Vikings' Kyle Rudolph earns MVP honors as NFC pulls Pro Bowl rout
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HONOLULU -- Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, earning Pro Bowl MVP honors in the NFC's 62-35 rout of the AFC.
Rudolph was selected as a replacement on Tuesday, when Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez dropped out of the game. He caught a 3-yard touchdown from Eli Manning in the second quarter and didn't touch the ball in the second half of what could be the NFL's last All-Star game.
"Guys were competing, guys wanted to win and guys want to keep the game here," Rudolph said. "That was the point before the game. We want to keep this game rolling for future Pro Bowlers."
Sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt went out for a pass as a wide receiver. Retiring center Jeff Saturday snapped to two Mannings on opposite teams.
Whether the Pro Bowl 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-type lines in limited play. The AFC, meanwhile, 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, lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play from scrimmage, but missed a pass from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.
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.
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 lineman were clearly not trying. On one play in that game, Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen did a barrel roll to switch positions with a teammate.
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.
In the second quarter, referee Ed Hochuli drew cheers when announcing a pass interference penalty on Denver cornerback Champ Bailey in the second quarter -- the first flag of the game.
''Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl,'' Hochuli said, drawing laughs and loud cheers.
Giants wideout Victor Cruz broke a Pro Bowl record with 10 catches. Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson had 91 yards and two touchdowns. Eli Manning threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns, while Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had three touchdown passes in the second half.
"We understood exactly what (Goodell) wanted, guys were making plays all over the field," said Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who finished with a Pro Bowl record 10 receptions. "There was a little bit more high intensity than in years past, and we were excited to play."
Cincinnati's A.J. Green had three TD catches for the AFC.
NFL officials said earlier in the week that the league wants to decide the future of the Pro Bowl by the time next season's schedule is released in April.
Vikings in the Pro Bowl
• HB Adrian Peterson ran five times for 13 yards.
• FB Jerome Felton ran four times 18 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown late.
• PK Blair Walsh hit field goals from 48 and 26 yards and eight extra points.
• DE Jared Allen had one solo tackle and a quarterback hit.
• LB Chad Greenway had two solo tackles and recovered a fumble.
• TE Kyle Rudolph caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors.
• T Matt Kalil played extensively at left tackle.