It took Andy Reid’s AFC squad a full quarter to get on the board in the Pro Bowl on Sunday. But when they did, they did it in style, courtesy of a bold prediction from their coach.
Reid, who was being interviewed on television before the first play of the second quarter, predicted the AFC was going to score on the following play, courtesy of a play call featuring four vertical routes.
And wouldn’t you know it, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who started the game for the AFC, connected with tight end Delanie Walker for a 26-yard score that gave the AFC a seven-point lead it never relinquished in a 20-13 victory over the NFC at Camping World Stadium.
After the play, Reid grinned. The moment served as a microcosm for a night that featured plenty of smiles by the five Chiefs players in attendance and the entire Chiefs coaching staff, for that matter, which was tasked with overseeing the AFC squad.
For them, the game (and really, the whole week) was about having some fun, spending time with family and trying to end a good-but-ultimately-unsatisfying season, which culminated in a disappointing 18-16 Divisional playoff home loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 15 on a high note.
“It was a good crew here — we were kind of able to hash it out a little bit all week, even just hanging here or there,” Smith said. “We were able to work through it a bit.”
For instance, after two weeks of should-the-Chiefs-find-another-quarterback talk, the week in Orlando allowed Smith to spend more time with his coach, and over the weekend, Reid reaffirmed that Smith was his quarterback for 2017.
Smith completed six of eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown before he was lifted for Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, tight end Travis Kelce, who made waves on and off the field this season with his play and histrionics, caught a touchdown Sunday and converted a first down by catching a fake field-goal pass from Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt.
It was actually a play call the Chiefs trotted out before under special-teams coach Dave Toub, who decided to have a little fun Sunday by calling it again.
“Me and Dustin have run that fake a million times before we actually ran it in a game,” Kelce said. “It was like clockwork.”
Kelce, by the way, punctuated both of the aforementioned catches with prolonged, extended dances — another sign that he was having a blast — and was named the game’s offensive MVP after catching three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Colquitt — who was responsible for flipping the ball to Kelce on the fake — joked with Kelce that he owes him for helping him earn the offensive MVP honor.
“I told him I want at least a couple of rides to the facility next year, or maybe some new tires for my car,” Colquitt said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, dynamic rookie Tyreek Hill, who made the AFC team as a returner, had a fumble but returned a punt for 38 yards (he nearly broke it) and caught a pass for 9 yards, all while wearing custom cleats with a cheetah design on them from his sponsor, Adidas.
“Half-man, half-cheetah,” Hill said with a laugh. “Pro Bowl swag, all day.”
Even inside linebacker D.J. Alexander, who made the squad as a replacement special-teamer, got into the mix. He logged a healthy number of defensive snaps and finished among the team leaders in tackles with six, a nice catapult into what he hopes is a big 2017.
“It’s a true blessing to be on the field with some of these dudes,” said Alexander, a second-year pro. “The way they talk, the energy they play with, it’s fun. It’s so much fun.”
Don’t mistake all this for evidence they’re over the Steelers loss. They’re not. Throughout the week, all five players individually mentioned they would much rather be playing in the Super Bowl.
But by the end of Sunday’s game, all seemed in good spirits, an acknowledgment of sorts, that the fun they universally seemed to have in Orlando served as a salve for an unsatisfying ending that still hurts some.
“Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted to in the season, it’s cool to be able to come out here and end on a positive note at a Pro Bowl thing like this,” Kelce said.