For those who watched the Pro Bowl Sunday night, the NFL spin doctors held a consultation and, for the benefit of fans, the State of Hawaii and the NFL as a brand, the 2013 Pro Bowl was played under significantly different conditions than the 2012 Pro Bowl.
In the ongoing battle between the owners and players union, apparently the Pro Bowl is something the two sides can agree upon. Sometimes, the only time that players can let the powers that be know of their relevance is a unified show of force. In the regular season opener in 2010, the Vikings and Saints players made an unanticipated gesture of solidarity when they raised their helmets from opposite sidelines in defiance to their bosses – who were far less organized as one voice at the time. The league took notice. Last year, when players made it clear that the Pro Bowl was a farce, the league again took notice and Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to eliminate the game completely.
It seemed as though the theme of the night from the broadcast team to the players that were interviewed was to hammer home the point that more effort was being put forth. Jared Allen was propped up as an example of the "playing hard" theme of the night and he was highlighted for postponing surgery to play in the game. Allen said the game was an honor to play in after being voted in by his peers and, if they continue to vote him in, he will continue to play. Allen clearly was nowhere near 100 percent and didn't give his maximum effort on plays, joking with the opposing offensive tackles after plays in which he was easily held up.
The star of the night was Kyle Rudolph, who walked away with the Most Valuable Player award after catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. However, he was also involved in one of the rare penalties called in the game. In the fourth quarter, a miscommunication with QB Russell Wilson caused both Rudolph and Dallas TE Jason Witten to jump. The officials called the false start on "Number 82," which both Witten and Rudolph were wearing. For the record, the call went against Witten.
Adrian Peterson was supposed to be the player who had the big offensive day, but he helped give the AFC the first points of the game when he fumbled on the NFC's opening play and the AFC recovered in the red zone (although officially the fumble was charged to QB Drew Brees). Peterson would finish with 13 yards on just five carries. Instead, it was fullback Jerome Felton who took advantage of an opportunity, finishing second among runners with 18 yards on four carries, including one of the two rushing touchdowns in the game.
Matt Kalil played much of the game, but almost entirely at right tackle. Called into duty on Friday before the game, Kalil was burned at times at his new position, but helped the NFC and his teammates celebrate touchdowns – being handed the ball by Felton after his TD and spiking the ball.
Chad Greenway saw plenty of playing time, both on defense and on special teams and finished the game with two tackles.
Perhaps the busiest Viking of the day was Blair Walsh. He kicked off a total of 10 times and scored 14 points (eight extra points and two field goals).
On a night when both the players and the broadcasters seemed to be directed to point out the intensity of play, several Vikings played a key role for the NFC. Rudolph left with the MVP trophy and the car that came with it, but the Vikings contingent showed well at the all-star classic, which gave Goodell ammunition to keep playing it, not eliminate it.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.