So the NFC has beaten the AFC for the right to claim that they're the better conference this year. The game also marked the 30th and last game of the Pro-Bowl that will be played in Hawaii. Next year because of economic conditions, the game shall be moved to Miami. The game will also take place 1 week before the Super Bowl so that it can kick start the excitement leading up to the biggest game of them all. There are talks that the game might rotate from Hawaii and Miami every year, but the decision to move the game to Miami is set in stone.
Unlike last year, the Panthers managed to put four players in the Pro-Bowl. Julius Peppers and Jordan Gross made it in as starters, Steve Smith and Jon Beason as reserves. We couldn't have hoped for any better from the Panthers. All four of them contributed to the game, and each made big plays that contributed to the NFC win.
- Julius Peppers had a sack late in the 1st quarter against Peyton Manning to force a punt. He also caught a good interception from Jay Cutler late in the game to help set up a field goal and seal the game for the NFC. He finished the game with 3 tackles and one assist.
- Jordan Gross had shutdown blocking the whole game. Part of it can be attributed to the Pro-Bowl's rules that limit contact, prevents blitzes, and keeps players from getting hurt. It helps out the offensive linemen in a big way, all they have to do in concentrate on stopping the person in front of them. He still had a good game. He handled himself very effectively 1 on 1 against Dwight Freeney save for that sack he allowed when both of the speedy Colts DE's were on the field.
- Jon Beason had a big stop at the one yard line with 2:30 left in the 2nd Quarter to prevent the AFC from scoring on a running play by Thomas Jones. He also showed off his coverage skills when he deflected a long pass to Tony Gonzalez that would have gone for a big game. Jon Beason may not have the size of other linebackers in the game, but he had enough speed to cover the pass-catching TE's and enough power to give a strong lick to stop the running game when needed. I can't help but feel good about him leading the linebacker core next year.
- Steve Smith was awesome. The commentators described Steve Smith as "the chippiest, angriest player in the NFL." I don't know how that is a measure of his skill, but he had a good game nonetheless. Steve Smith led the NFC in yards and catches with 6 receptions for 89 yards, three of the catches going for around 20 yards each. I don't believe he got a long ball thrown his way the whole game, otherwise Steve Smith might have run away with the MVP if he made a big play.
The game also let us know a little more about Julius Peppers. When asked about free agency, he just rambled on about the Pro-Bowl and how he wants to enjoy it. He talked about the 3-4 briefly and how he wanted to move on and do more things. When he was asked what would the Panthers have to do in order to get him to stay, he pretty much froze up. Just stood there with his "Uhhs and ahhs" and he couldn't say anything more. At this point, Julius Peppers is pretty gone. Can't say much more than that.
Other than the Peppers distraction, you couldn't have wished for any better today. A game like this gives me hope for the Panthers. Even though we all know that this game doesn't mean anything, and players don't even try to win the game, our Panthers do have pretty good players on their team. With a little wheeling and dealing this offseason, our Panthers can stand a good chance at making the playoffs next year despite having the 2nd worst schedule for next year.
Can we sign Jordan Gross to a large contract now?