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2023 Pro Bowl Games: What We Learned from Sunday's flag football games, skill competitions

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action at the Pro Bowl Games. The inaugural Pro Bowl Games concluded on Sunday with more skills competitions and three flag football games to determine the NFC-AFC winner.


  1. Cousins, NFC snap skid with win in first Pro Bowl Games. Not since 2012 had the National Football Conference won an all-star showdown with its American rivals. That changed Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins’ touchdown to 49ers tight end George Kittle standing as the game-winner. The AFC had won five consecutive Pro Bowls after a span in which the all-star showdown was done with NFL legends helming teams with players from both conferences on their squads. This year featured the NFL’s first foray into a flag football finale, with a score of skills showdowns accumulating points along with three flag contests. It all came down to the finale, which began with the NFC trailing 21-15, and Cousins came through. He got hot with touchdowns to Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk and finally to Kittle. Mixed in was a one-point conversion to Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb in which Cousins ran for his life from Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby and somehow found Lamb to push the NFC ahead, 28-27. This performance isn’t going to get Cousins off the hook from past woes in big games with all the world watching, but a win is a win. 
  2. Carr plays likely final home contest at Allegiant. It was Derek Carr who threw the final touchdown in the first rendition of the Pro Bowl Games, but unfortunately for the soon-to-be former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback, he left Allegiant Stadium on the losing side. Any day now, Carr is likely to be traded or released by the Raiders, and the scene was set for him to victoriously wave goodbye to the Raiders faithful in the stands (and perhaps give another hand gesture to any Raiders brass watching). It didn’t come to fruition, though. The QB struggled a bit in the flag finale with an interception to Budda Baker and some stalled chances before hitting Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase for a TD and then Bills tight end Dawson Knox for the final score of the weeklong festivities. His highlight will have to remain his Thursday showing, when he won the precision passing event and was quick witted when he remarked if he’d ever been that hot before that he wouldn’t be leaving town. The future’s wide open for Carr, but the chapter of his career with Las Vegas as his home ended Sunday. It could’ve been a grand exit, but the four-time Pro Bowler and his AFC squad came up a couple points short. 
  3. Stefon Diggs’ best and worst catches. Last we heard from Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he was visibly perturbed on the sideline amid Buffalo’s blowout playoff loss against the Bengals. He didn’t speak to reporters after the game, sent some tweets after that and during Saturday's Pro Bowl Games practice avoided the media further. On Sunday, though, Diggs was all smiles. The dynamic deep threat made a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab of a Trevor Lawrence bomb for a game-winning score in the AFC’s 18-13 triumph in the second flag contest of Sunday’s Pro Bowl Games. Immediately after, Diggs got the closest he’s been in months to the media when he grabbed a photographer’s camera for a postscore celebration. The TD also came with his brother, Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, trying to keep up with him in coverage. It was a bit of revenge in the brotherly matchup as Trevon had picked off Stefon earlier in the game on a gadget play, only for Stefon to track him down for a tackle. Not long after the game, Stefon Diggs took part in the best catch final, but he couldn’t get on the same page with his brother or Lawrence, who were setting him up for acrobatic catches to no avail. The Lions’ St. Brown prevailed in that one as his brother Equanimeous proved to be a better set-up man. Stefon was the highlight of a rather unconventional second flag game. It was a low-scoring affair. There was a rushing touchdown by Derrick Henry. And there were huge defensive plays, such as Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain’s interception, Trevon’s pick and Packers corner Jaire Alexander’s pick-six of Lawrence. But, Lawrence, as he did in a wild-card comeback over the Chargers, showed he can shrug off some early picks to come up clutch in the end. 
  4. Confident Geno cooks in flag opener. A day after Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith told NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe that he was “very confident” about re-signing with Seattle, he played with confidence and ease to lead the NFC to a win in the first of three flag games on the day. Smith racked up five touchdown passes to four receivers -- Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Juszczyk and Lamb twice. With the NFC trailing late, 27-26, Smith hit Lamb for the game-winning TD. It was a sensational play by Lamb in which he broke an actual tackle attempt by Derwin James, who was clutching the Cowboy’s jersey, for the TD. Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal showing for Smith, whose comeback feel-good story hasn’t concluded with the Seahawks’ 2022 campaign. 
  5. Give the long snapper(s) his due. A little peek behind the curtain reveals that the Pro Bowl Games’ kick tac toe event was actually taped earlier on Thursday. So, Tennessee Titans long snapper Morgan Cox had to wait until Sunday to get his due for leading the AFC to a win in the event and three points in the overall tally. Perhaps it was fitting, as long snappers rarely get notice unless it’s for dubious reasons. But Cox was clutch in the competition, hitting the game-winner when his snap connected with the left, high corner block for the win. In a skills showdown featuring kickers, punters and long snappers, Cox and his NFC counterpart, Andrew DePaola accounted for all five squares hit. In other words, Cox scored all the AFC’s points. In 13 seasons, Cox won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, he’s a former All-Pro and this was his fifth Pro Bowl. Fittingly, one of the game’s best and most underrated got a little bit of shine.

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