Everson Griffen made sure the Vikings were well represented during a Pro Bowl defensive struggle on Sunday night.
Griffen netted three of the NFC’s seven sacks as a typically high-scoring affair was anything but in the AFC’s 20-13 win in Orlando. Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander added some flare by lateraling the game-sealing interception to Broncos linebacker Von Miller for a big gain.
The Vikings finished with the league’s third-ranked defense in 2016 and their five defensive all-stars, including safety Harrison Smith and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, tied with the Seahawks for most on both sides of the lowest-scoring Pro Bowl since 1998.
Minnesota had six players altogether with returner Cordarrelle Patterson, trailing only the Cowboys (seven) for most among NFL teams. Linebacker Anthony Barr and Joseph were alternates for Atlanta’s Vic Beasley (Super Bowl) and L.A.’s Aaron Donald (injury). NFC players will each be paid $30,000 as the award to the losing team. AFC participants receive $61,000 for winning.
Griffen and Smith started for the NFC defense and finished first and third on the team with eight and five tackles, respectively. Griffen’s sack on Andy Dalton, a play after Barr stopped Jay Ajayi in his tracks on first down, helped stall a third-quarter AFC drive. Griffen added two fourth-quarter sacks on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, making his Pro Bowl debut, had an impressive leaping deflection as soon as he entered during the AFC’s second drive, stripping the ball from Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton’s hands on a downfield throw by Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
With the game moved from Hawaii to Orlando, the NFL made the Pro Bowl more of a week-long event while returning to conference alignment. Players participated in the first ‘Skills Showdown’ on Wednesday night, which pitted the NFC and AFC players against each other in a dodgeball game, best hands competition and drone drop where footballs were fielded from high in the sky.
The Vikings did not have any players take part in any of the ‘Skills Showdown’ competitions, for which participants each received $10,000 and winners an additional $7,500.