There was no blocking or tackling in this year’s 2023 Pro Bowl though it’s hardly a departure from the past few years, leading the NFL to change this year’s format to a true 7v7 flag football event. Sunday, the NFC came out on top, winning 33-27.
Update: Evidently, there’s another flag football game taking place right now, though it’s unclear if Fitzpatrick will be playing in this one. It appears they are rotating people for the second contest
The only Steeler to participate in the game was FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, forced to try and defend in this wide-open environment. His day was relatively uneventful, “giving up” a touchdown to Dallas Cowboys’ WR CeeDee Lamb in the left corner of the end zone though he didn’t try too hard to contest it in this padless event.
Cam Heyward was in attendance but only to cheer the American Conference on, though he had a funny moment picking up and carrying Miami Dolphins’ WR Tyreek Hill on the sidelines after he was hit hard – the only one of the day – by Los Angeles Rams’ CB Jalen Ramsey trying to prevent a touchdown.
With the win, the NFC has tied the AFC in Pro Bowl points 9-9, compiled from this week’s worth of events. The NFC led a game-winning drive, Seattle Seahawks’ QB Geno Smith again finding Lamb over the middle on 4th down. No defender could rip his flag out and Lamb ran over the goal line. With a two-point conversion, the NFC padded their lead and Baltimore’s Tyler Huntley couldn’t materialize a game-winning drive with only a few seconds left.
The game has broken up into a pair of ten-minute halves. The game was tied at 20 at the break with the NFC outscoring the AFC 13-7 in the second stanza, defenses tightening up a bit more. Derwin James had one of the game’s few defensive plays, picking off Smith on the goal line late in the first half.
Other players to score Sunday included Buffalo Bills’ TE Dawson Knox and Minnesota Vikings’ TE T.J. Hockenson, traded over from the Detroit Lions mid-season.
While the game can hardly be considered as “exciting,” it was more fun and light-hearted and purposely focused on offense instead of the illusion of an actual football game. At the least, it was more honest. Whether or not it’ll be more popular remains to be seen. Ratings have reportedly been way down throughout the week, the NFL’s Pro Bowl losing out to the NHL All-star game and virtually every other professional sporting event taking place this weekend.
After the flag football game, the AFC retook the lead in “kick-tac-toe,” an event between each conference’s specialists, to go up 12-9. Who will win the weekend remains to be seen though it obviously doesn’t matter except in the wallet’s of the players, winners earning a bit more than the loser’s. (Update: It’s now tied at 12 after the NFC beat the AFC in the Gridiron Gauntlet, an event Heyward participated in but saw very little camera time for).