Something strange and unexpected happened on Sunday. I actually enjoyed watching the 2014 Pro Bowl as Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii on NBC. In an effort to revitalize waning fan interest in the game, the NFL went with a non-conference format in which team General Managers and Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders drafted their teams putting teammates versus teammates.
Leading up to the big game, the Pro Bowl draft provided some funny moments as players milled around for roughly three hours on Wednesday waiting to be drafted in the “green room” while frequently chiding each other in a show of camaraderie. The new format seemed to escalate the intensity of the game too as it was one of the more heavily contested and lowest scoring Pro Bowls I can remember watching.
The Dallas Cowboys had five players representing the club. Offensive tackle Tyron Smith, defensive end Jason Hatcher, and running back DeMarco Murray all put on the Team Rice uniforms, while Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten both played for Team Sanders.
The Pro Bowl Cowboys representatives were very active throughout the game. Tyron Smith might have had one of the more difficult assignments starting at right tackle instead of his starting position of left tackle, and facing off against Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt who was going full-steam to get quarterback sacks.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jason Hatcher had a great game for Team Rice applying consistent pressure getting one key sack in the fourth quarter while during another play forcing Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into the arms of teammate Buffalo Bills defensive end Marcell Dareus.
Both Team Sanders Pro Bowlers Jason Witten (2 rec. 26 yds.) and Dez Bryant (2 rec. 12 yds.) had quiet games, but it was their opponent DeMarco Murray who had perhaps the biggest impact play of the game when he caught a 20 yard pass from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and ran it in for the touchdown. Murray led all Team Rice running backs with 62 all-purpose yards and one TD.
Adding slightly to the teammate versus teammate drama, Hatcher, Smith, and Murray all get bragging rights for the remainder of the year and $53,000.00, while Pro Bowl losers Bryant and Witten get a $26,000.00 consolation prize. The new draft format, non-conference teams, and contested defensive battles throughout the game facilitated an enjoyable Pro Bowl week while allowing NFL players the opportunity to enjoy each other while giving fans a good show. The National Football League and NBC both get a thumbs up from me for their Pro Bowl 2014 efforts.
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