Written by Brian Pohl
Orlando, FL- A battle of the NFL’s best took place in Orlando, Florida as the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl resulted in a comeback victory by the AFC over the NFC 24-23.
Facing a 20-3 halftime deficit, the AFC battled all the way back to take the lead in the final seconds of the game, and come out victorious over their NFC counterparts. The win gives the AFC a 23-22 overall series lead over the NFC, as well as the beginning of a winning streak for the AFC, who have won two straight Pro Bowl games.
The first-half was all NFC, as they were able to drive down the field on the game’s opening possession to take an early lead and keep momentum throughout the half. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees led the way for the NFC, completing seven of his nine first half passes for 66-yards and a touchdown.
The NFC was able to retain momentum throughout the first-half in thanks to three costly turnovers by the AFC. The biggest of which came in the second quarter as AFC quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempted to go deep. Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings would pick the pass off and return it 79-yards for the score to extend the NFC’s leads to three possessions. The NFC would take a 20-3 lead into halftime, a
The AFC struggled to get momentum in the first-half, as a strong NFC defense limited them to just three first half points. Ben Roethlisberger finished his game completing seven of his 13 passes for just 50-yards, while Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs completed three of his six passes for 62-yards and an interception in the end zone that ended a drive that would have given the AFC some momentum heading into halftime.
The second half was a different story, as the AFC would find their rhythm offensively and battle back into the game. It would start on the first drive the of the half, as Alex Smith and the AFC offense would march right down the field and score as Smith connected with Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker for the touchdown, cutting the score to 20-10. The NFC’s Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks would throw an interception on their next possession and the AFC would capitalize. After a long 39-yard reception by TY Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, the Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy would score from four-yards out, and the NFC lead was down to just three points.
It seemed as if the NFC would be able to hold on though, as they led the AFC 23-17 in the final minutes of the game. However, the AFC would have other plans, and quarterback Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders would lead a final drive, throwing a touchdown to Delanie Walker in the final seconds of the game to seal the victory for the AFC.
With two receiving touchdowns in the game, Delanie Walker would receive the offensive MVP of the 2018 Pro Bowl. His clutch performance in the second half was impressive, as well as the major key to the victory for the AFC. The defensive MVP went to Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. His highlight came in the final drive of the game, as the NFC would attempt one final drive. Miller would get to quarterback Jared Goff in the backfield, however, and force and recover a fumble that finished off the NFC for the final time.
The AFC has won both Pro Bowl meetings in Orlando, and with two impressive crowd turnouts, it will be interesting to see whether the NFL decides to continue to make Orlando the home of the Pro Bowl, or if they decide to move the game around, as was their original plan after moving the game out of Hawaii.