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Bucs’ Baker Mayfield, NFC top the AFC in the Pro Bowl

Mayfield comes off the bench in the second half to win most valuable offensive player honors.
 
NFC quarterback Baker Mayfield, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, scrambles against the AFC during the flag football event at the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday in Orlando.
NFC quarterback Baker Mayfield, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, scrambles against the AFC during the flag football event at the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday in Orlando. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Feb. 5

ORLANDO — All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill catching a pass over the middle and flashing world-class speed on the way to scoring a touchdown.

Receiver Keenan Allen taking a lateral from C.J. Stroud, juking a defender to buy time before throwing across the field to tight end Evan Engram in the left corner of the end zone.

The Pro Bowl Games concluded Sunday with NFC and AFC stars competing in a flag football game that gave fans and a national television audience glimpses of what the soon-to-be Olympic sport could look like with such highly skilled athletes on the field.

“It was cool. A little flag football. We didn’t really play hard when it was pads,” Allen said. “It’s still football. ... You are out there running around with the guys who are the best talent in the NFL. It’s fun to be out there.”

The NFC defeated the AFC 64-59 at Camping World Stadium, with the final score determined by combining points from Sunday’s game with those accumulated by each conference over two days of skills challenges.

Tampa Bay’s Baker Mayfield came off the bench in the second half to win most valuable offensive player honors. Eli Manning coached the NFC, defeating older brother Peyton Manning, who also was on the losing side as coach of the AFC a year ago in Las Vegas.

This was the second year for a reimagined format that replaced the traditional Pro Bowl tackle football game, which waned in popularity over the past decade.

Players and an announced crowd of 55,709 seemed to enjoy what has become largely a made-for-TV event.

The NFC's Tristan Wirfs, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signs autographs after the flag football event Sunday.
The NFC's Tristan Wirfs, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signs autographs after the flag football event Sunday. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

“I think it was amazing,” Stroud, who led the Houston Texans to the AFC South title and a playoff victory as a rookie this season. “People showed up and showed out and had a good time.”

Stroud had a chance to win it at the end, but his final pass of the game — intended for Allen, a six-time Pro Bowl selection with the Los Angeles Chargers, was broken up in the end zone.

“We wanted to win bad,” Allen said. “We were just trying to make plays at the end.”

Flag football has been added to the Olympic program for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, and the NFL is exploring the possibility of allowing its players an opportunity to be part of Team USA when the sport debuts in four years.

Hill and Patrick Mahomes are the biggest stars who have said they would be interested in playing in the Olympics.

“It was pretty fun. I give it an 8 out of 10 because we didn’t win,” said Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II, who had an interception return for a touchdown. “But at the end of the day, it was fun just being around the football, the game we love, and being at a different level playing flag and with the skills competition and stuff. It was pretty dope.”

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By FRED GOODALL, Associated Press