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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers trio help NFC to Pro Bowl win

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM
HONOLULU -

Sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt went out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver, retiring center Jeff Saturday snapped to two Mannings on opposite teams and the NFC blew past the AFC 62-35 in a Pro Bowl that could be the league's last.

Whether the NFL's all-star game will return or not is a question league officials will ponder the next few months. And the players gave plenty to consider on both sides of the argument Sunday.

The NFC was unstoppable on offense, with nearly each player putting up fantasy-worthy lines in limited play.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' three Pro Bowlers — wide receiver Vincent Jackson, rookie running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy — all made contributions for the NFC.

Jackson caught two touchdown passes - and even shared a chest bump with the Bucs' mascot after one score. Martin caught a TD and McCoy recovered a fumble.

Jackson, signed as a free agent before the season, caught six passes for 91 yards, making a good case to be the game's MVP. That honor, however, went to Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

The AFC had five turnovers and scored most of its points well after the game was no longer competitive.

Watt, who had 20 1/2 sacks for Houston this season, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. He was targeted one more time, but didn't make a catch.

He later showed a television camera a bloody left pinkie, joking with NBC telecasters that the players were trying.

"Hey, Commish, we're playing hard," Watt said as he showed his bloodied finger.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the Pro Bowl won't be played again if play didn't improve this year. Last year, fans in Hawaii booed as linemen were clearly not trying.

If players were coasting this time around, it was less obvious. The AFC just played poorly. And fans didn't boo much — the stands were relatively empty even though the game sold enough tickets to lift a local television blackout.

Saturday, the Green Bay center retiring at the end of this season, played for both teams though he came representing the NFC. He lined up on one play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time to Manning, his longtime former Colts teammate. Saturday played 13 seasons in Indianapolis, all with Manning — except 2011, when Manning was out with a neck injury. Saturday then played later in the game for the NFC, snapping to Peyton's brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Even as the NFC piled up touchdowns, the game struggled for memorable moments after Saturday's momentary switch.

Giants wideout Victor Cruz broke a Pro Bowl record with 10 catches. Eli Manning threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

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