One last time to see Los Angeles Chargers players on the field before the long offseason: the Pro Bowl. This year, the game was played in Las Vegas. The Pro Bowl game gets softer every year, and this year wasn't any different. It resembled the kind of 2-hand touch football that was played over lunch in high school. Soft as it was, there were Chargers in the game--that was enough reason to watch.
Six Chargers were named to the Pro Bowl this year: QB Justin Herbert, Safety Derwin James, Corey Linsley, Rashawn Slater, Keena Allen, and Joey Bosa. But not all who were selected to the Pro Bowl played in the actual game: Bosa and Allen both opted out with injuries, with Harold Landry and Hunter Renfrow replacing them .
Quick Start for the AFC
James got the start at Safety for the AFC defensive squad, which put the first points on the board when Colts LB Darius Leonard intercepted a pass and weaved his way to a 45 yard TD. 7-0 AFC. Following the AFC touchdown, Pro Bowl Starting QB Justin Herbert (feels good saying that) came on the field to attempt a 4th and 15 conversion, part of a ‘special play’ tested at this Pro Bowl as a potential replacement for kickoffs.
The Special Play
That special play introduced at Sunday’s Pro Bowl worked this way: following a score, the scoring team was given a choice to either a) keep the ball and attempt to convert a 4th and 15 at their own 25 yard line--converting meant keeping possession, failing meant a turnover on downs, or b) give the ball to the opposing team for an automatic touchback at the 25 yard line. Kickoffs were not an option.
As it happened, Herbert's pass on the 4th and 15 attempt fell incomplete, giving the NFC a short field. They would soon tie the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass by Vikings QB Kirk Cousins to 49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk.
Just as the AFC team before it, the NFC attempted the 4th and 15 "special play" after their first touchdown. Tennessee Safety Kevin Byard intercepted a long bomb by Cousins which was hurried by DE Maxx Crosby. Byard casually juked and trotted over 40 yards downfield before the NFC mustered a resistance. Byard tossed a lateral to the Colts' Kenny Moore, who was subsequently downed at the NFC 15 yard line.
One play later, and Justin Herbert made his first touchdown pass of the Pro Bowl: a signature 15-yard bullet down the seam to Baltimore TE Mark Andrews, just missing Chandler Jones and Micah Parsons. The AFC regained the lead, 14-7.
The AFC team followed Herbert's touchdown with yet another 4th and 15 attempt, this time with Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes II at QB. The play was unsuccessful, and the ball turned over to the NFC.
Mahomes remained in the game for the AFC's next offensive possession, but threw a pick-6 on 4th-and-12 to Safety Antoine Winfield. The NFC team failed its subsequent 2-point try, leaving the AFC holding on to a 14-13 lead.
Later in the 2nd quarter, Derwin James intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and Herbert came back in at QB. Herbert hit his 2nd touchdown pass, again to Andrews.
The AFC led 28-21 at halftime with all AFC touchdowns coming from either Herbert passes or defensive plays: a pick 6, and a fumble return.
Chargers first half stats:
Justin Herbert 5-6 77 yds 2 TD 0 INT 158.3 RTG
Derwin James 1 INT 1 PD 1 Tackle
Herbert would be the only QB without an INT in the 1st half of the 2022 Pro Bowl.
New England's Mac Jones started the 2nd half at QB for the AFC leading a touchdown drive to start the 3rd.
Herbert was back in on the next AFC drive, and led his team down the field on a touchdown drive that ended on a Stefon Diggs TD run. The play was a reverse to Diggs where Herbert ran a route to the flat, but Diggs decided to keep it. The AFC led 41-21 after the 3rd quarter.
NFC closed the gap in the 4th. Arizona QB Kyler Murray found Atlanta TE Kyle Pitts to make it 41-28.
With only 3:55 left in the 4th, Hebert joined the rest of the QBs in the game by throwing an INT to CB Marshawn Lattimore. Kyler Murray turned it into a 5 yard TD pass to Dalvin cook.