- Eric Edholm at Shutdown Corner49 mins ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a game with 1,063 combined yards of offense, it was a defensive play that was the highlight of the Pro Bowl.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes — aka "Optimus Grimes" — was one of the few defenders who really showed up to play in the 32-28 Team Irvin over Team Carter game. J.J. Watt might have won defensive MVP honors, but Grimes' interception was ridiculous.
Covering Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, Grimes never turned around to find the ball on a fade route in the end zone, instead playing the receiver. No problem — Grimes reacted to the ball when Hilton leaped to make the catch, and Grimes — without ever really seeing the ball — just stole it. Like it was his lunch money.
Grimes' interception this season while covering Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson was the better play because it happened against Megatron in a heated tight, regular-season game. But this Pro Bowl pick might have had an even higher degree of difficulty.
It was that good.
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- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner51 mins ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Pro Bowl goal posts just looked weird.
The NFL trotted out experimental goal posts that were much narrower than regulation, and the uprights were much higher, too.
Adam Vinatieri was not a fan.
The Indianapolis Colts kicker, one of the most accurate ever and probably the kicker with the best chance to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday (Jan Stenerud is the only full-time kicker in the Hall), missed two extra points and a field goal to the narrow goal posts. The NFL narrowed the goal posts from 18.6 feet to 14 for the Pro Bowl. They also had kickers attempt extra points to the 15-yard line for a 33-yard try instead of the normal 20-yard attempt. All of Vinatieri's misses were barely wide.
"I probably would have made all my kicks today and walked out of here feeling a little happier than I am now," Vinatieri said.
Kickers have gotten much better over the years. Extra points are automatic and field goals were made at better than an 80 percent clip this past season. Adjusting the goal posts and/or moving the distance for extra points would bring those percentages way down.
"It's a game changer," Vinatieri said.
- Eric Edholm at Shutdown Corner1 hr ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. — After he had been awarded the Defensive MVP at the 2015 Pro Bowl, posing with NFL cheerleaders and standing next to the brand new GMC sport-utility vehicle he just won for those honors, J.J. Watt was pulled away for an NFL Network interview clear across the University of Phoenix Stadium field.
As the 25-year-old Watt traversed the field, the once sold-out crowd, which had thinned considerably by game's end, gave him a near local's welcome. Yes, the four Arizona Cardinals players received the warmest ovations to start the game and any time any of them were involved in a play in the 32-28 Team Irvin victory.
But they stayed for Watt. And they cheered him incessantly. They wanted his autograph. They wanted anything he wore for the game. They just seem to want to get an up-close look at the freak.
"It was cool to have a sold-out stadium here," Watt said. "It's a lot of fun to interact with the fans.“It was fun.
"The Pro Bowl is all about fun. We had a good time out there. We would have obviously love to have the win, but it’s pretty cool to walk out of here with a new truck.”
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner1 hr ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. – New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. put on another show in the Pro Bowl, which is no surprise because that's what he did in just about every other game he played as a rookie.
He had five catches for 89 yards in the Pro Bowl and even among the game's best players he stood out. What's more amazing is what he shared in the locker room afterward.
"I was never really healthy," Beckham said about his rookie season.
Come again? That 91-catch, 1,305-yard, 12-touchdown rookie season (in just 12 games, by the way) was on a bad leg?
He said he had two separate hamstring injuries, and the second time he found out he had two tears in the hamstring, in the semitendinosus and the biceps muscles in the hamstring. Beckham missed four games to start the season because of his hamstring.
"I maintained it the best I could," Beckham said. "Still working on it. Trying to get it 100 (percent) for next year."
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner3 hrs ago
For those expecting swift and harsh justice for the New England Patriots over the deflate-gate issue, with huge suspensions for the Super Bowl, you're likely out of luck.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reiterated during a remote Pro Bowl halftime interview with ESPN that he hasn't spoken to the NFL about the issue and doesn't expect to until after the Super Bowl. So unless Brady is really wrong on his assumption, you can probably put the pitchforks away for a while.
"No, no. I believe they're going to do after the season, so we'll deal with it after this game," Brady told ESPN. "I think everybody's locked in, ready to go for this Super Bowl. It's a great opportunity for us, you know, and our guys have worked really hard so, hopefully we can go out there and play our best on Sunday."
- Eric Edholm at Shutdown Corner4 hrs ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Several plays could sum up the Pro Bowl experience, from the poor tackling and blocking, to the missed field-goal attempts on tiny goalposts.
It's riveting stuff.
But we'll nominate Jordy Nelson's touchdown catch from Drew Brees as the play of all Pro Bowl plays to sum up the confusion of this odd game.
Nelson ran to the post and made a really great catch, arms extended, and scored to give Team Carter a 20-19 lead in the second quarter. So who was the first to congratulate Nelson? Clay Matthews, who happens to be on Team Irvin. The other team.
Yes, they are teammates in real life with the Green Bay Packers. Blood is thicker than water, or something. It almost looked like they drew it up that way.
Matthews: I'll let you score and then we'll celebrate together.
And it — humorously — shows just how farcical this whole Pro Bowl experience is.
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- Kristian Dyer at Shutdown Corner4 hrs ago
The Super Bowl means special footballs for both the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, and that means a repeat of deflate-gate is unlikely to occur.
Unlike the regular season and playoffs when teams provide their own balls for their offense during the game, the NFL provides all of the practice and game balls throughout Super Bowl week for both teams. There is a longstanding league policy in which an equipment manager from a team not involved – in this Super Bowl it is Tony Medlin of the Chicago Bears – is in charge of the game balls. The attendants for this game are picked well before either the Patriots or the Seahawks got to this point.
The Patriots have been answering questions all week about how 11 of their 12 game balls during the AFC championship game were under-inflated well below the league's rules for air pressure. Teams are in control of the game balls in the regular season and playoffs until the officials inspect then two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff.
- Eric Edholm at Shutdown Corner5 hrs ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Seattle Seahawks are not participating the in the Pro Bowl because, well, they are taking part in a bigger bowl next Sunday.
But midway through the first quarter, after Team Irvin took a 3-0 lead, the five Seahawks players — safety Kam Chancellor, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner — who were elected to the game were announced to the crowd.
And they were booed.
Yes, the pro-Arizona Cardinals crowd wanted nothing to do with NFL Network's Willie McGinest interviewing the Seahawks quintet during a break in the action. And here we thought the New England Patriots were the most hated team in town!
The Patriots will not land in Arizona until Monday, so we were not afforded a true lithmus test.
But it's a good guess that division rivalries trump any national sentiments this week.
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- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner6 hrs ago
GLENDALE, Ariz. – J.J. Watt would have fit in perfectly in the single-platoon era, when players stayed on the field and played both sides of the ball.
The Houston Texans defensive end is a wrecking machine on defense. He can catch touchdowns from the tight end position, because his size and agility makes him an incredibly tough matchup. And he can even kick field goals.
OK, so Watt wasn't exactly going kick-for-kick from Adam Vinatieri from 50 yards out during Pro Bowl practice this week. It was a short one he attempted with the cameras rolling, about extra-point range. But wouldn't you know it, the best player in the NFL this season hit it high up into the net and good. It's not an easy task, and you don't see many 289-pound men who can pull it off (Ndamukong Suh, we haven't forgotten your kicking skills).
- Eric Edholm at Shutdown Corner7 hrs ago
PHOENIX — The first shot by Richard Sherman during Super Bowl week has been fired.
The Seattle Seahawks cornerback, in the team's introductory media news conference on Sunday, was asked about potential discipline that could come down on their Super Bowl counterparts, the New England Patriots, in response to the deflate-gate incident.
Sherman, as expected, threw a haymaker at the NFL, the New England Patriots, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and league commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I think perception is reality. It is what it is," Sherman said. "Their resume speaks for itself. You talk about getting close to the line, this and that. I don’t really have a comment about that. Their past is what their past is. Their present is what their present is.
"Will they be punished? Probably not. Not as long Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. [Goodell] was just at Kraft’s house last week before the AFC championship. Talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all.”