Peppers, Hester help NFC claim Pro Bowl victory

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Peppers, Hester help NFC claim Pro Bowl victory

Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011
Posted 9:55 p.m. Updated 10:54 p.m.

Associated Press

HONOLULU - MVP DeAngelo Hall had one of his team's five interceptions and returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown to help the NFC match a Pro Bowl scoring record in a 55-41 victory over turnover-prone AFC in a game that was not nearly as interesting as the final would indicate.

AFC quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel each threw first-half interceptions to help the NFC blow open a 42-0 lead in a performance ugly even by the historically low standards of this game.

Fittingly for this strange contest, center Alex Mack of Cleveland scored the final touchdown on a 67-yard pass play that featured two laterals with 16 seconds left.

Carolina's Jon Beason returned the fifth interception thrown by the AFC, and second by Matt Cassel, 59 yards for the NFC's final touchdown to match the single-team scoring record set in the NFC's 55-52 victory in 2004.

New England coach Bill Belichick, after his Super Bowl favorite Patriots lost to the New York Jets in the divisional playoffs, had to watch his AFC squad muddle through the one-sided first half.

Pro Bowls are, by their nature, laid-back affairs, seemingly played at half speed by players whose biggest concern is to get on the plane home without injury.

The AFC, though, took that attitude to an uncomfortable extreme early on before coming back to outscore the NFC 41-13.

The NFC led 42-0 after Steven Jackson waltzed through the AFC defense for a 21-yard touchdown - and there still was 4 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

Rivers, starting in place of injured Tom Brady, was picked off twice in the first quarter, the second by Hall.

Manning, in his 11th Pro Bowl, came on briefly in relief and his second pass was picked off. Then Cassel got his chance and quickly joined in the spirit of things, throwing his second pass of the game directly into the hands of Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield.

But just when it appeared it would be the most one-sided game in Pro Bowl history, eclipsing the Joe Theismann-led 45-3 NFC rout of the AFC in 1984, the AFC scored three touchdowns in a row. The last came on the game's seventh turnover, when Devin Hester tried to hand the kickoff return to Hall, but the ball fell to the turf. Montell Owens of Jacksonville scooped it up and ran it in 10 yards for the score to make it 42-21 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

With his seven extra points, tying a Pro Bowl record, along with two field goals David Akers moved ahead of Morten Andersen (45) for most Pro Bowl points with 52. The Philadelphia kicker would have had more but his 36-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter bounced off the right upright.

A tropical downpour preceded the game but subsided just before kickoff as the game returned to its traditional home in Hawaii after a one-year detour to Miami .

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick started but played only the first quarter, completing 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards.

Adrian Peterson rushed for 80 yards in 14 carries for the NFC, including a 14-yarder to set a Pro Bowl record with four career rushing touchdowns. Atlanta got good performances from Matt Ryan (9 of 13 for 118 yards and two touchdowns with an interception), Michael Turner (eight carries for 53 yards) and Roddy White (five catches for 69 yards).

Notes

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers recorded the only sack for the NFC, Miami's Randy Starks had the only sack for the AFC. ... A 70-yard punt by Mat McBriar of Dallas in the first quarter tied for second-longest in Pro Bowl history. ... The state of Hawaii is paying the NFL about 4 million this season and next to keep the Pro Bowl team in Honolulu. Location for the contest is up in the air after 2012. ... Peterson had been tied with three career rushing TDs with Earl Campbell, Chuck Muncie and Mike Alstott. ... Tony Gonzalez added to his Pro Bowl record for career receptions (42) and moved into first in TD catches with his sixth. ... The attendance of 49,338 was just shy of a sellout.

Box Score
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CSN Chicago experts predict how first round of 2017 NFL Draft will play out

CSN Chicago experts predict how first round of 2017 NFL Draft will play out

On the eve of the 2017 NFL Draft, our panel of CSN Chicago Bears contributors' John 'Moon' Mullin, Chris Boden, JJ Stankevitz and Scott Krinch make their final attempt at predicting the first round of the draft.

Check out each selection below and visit all over NFL Draft coverage here.

PICK/TEAM  MOON  BODEN  STANKEVITZ  KRINCH
1. Browns  Myles Garrett  Mitchell Trubisky  Myles Garrett  Myles Garrett
2. 49ers  Solomon Thomas  Myles Garrett  Solomon Thomas  Leonard Fournette
3. Bears  Deshaun Watson  Jamal Adams  Deshaun Watson  Solomon  Thomas
4. Jaguars  Jonathan Allen  O.J. Howard  Leonard Fournette  Mitchell Trubisky
5. Titans  Jamal Adams  Marshon Lattimore Garon Conley  Jamal Adams
6. Jets  Marshon Lattimore  Mike Williams  O.J. Howard  O.J. Howard
7, Chargers  Mike Williams  Malik Hooker  Malik Hooker  Malik Hooker
8. Panthers  Leonard Fournette  Leonard Fournette  Jonathan Allen  Christian McCaffrey
9. Bengals  Gareon Conley  Solomon Thomas  Derek Barnett  Haason Reddick
10. Bills  Malik Hooker  Reuben Foster  Mike Williams  Jonathan Allen
11. Saints  O.J. Howard  Derek Barnett  Jamal Adams  Marshon Lattimore
12. Browns  Mitchell Trubisky  Jonathan Allen  Mitchell Trubisky  Deshaun Watson
13. Cardinals  Patrick Mahomes  Patrick Mahomes  Marshon Lattimore  Patrick Mahomes
14. Eagles  Christian McCaffrey  Christian McCaffrey  Christian McCaffrey  Derek Barnett
15. Colts  Takkarist McKinley  Charles Harris  Garett Bolles  Charles Harris
16. Ravens  Reuben Foster  Corey Davis  Haason Reddick  Mike Williams
17. Redskins  Haason Reddick  Haason Reddick  Forrest Lamp  Reuben Foster
18. Titans  Corey Davis  John Ross  Reuben Foster  Forrest Lamp
19. Buccaneers  Cam Robinson  Taco Charlton  Dalvin Cook  Dalvin Cook
20. Broncos  Ryan Ramczyk  Ryan Ramczyk  Charles Harris  Garett Bolles
21. Lions  Jarrad Davis  Jarrad Davis  Corey Davis  Takkarist McKinley
22. Dolphins  David Njoku  Quincy Wilson  Kevin King  David Njoku
23. Giants  Garett Bolles  David Njoku  Patrick Mahomes  Ryan Ramczyk
24. Raiders  Kevin King  Tim Williams  Malik McDowell  Chidobe Awuzie
25. Texans  DeShone Kizer  Deshaun Watson  Jarrad Davis  Cam Robinson
26. Seahawks  Jabrill Peppers  Garett Bolles  Chidobe Awuzie  Kevin King
27. Chiefs  Dalvin Cook  Malik McDowell  DeShone Kizer  Corey Davis
28. Cowboys  Caleb Brantley  Jabrill Peppers  Chris Wormley  Malik McDowell
29. Packers  Forrest Lamp  Dalvin Cook  Taylor Moton  Joe Mixon
30. Steelers  John Ross  Takkarist McKinley  John Ross  Adoree' Jackson
31. Falcons  Charles Harris  Demarcus Walker  Derek Rivers  Taco Charlton
32. Saints  Budda Baker  Curtis Samuel  Tre'Davious White  Marlon Humphrey

Ryan Pace focusing on 'best player available,' at No. 3: Could that be Deshaun Watson?

Ryan Pace focusing on 'best player available,' at No. 3: Could that be Deshaun Watson?

Last month, Ryan Pace described his day-before-the-draft press conference as being one of the “hardest” he does all year.

With only a little over 24 hours until the Bears go on the clock with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, the third-year Bears general manager wasn’t tipping his hand while answering the media’s questions on Wednesday.

One of Pace’s overarching points, though, was that the Bears have to focus on taking the best player available at No. 3 Thursday night. Pace said the Bears have three players targeted for that spot, and what the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers do ahead of them won’t impact their decision.

What also won’t impact the Bears’ decision is the need to draft a quarterback.

“I think you get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available,” Pace said. “When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water. I think if we just stay with guys we have a consensus on and best player available we’ll be in good shape.”

Plenty of draft observers — ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, NFL Network’s Mike Manock, CBS Sports’ Rob Rang — don’t have a quarterback in the top three of their respective “big boards,” which are headlined by the likes of Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas and/or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, among a few others.

But what if the Bears’ consensus is that a quarterback is a top-three player?

Over the last few months, Pace has consistently touted intangibles as being of prominent importance when evaluating a quarterback. At the combine in Indianapolis, he pointed to Drew Brees taking Purdue — a perennial Big Ten bottom-feeder — to a Rose Bowl. Pace, of course, knows Brees’ NFL success well having watched him in New Orleans before becoming the Bears’ general manager. 

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There’s one quarterback in this year’s draft class that could have those intangibles to be considered at No. 3: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. 

Before Watson took over as a full-time starter in 2015, Clemson established itself as a perennial Orange Bowl contender that’d win 10 or 11 games a year. But Watson took Clemson to a different level, going 28-2 and reaching the College Football Playoff title game in 2015 (a loss to Alabama) and 2016 (a win over Alabama). 

“It's big with every position, the intangibles,” Pace said. ‘That's what I continue to stress to our guys right now, because you can get enamored with these physical qualities or these traits. There's enough good players where we don't need to change our standards.

“I really like our locker room right now. I really like the vibe right now in that locker room with the guys that we have here, it feels good, and I want to continue to add to that vibe and add to that excitement. It's up to me to impress that to our scouts and to our coaches that, hey, we've got to make sure we're adding the right kinds of guys, the right kinds of intangibles to our room.”

If Watson isn’t among the team’s consensus top three, he could fit into one of the “clouds” Pace talked about if the Bears trade down into the middle or later part of the first round. But trading down (or back into the first round) carries risk if the Bears believe Watson could be a franchise-changing quarterback. The No. 3 pick is the highest the Bears have had since the early 1970s, and it’s a position the team hardly wants to be in again.

Pace, of course, wasn’t going to reveal much the day before he and the Bears make a critically-important selection. The Bears know who they want, and Thursday night, so will everyone else.

“There’s been so much that’s come into this since August, so you’ve just trust what your eyes see and don’t over-think it,” Pace said. “Trust your conviction and trust your instincts and trust your gut.

“You can get into trouble right now if you’re up there watching additional tape and doing all that; I think you can over-scout players. By now we’ve got enough opinions. We’ve met with enough players. We’ve been through the Combine and been through the Pro Days and seen players play live. At this point we feel good. I don’t think we’re in a situation where we’re overthinking anything.”