Marshall steals the show

A few observations after the AFC ran away with the 2012 Pro Bowl, 59-41:

Despite the final score, the NFC was in this to win this from the start. Following a 10-yard TD from Aaron Rodgers to Larry Fitzgerald, Mike McCarthy surprsied the AFC with an onside kick. Charles Tillman recovered and Rodgers connected with Fitzgerald on the very next play for a 44-yard touchdown.

Then, unbelievably, they did it again early in the third quarter. This one was receovered by long snapper Brian Jennings.

Didn’t anybody tell these guys it’s the Pro Bowl? …

As tends to be the case in these games, turnovers were abundant. I count eight total: Five from the NFC (three INTs, two fumbles) and three from the AFC (two INTs, one fumble). …

I sat one row back from Dog the Bounty Hunter in the press box. All right (name dropper).

But Dog took off midway through the third quarter. I’m guessing he wasn’t going to catch any bad guys. …

Is it just me, or does Fitzgerald own these games? He had four receptions for 70 yards to go with his two scores in the first half.

Brandon Marshall was giving Fitz a run for his money though, with two catches — both touchdowns — totaling 103 yards in the first half. That included a 74-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger.

Marshall’s day included the play of the game on a 47-yard bomb from Andy Dalton in the third quarter. Marshall collided with a couple of DBs around the 5, sending him sprawling on his back into the end zone. The ball deflected off one defender, then again off Marshall’s left leg and straight into his waiting arms as he lay in the end zone.

Marshall then outdid himself in the fourth quarter, making an impressive one-handed touchdown catch, falling down in the corner of the end zone. For those of you counting at home, Marshall finished with six catches, 176 yards and four touchdowns. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your MVP. …

Not to be outdone, Fitzgerald reappeared in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard touchdown catch with 2:37 left. Too little, too late, though Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns. …

— Immaculate reception it was not: A first-quarter Rodgers pass batted down at the line of scrimmage landed back into the quarterback’s hands, with only Bucs DT Geno Atkins there to take him down 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, leading to this play chart:

A.Rodgers pass short left to A.Rodgers to NFC 19 for -15 yards.

Any suggestion that this game should be played outside of Hawaii should be put to bed. All due respect, no “mainland” (as they like to call it here), crowd would ever be as into an exhibition game as they are here. As in need of an update as Aloha Stadium might be, the size of the venue lends a sense of intimacy to those on hand. And there are no luxury boxes. No corporate Miami crowd would bring it like these folks do. This is their Super Bowl and they cherish it. …

Steve Smith was raving about Cam Newton before the game, and he showed why in the third quarter, catching a 55-yard pass from Newton, which traveled all 55 yards in the air. Sometimes Newton makes it look so easy, putting it on the money halfway down the field with just a flick of the wrist.

The sometimes he looks like, well, a rookie. Despite what was probably a better roster of talent (completely subjective observation, of course) the NFC ran out of bullets once Rodgers and Drew Brees took to the bench. That led to a Newton vs. Dalton second half in which Newton showed his inexperience, misfiring on a number of throws, including three interceptions. He definitely heard it from the crowd, too.

In the end, Dalton outplayed his rookie counterpart, finishing seven of nine for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Newton finished nine of 27 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

To be fair, Newton’s first interception was not his fault, going through his receivers hands and into those of Chargers safety Eric Weddle. But the second was telegraphed to Texans CB Johnathan Joseph in the third quarter when the NFC had a chance to go up by two scores. And the last one was just a lazy pass into the hands of Weddle once again, who lateraled it back to Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson, who took it back 60 yards for the score. …

The dearth of penalties called (I’m not even sure the refs brought  flags to the game) made for an entertaining gameflow, with minimal stoppage. But Marshawn Lynch tried to get away with one in the third. As he was being taken down on a short run, Lynch casually flipped the ball to Newton … who was standing well in front of the RB. You’re better than that, Marshawn.

— Aron Angel

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