Photos from the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston played in his first Pro Bowl on Sunday, and even if he makes it to another 10 all-star games he may never have the same murderer's row of wideouts to target. On any given play, Winston was joined on the field by some combination of Julio Jones, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson. That foursome has an average size of six-foot-three and 215 pounds, and their average stat line in 2015 was 103 catches for 1,522 yards and 11 touchdowns.
So of course the first thing Winston did was turn his attention to the tight ends.
Well, that's not exactly true. Winston's first pass of the game, 12 minutes into the third quarter, was a play-action rollout bomb to Green, who nearly made a spectacular sideline catch between two defenders. Winston's second pass was a 53-yard touchdown to Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker.
The Buccaneer passer later threw a long touchdown pass to Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert, but the play was broken up in the back of the end zone at the last minute. Winston told Walker and Eifert he planned to get them involved.
"We run that play in Tampa Bay and I told Delanie, I told the tight ends, we're throwing to the tight ends," said Winston after the game. "The tight ends need a touchdown. I wanted them to know I was going to be looking their way."
Winston's second touchdown pass of the game was a quick dart of a slant pass to Hopkins, but overall he was true to his word. Five of his 11 passes were thrown in the direction of either Walker or Eifert, and that accounted for all but one of the six targets those two Team Irvin tight ends were given. Of course, it's hard to blame Russell Wilson – who threw TD passes to Julio Jones and running backs Devonta Freeman or Todd Gurley – or Teddy Bridgewater – who hit Robinson and running back Darren Sproles for scores – for making use of Team Irvin's other offensive riches.
Still, in a conscious decision that should bring a smile to the face of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Winston wanted the tight ends to get in on the fun, specifically. And it was clear that the Bucs' 21-year-old QB was having fun himself on Sunday. Even before he entered the game he twice sprinted all the way to the end zone to celebrate touchdowns with Freeman, his former Florida State teammate, and Bridgewater, who struck up a friendship with Winston during the week.
And, on the very last play of the game, with his team ahead by three touchdowns, Winston switched places with center Travis Frederick for the final kneel-down, shooting a short shotgun snap to the Dallas Cowboys lineman.
"Everybody played hard and towards the end of the game we said, 'Let's have some fun,' and we did," said Winston, who also handed off to Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett and ran a flea-flicker on that final drive. "It's always fun winning, though."
Indeed, that last part seemed to be the most important thing to Winston, even in a game that by design can't match the competitiveness of a regular-season game. When asked if thought he performed well in his first NFL all-star game, Winston simply replied: "I think we won, so that's all that matters."