Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith spent most of his Pro Bowl experience running for his life but led his Team Rice teammates to a game-winning touchdown when it mattered most as Rice’s squad beat Team Sanders 22-21 in a surprising defensive battle Sunday in Hawaii.
However it was teammate Derrick Johnson that walked away with the Defensive MVP trophy (plus the accompanying tricked-out truck) at the end of the game with a 9-tackle performance that stood out on a day when defenses ruled the Pro Bowl.
There were eight turnovers and nine sacks given up by the two teams. Johnson had one forced fumble among his tackles and had the signature hit of the game when he crushed teammate Jamaal Charles with a bone-rattling tackle.
Down 21-14 with 1:24 left in the game, Chiefs return man Dexter McCluster busted a punt return 26 yards to Team Rice’s 42-yard line and give Smith and the offense a short field to work with. Four plays later, Smith hit Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray for a 20-yard touchdown pass, cutting the score to 21-20. A two-point conversion by Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert gave Team Rice a 22-21 lead.
A last-ditch 67-yard field goal try by Baltimore Raven Justin Tucker with time running out was short and Team Rice won the game.
With ten Kansas City players split evenly between the two squads, your Chiefs Examiner has to admit that it was nice to constantly see a red helmet with an Arrowhead logo making significant plays on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Chiefs represented KC well. Not only did Smith have the most passing yards in the game (116), McCluster broke off the game’s longest punt return, and Charles led all rushers with 43 yards on only five carries. Smith accounted for five of the ten longest plays for his team while Charles had the two longest runs from scrimmage (17 and 15 yds).
Defensively, however, the Chiefs players performed well enough to justify – in part, at least – having six players chosen for the Pro Bowl despite a second-half collapse during the season.
Dontari Poe and Eric Berry both had interceptions for Team Sanders and had nice returns on both. Berry intercepted his ball in the end zone and returned it back out 30 yards to blunt a Team Rice scoring drive. Poe flashed the athleticism buried in his 350-lb frame by returning his interception 42 yards – and he looked good doing it.
Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali both added a couple of tackles each, but Justin Houston was shut out statistically. To be fair, both Hali and Houston were playing a little out of position as outside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme, so they generally went out into coverage against running backs and receivers rather than rushing the quarterbacks in a 3-4 alignment. You know, the thing they do during the season that got them to the Pro Bowl in the first place?
For one year, at least, all the players seemed to be re-energized for the Pro Bowl and it showed on the field, despite virtually zero practice time together. It wasn’t a thing of beauty by any measure except that the players seemed to like the new non-conferenced format that often pitted players from the same team against each other.
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