You may have noticed that the 2023 Pro Bowl looked a lot different than in years past, and that’s because this year the annual all-star event got revamped.
It now features more of a mini-game feel, with different types of competitions. Though, it resulted in more intensity for both the AFC and the NFC. The first format that debuted the two conferences competing against each other was 2017. In front of 58,331 fans at Allegiant Stadium, the NFC won 35-33 in the reimagined event that now consists of a series of skills competitions and three separate flag football games.
The flag games themselves appeared to be a big hit amongst the players. The new flag football style reduced tackles to 0, which ultimately leads to lesser injuries.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I think it turned out pretty well,” Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith said. “It got very competitive at the end, and I think that’s what they wanted.”
Entering the final 2023 Pro Bowl flag football matchup, the AFC was leading 21-15. That was before Kirk Cousins led an NFC rally with three touchdown passes. What makes that a little more impressive, is there are not four quarters like normal, the new style featured two 10-minute halves. Cousins connected with 49ers teammates Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle for two of his scores, with Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown accounting for the other.
The transition to flag football came in part to an agreement between the NFL and players union, before the 2023 NFL season. Previous pro-bowls already featured an uncompetitive game with players not wanting to get hurt.
“I definitely don’t need to take more hits,” San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey said. “So, I’m a proponent for it.”
Many other events included mini-games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Move the Chains, etc. Look for the event to take a similar shape in the future as the league takes feedback from the players and fans.
“Overall, it was a very cool experience,” Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker said. “It was definitely a good experience for the fans to be able to see our faces since we’re always in helmets. It was really good to interact with them.
“So, yeah, let’s keep it going for sure.”
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