About two hours before the game was supposed to start, I had absolutely no intention of watching any of it. Then my inner football-loving self told me “hey, it’s a football game. How bad could it be?” Even Al Michaels admitted last night on live TV how bad last year’s game was, and I didn’t think the rule changes would make this year’s any better. Hall of Famer captains? Really? Well, it somehow avoided disaster and turned into a really interesting game to watch due to the fact that everyone actually tried to win the game. Whatever Roger Goodell did to turn this game around actually worked.
While I still have a huge problem with the people that end up in this game while other deserving players are left out, they put together a really interesting football game to watch. I’m still appalled that Alex Smith made it into this game despite being no more than an average QB this season. Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Colin Kaepernick (who I think is overrated) were healthy guys that deserved it more than Smith. Also, the amount of people that simply choose not to play dilutes the quality of game that is produced. Instead of actually having all the best players in the game, it’s some of the best players and then a bunch of good ones. While it still creates an all-star-like game, it’s nowhere near what it could be, especially now that all players in the Super Bowl who were picked to play in the game are immediately eliminated.
Regardless, I was very happy with the way this game turned out. I naturally was cheering for Team Sanders because it had Nick Foles and DeSean Jackson on it, although LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis were on the other team. But because McCoy got hurt and Mathis is just a lineman, I cheered for Team Sanders. At the QB position, Smith actually led all players in passing yards with 116, but he also had the most passing attempts and completed just 9/22 (he also had an INT). All six QBs had at least 80 passing yards though, with both teams spreading the playing time out well. Five of the six guys had an INT, with the only one failing to do so being Foles.
Everyone dealt with lots of pass rushing due to the more relaxed blitzing rules, with 9 sacks occurring in total. Cam Newton was actually the QB for four of them, but his 1-yard TD run in the 2nd quarter made up for that. Foles had the best day overall (which is obviously why he won offensive MVP), going 7/10 for 89 yards and a TD. Drew Brees looked the shakiest out of all of them, going only 9/19 for 81 yards, a TD, and a pick. Philip Rivers actually threw 2 INTs, but had a nice TD pass to Josh Gordon near the end of the 2nd quarter.
No running back tore it up in this game, but that was expected because of how much they spread the ball around and how good the defenses were. Team Rice actually ran for over 100 yards total, with Matt Forte leading the pack with 31 yards. Jamaal Charles led all RBs with 43 yards on just 5 carries. The fullbacks actually played an important role in this game; Marcel Reese had 2 catches for 31 yards, and Mike Tolbert had the game-winning 2 point conversion to lead Team Rice to a 22-21 win.
It was a much more pass-oriented game though. Alfred Morris actually led all players in receiving yards with 69 on four catches. Josh Gordon led in catches with 6, picking up 66 yards and the TD along the way. Team Rice’s duo of Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham was basically unstoppable, combining for 8 catches for 101 yards and a TD. Sadly, this is Gonzalez’s last game in professional football, but it was nice to see him do well. Team Sanders’ TEs did well too; Jordan Cameron had the go-ahead TD late in the 4th quarter and Jason Witten had 2 catches for 26 yards. The most disappointing performances were Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green, who each only had 1 catch.
On the defensive side, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Luke Kuechly had 14 tackles in the game, leading all players. But, Derrick Johnson actually won the Defensive MVP, picking up 10 tackles for Team Rice, including 9 solo tackles. Many bad teams had players that did well which is nice to see. Bills DT Marcell Dareus and Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy each had 2 sacks in the game. Giants S Antrel Rolle, Browns DB T.J. Ward, and Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny all had 4 tackles each, representing their teams well.
Overall, I was quite pleased with everything that went on. The game was very competitive and the new rules seemed to work. While I still think it’s dumb that so many people who are originally picked don’t play, it still provided an entertaining game. Here are the teams whose players did the best in this game, #1 being the best: