(Reuters) - Despite the players’ best efforts to give the event a more competitive edge, the NFC cruised to a Pro Bowl record 62-35 victory over the AFC in Honolulu on Sunday.
The season-ending game that features the league’s best players not involved in next Sunday’s Super Bowl had come under fire for being a glorified exhibition and with its future said to be in doubt, those taking part rallied to raise its profile.
NFC tight end Kyle Rudolph rose to the occasion with 122 receiving yards and a touchdown to grab MVP honours, while rookie quarterback Russell Wilson tossed three scoring passes in a performance he hopes will help secure the game’s future.
“I think everyone played really hard,” Wilson told reporters.
“Just being around (quarterbacks) Drew Brees, and the Eli and Peyton Mannings of the world is (once in a lifetime). That’s why I hope they keep the Pro Bowl. It’s special and means something.”
The Pro Bowl offers a welcome trip to Hawaii after a gruelling season but the players were clearly concerned with its reputation and tenuous status.
AFC defensive tackle J.J. Watt was left with blood splattered across his jersey, proof that he had given his all, while others went out of their way to exhibit extra effort.
The NFC fell 14-10 behind in the second quarter but took control with 28 straight points.
Eli Manning tossed a pair of TDs while Andrew Luck threw a couple of late scores for the AFC and A.J. Green caught three in the defeat.
“It’s an honour (to be here),” Green said. “I just go out and work as hard as I can. I love this game.”
The NFC surpassed the previous high total of 59 points scored by the AFC a year ago that set off complaints about the annual contest.
“It’s extremely important to keep this game for the NFL and all the local Hawaiians,” Rudolph said.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien