From 2009 through 2012, Pro Bowl scoring surged, with the NFC and AFC combining to average 92 points per contest. This coincided with grumbling about the quality of play and speculation the whole thing could be scrapped.
In the last two games, however, the points haven’t flowed as easy, with 60 scored in Sunday’s all-star game in Arizona and just 43 tallied in 2013.
Whether this is just a two-season blip or a sign of things to come remains to be seen. And frankly, it may not matter much as long as there are compelling stretches of competition in each Pro Bowl. Points don’t necessarily signal high-quality play.
On the other hand, all-star games should be a little loose. These are exhibitions featuring some of the league’s best players. A highlight-reel play or two against token defensive pressure is a good thing.
Which brings us to a bruising chapter in Pro Bowl history.
On this day in 1985, quarterbacks were sacked a record 17 times in the Pro Bowl, with the AFC grinding to a 22-14 victory over the NFC.
Picture this: One week after facing off in the Super Bowl, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and 49ers quarterback Joe Montana were sacked a combined nine times. Marino was sacked a half-dozen times, including twice in a four-play span by Chicago’s Richard Dent.
The game’s Most Outstanding Player was Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, who had four sacks, including three take-downs of poor Neil Lomax, the Cardinals’ quarterback.
Sacks haven’t disappeared from the Pro Bowl; Carolina’s Cam Newton was brought four times in last season’s game. However, it bears noting that there were only two sacks in Sunday’s all-star contest.
Which, frankly, isn’t a bad thing.
In the end, the optimal of sacks in a Pro Bowl is closer to zero than 17, given that the game doesn’t count.
The hits, of course, very much count.