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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Evans and Winfield Score but AFC Holds On for 2022 Pro Bowl Win

The Buccaneers were heavily represented at the 2022 Pro Bowl, which was won by the AFC 41-35 despite touchdowns from WR Mike Evans and S Antoine Winfield, Jr.

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Ten different all-stars scored in the NFL's 2022 Pro Bowl on Sunday, including three defensive players, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team to have two of its representatives find the end zone.

A 63-yard interception return for a score by Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and a nifty 19-yard jump-ball touchdown by Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans in the second period weren't enough to avoid a 41-35 loss by the NFC all-stars to their AFC counterparts. Like most Pro Bowls, it was a high-scoring affair in the end; however, it was the defense that controlled the action early in this year's version.

Before Winfield's weaving return on the play of the first quarter, Indianapolis linebacker Darius Leonard opened the scoring for the AFC with his own 45-yard pick-six off Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. The AFC also got another defensive touchdown in the second quarter when Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt swatted the ball out of the hand of Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins and Cleveland defensive caught the fumble in midair and returned it 22 yards to the end zone. In all, eight of the game's first 10 possessions ended in turnovers and the six quarterbacks combined to throw seven interceptions.

Winfield's touchdown briefly made it a one-point game, at 14-13, before the AFC pulled away. The second-year safety snagged a Patrick Mahomes pass intended for the Raiders' Hunter Renfrow and made his way down the left sideline, at one point using a fake pitch to juke out one-would be tackler. After Garrett's score put the AFC back up by nine, Evans once again made it a one-point affair by leaping over Las Vegas linebacker Denzel Perryman on Murray's desperate fourth-and-six heave to turn what looked like another interception into an NFC score.

The AFC followed with three straight touchdowns to build a lead the NFC couldn't quite overcome despite a late push. It proved to be the NFC's fifth consecutive loss in the Pro Bowl.

Not surprisingly, the game was played at a pace that might be charitably described as adequate, with virtually no tackling and rare moments of actual sprinting by receivers or defensive backs. The proverbial 'battles in the trenches' were more like diplomatic summits. But the best part for the Buccaneers was that they were very well-represented on the field throughout the game's brisk two hours and 38 minutes of run time.

With five initial selections and four more players later added as alternate replacements, Tampa Bay had a nine-man Pro Bowl contingent, tying the 2000 team for its biggest all-star group ever. Recently-retired quarterback Tom Brady did not attend the game, obviously, and second-year tackle Tristan Wirfs sat out due to an ankle injury suffered in the playoffs, but the other seven Buccaneers saw extensive playing time.

Center Ryan Jensen and guard Ali Marpet both started for the NFC and got a large share of offensive snaps. Evans, in his fourth Pro Bowl, probably played the fewest snaps of the seven Bucs but still had an NFC-leading 50 yards on two catches.

On defense, the quartet of Winfield, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, inside linebacker Devin White and defensive lineman Vita Vea were all on the field for a majority of the defensive snaps. Winfield had another pass-breakup on a fourth-down play in the end zone in the third quarter. White led both teams with 14, ahem, "tackles," and both Barrett and Vea were credited with three stops.

The NFC still had a chance to complete its comeback at the end after Murray's five-yard fourth-down touchdown pass to Vikings running back Dalvin Cook with 2:36 to play. But New England quarterback Mac Jones converted a fourth-and-two with a seven-yard completion to Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris and the AFC was able to run out the clock.

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