Cordarrelle Patterson's rookie season ended Sunday, but wasn't done in a fashion that was expected, as Jerry Rice's team beat Deion Sanders' team 22-21 in the annual Pro Bowl.
Patterson, the only Viking named to the Pro Bowl teams, wasn't allowed to return kickoffs because, as part of trying to increase player safety, kickoffs were eliminated and drives would simply start on the 25-yard line after a scoring play or the start of a quarter. He was reduced to returning punts, which he never did with the Vikings, and playing on the punt coverage team, something else he's never done.
The Pro Bowl has been a breakout event in recent years for a couple of Vikings – Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph have both won MVP awards. But after a half-hearted debacle of a game the last couple of years, where teams combined to score 197 points, the game seemed as defenseless as an NBA All-Star Game. From Jared Allen doing an old-school leapfrog with defensive line teammates a couple of years ago to defenses last year that didn't seem to care at all, this year's game was markedly different.
While analyst Cris Collinsworth appeared to be getting paid by each reference about how incredible the game was – it wasn't, but at least it seemed legitimate – the NFL took a big step into making the Pro Bowl more entertaining, despite its numerous rules changes from the regular season.
Among the changes was that there were two-minute warnings in each quarter and, whichever team got the opening kickoff of the half would start the second and fourth quarters on defense at the 25-yard line. Kickoffs were eliminated. In the final two minutes, if a play lost yardage, it stopped the clock as if it were a timeout.
But the biggest positive change was that defenders were motivated to put out more effort. With offensive lines thrown together on fly, pass rushers were often the MVP's of the Pro Bowl. They just pinned their ears back and went. Defenders Sunday were actually laying down the lumber on opposing players, which, thanks to another significant change, made the game more interesting.
The draft format had teammates playing against each other – when Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert scored the winning two points in the final minute, he did so over the top of teammate Luke Kuechly. Teammates went up against teammates in the unconferenced schoolyard style of drafting players. Those who got taken last or close to last at their respective positions had a little chip on their shoulder that made them salty.
In the end, the Pro Bowl is still more about players meeting up with executives of companies to endorse their products, but allowing teams to play defense made it a game actually worth watching – even though rules changes took Patterson's primary strength out of play.
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.
Patterson a non-factor with rules changes
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