Wow, what a
game skills showdown. I’m shocked. I’m stunned. I don’t have words. Truly, this was a magical night.
For those of you who don’t know, the NFC (and the Bears by extension) spent Wednesday afternoon grittily rallying from down 3-1 in the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown all the way to victory. The NFC’s performance was truly a magnificent display of poise and determination that saw them battle through a 9-foot glass wall, mental mistakes, and questionable officiating before finally pulling out the ‘dub. With Bears’ players competing in all 5 of the after-evening's events, we’ve got plenty to cover in this very, very serious recap — let’s get to it.
Lets face facts: our favorite sophomore QB slumped hard in this event. After a fairly hot start saw him complete the first 6 stations with 2 throws or less each, it took Trubisky and Mike Evans NINE throws to successfully connect over the 9-foot wall. That’s... well, that’s less than good. To give some perspective, Trubisky had thrown 8 passes during the 6 stations they’d faced before he more than doubled his total passes trying to beat the wall. And with 9-Foot Glass Wall hitting free agency this offseason, we’ll need to hope that nobody in the North picks him up. Mike Evans probably could’ve caught the fifth ball, but you still want to see more out of your franchise quarterback.
Even worse, Trubisky and Evans’ time of ~59 seconds was by far the slowest of the 4 competing pairs (other pairs recorded ~30s, ~45s, ~45s). Given that the NFC lost by about three seconds, this loss was pretty clearly on Mitch. The AFC takes a 1-0 lead, providing the NFC some early adversity.
This event was an adventure.
First off, the NFL changed the rules such that the points are cumulative by conference; each competing player’s points are added with the rest of their conference to determine the winner. Now notice I said “player” and not “quarterback” — that’s because, new to this year, each conference fielded a non-quarterback as well as the customary two QBs. As Von Miller led off the competition with a sterling 2 points, I realized in that the NFL had pretty clearly done this to visually prop up their quarterbacks. Kinda like having an average person run in the Olympics. They might’ve gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for Adam Thielen. Thielen had himself a solid performance, pounding out 10 points for the NFC and giving the boys in blue a sizable lead headed into round 2.
After that was a battle of 2017 prospects, Deshaun Watson versus Mitchell Trubisky. Watson looked to struggle early but still piled on 10 points in his last 20 seconds to finish with 15 total. As he finished, a slight controversy arose; Watson’s final throw seemed to have hit the rim of the deep target while barely breaking the paper before bouncing out. “Does that count?” members of the NFC asked. The referees quickly gathered and awarded Watson the points, but you be the judge.
Following his peer, young Mitchell quickly hit both deep throws (left AND right, haters) before missing about a foot high on every throw after that. The unashamed velocity and beautiful spirals that accompanied his passes were awesome to see, but unfortunately they failed to find their marks. Mitch finished out by clanking 2 footballs off the rim of the 5-point target before aliens moved the target and robbed him of his final 5. Those darn aliens, always causing trouble.
While Mitch didn’t dominate the event (he finished with 11), he did do better than the 5 points Andrew Luck put up. By my math, that means Mitch is 2.2x the quarterback Luck is. Now we know.
The NFC won this one so the score moves to 1-1.
40 Yard Splash
This event was basically John Fox’s paradise as 20 of the NFL’s premiere players spent 2:00 handing buckets of water off to each other. Akiem Hicks and Mitch Trubisky both showed that Fox had taught them well — I don’t think they fumbled a single handoff. Unfortunately, HOF and
greatest second greatest pretty great Bear Brian Urlacher couldn’t stop the AFC from dunking him.
This brings us to our second major rules controversy. After Hicks and Trubisky had showed their mastery of the art of the handoff, each team took turns having someone throw a football at the dunk tank target. While this was intended to be a one-at-a-time process, the AFC broke protocol and launched approximately 4 simultaneous footballs before dunking the precariously placed Urlacher. When Lach asked about this, ESPN’s Lisa Salters clearly dodged this question so make sure you keep your tin foil hat on hand. If you think the NFL isn’t out to get the NFC, just ask a Saints fan.
AFC goes up 2-1.
This event is always pretty awesome, and it remained as such until Bears’ Akiem Hicks ran the wrong way following his completion of the heavy bag gauntlet. Hicks had finished but illegally approached George Kittle and was forced to go back, losing valuable time. Kittle wasn’t able to recover the lead and the AFC went up 3-1. You can’t have mental mistakes like that in these big moments, but I know nobody’s more upset than Akiem at his mistake. I’m sure we’ll see him on the Today show soon.
Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball
As a reminder, the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown doesn’t make any sense. For some reason, the contest ends with a two-out-of-three game of dodgeball that awards 3 points to the winner, meaning that the NFC (losers of 3 of 4 events thus far) still have a chance to win. Of course they could simply have three games of dodgeball that are each worth a point, but that might actually make sense and nobody wants that.
This game has been struck from my memory because both Bears players were part of the NFC getting destroyed. Trubisky gets eliminated as fast as humanly possible, Hicks is knocked out while taunting, and not one AFC player takes a dodgeball to the face. A real bummer of a game, AFC up 1-0.
NFC won without any Bears on the team. This was a complete coincidence. Tie dodgeball, 1-1.
And here it was. When all hope seemed lost, Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the NFC All-Stars arched their backs and told destiny it could go pick on someone it’s own size. While Trubisky didn’t technically contribute to this win, he didn’t get thrown out and I’m gonna call that positive. NFC wins dodgeball, goes up 4-3 and is crowned the champions of the Pro Bowl Skills Showdown.
As you can see, this was a historic night. It had everything — the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory, and the hilarity of human error. An instant classic. One day, 10 years from now, someone is going to ask you where you were the night that Akiem Hicks got hit with a dodgeball while obviously taunting. And to that you’ll simply say: “I was sitting on my couch at home, watching a pre-recorded game of grown men playing dodgeball. And I loved it.”