concluded his interview than Wilson was intercepted. The pass bounced off the intended receiver’s hands and landed in the hands of Patriots player J.C. Jackson, who is second in the league this season for most interceptions.

The AFC took over, with Patrick Mahomes as quarterback. But Mahomes, too, struggled to get points on the board. And just like nearly every quarterback today, he too was intercepted — a side-arm throw was picked off by Bucs safety Antoine Winfield, Jr., who took it all the way to the house. And that’s how the first quarter ended.

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The second quarter began with yet another pick-six — this time, it was Kirk Cousins who got picked off. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive player T.J. Watt hit Cousins’ arm just as he was beginning to throw; the ball landed in the hands of Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who ran it all the way to the end zone, hoisting the ball in one hand.

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Photos courtesy of ESPN.

Myles Garrett’s stellar play gave the AFC a 22-13 lead. The NFC responded when Kyler Murray threw a 19-yard touchdown to Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, making it a one-point game. bu the AFC struck back when Herbert and Andrews connected again — this time for a 7-yard strike. Andrews snuck behind defensive coverage, and Herbert floated a pass to the corner of the field for the touchdown.

The Ravens tight end’s five catches were tied for the most in the game with Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Andrews’ late-half TD put the AFC ahead 28-21 at halftime. The second half unfolded as follows:

2nd Half
THIRD QUARTERNFCAFC
TD7:24Hunter Renfrow 6 Yd pass from Mac Jones (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed)13 plays, 95 yards, 7:362134
TD1:39Stefon Diggs 4 Yd Run (Justin Tucker Kick)7 plays, 28 yards, 4:172141
FOURTH QUARTERNFCAFC
TD10:18Kyle Pitts 5 Yd pass from Kyler Murray (Jake Elliott Kick)13 plays, 75 yards, 6:212841
TD2:36Dalvin Cook 5 Yd pass from Kyler Murray (Jake Elliott Kick)6 plays, 36 yards, 1:113541

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