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Rivers Edges Weddle for Pro Bowl Win

Posted Jan 26, 2014

Philip Rivers and Team Rice emerged victorious over Eric Weddle and Team Sanders.

During the season, Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle square off weekly on the practice field at Chargers Park.  But on Sunday, they lined up on opposite teams for the first time ever for this year’s Pro Bowl.  

In one of most competitive Pro Bowls in history, Rivers and Team Rice proved victorious with 22-21 win over Weddle and Team Sanders.  Rivers played a key role for his squad, finishing the game by completing 8-of-13 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Weddle recorded one tackle and two passes defensed, and he came up clutch with two strong plays late in the game that ultimately went for naught.

Weddle was part of a Team Sanders defense that proved stout in the red zone in the first quarter.  They twice prevented Drew Brees from scoring, including an interception in the end zone.  Weddle made an impact play with his lone tackle, limiting the dangerous Josh Gordon to a simple five yard gain on a smoke route.  Gordon averaged a whopping 18.9 yards per reception, yet he couldn’t shake Weddle.

Rivers took over for Brees with 8:17 to go in the first half and the game tied 7-7.   On his very first snap, he was hit as he released the ball by J.J. Watt, who blew past the offensive tackle.  The ball drifted briefly in the air and Dontari Poe snatched it for the interception at the line of scrimmage.  That type of a play was a rarity for Rivers this year as in the regular season, the Bolts offensive line did a tremendous job keeping him upright and clean.  In fact, the Chargers allowed only 30 sacks in 2013, the fourth fewest in the NFL.

After Cam Newton scored on a sneak for Team Sanders, Rivers and Team Rice took over at their own 25-yard line.  After a handoff, Rivers had his first completion on a quick strike to Dexter McCluster.  Unfortunately, his next pass was picked off by Patrick Peterson down the left sideline.

Rivers got the ball back with 2:32 remaining in the half and was his vintage self, leading them on a touchdown drive to tie the game.  Rivers completed four of five passes on the 58-yard drive.  His first major completion was a perfect 21-yard strike to Brandon Marshall to the 24 yard line.  He then culminated the drive with a 10-yard dime to Josh Gordon in the back left corner of the end zone.  As a result, the two teams entered halftime tied 14-14.

On the first play of the second half, Rivers handed off to LeSean McCoy, who promptly fumbled the ball.  However, Team Sanders couldn’t capitalize on 4th-and-goal, meaning the score remained knotted up when number 17 came back on the field.  On 3rd-and-7 from his own seven-yard line, Rivers threw a laser to Tony Gonzalez up the seam for a 31-yard gain.  A screen pass to Matt Forte earned another first down at the 50-yard line, but that was as far as Team Rice was able to penetrate before punting back to Team Sanders.   It also marked Rivers final series of the game. 

Eventually, Team Sanders took a lead on a Nick Foles touchdown throw to Jordan Cameron.  With Team Rice looking to tie it late in the fourth quarter, Weddle came up with a trio of clutch pass breakups.  First he stepped in front of an Alex Smith pass on second down to bat the ball away.  Then later on third down, he dove in front of Larry Fitzgerald to knock the rock to the ground.  Finally, on another third down pass, he met Josh Gordon at the apex of his leap to ensure the ball fell incomplete, although he wasn't credited for a pass defensed.

As a result, he earned the praise of Chris Collinsworth for his top notch play as well as sportsmanship.

“I’ll give Eric Weddle credit,” said the analyst.  “He’s had two or three that if this had been a regular season game, he would have sent wide receivers to the sideline.  He’s played the ball and taken care of these guys a little bit today.”

In the end, however, Team Rice pulled out the thrilling win on a Mike Tolbert two-point conversion following a 20-yard DeMarco Murray touchdown reception. According to the fullback, Rivers played a role in him getting the ball for the try.

“Philip told me ‘If we go for two, I’m going to tell them to give you the ball,’” said Tolbert.  “I said, ‘Philip you used to do that in San Diego, this is a long time from (then).’  But when he said it, I was like this is money time, let’s get it in the box.”

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