Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41

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Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

Patriots coach Bill Belichick would have liked to have spent Sunday preparing for a trip to Dallas to coach in next week's Super Bowl.

Instead, he spent the day patrolling the AFC sideline during a typically light-hitting, but particularly uninspired, Pro Bowl game in Hawaii.

His AFC squad turned the ball over six times and fell to the NFC, 55-41.

The Belichick-led side -- which fell behind 42-0 in the second quarter -- was short on highlights, but the seven Patriots players involved provided a few relative bright spots:

Cornerback Devin McCourty capped off his accomplished rookie season by mostly holding his own against a slew of the NFL's best receivers. He covered Atlanta's Roddy White, Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Dallas' Miles Austin in the game. He also recorded his first-ever Pro Bowl interception.

On the first play of the second quarter, Atlanta's Matt Ryan tested McCourty and tried to hit Austin deep downfield. McCourty, in single coverage, out-jumped the Cowboys receiver and came down with the AFC's only interception of the game.

McCourty was burned for a touchdown by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, but he also recorded four tackles and defended two passes.

Wes Welker couldn't reel in any of the bombs thrown his way in the second half as the AFC attempted a comeback, but he tied for the team lead in receptions with 5 for 34 yards.

Welker had one of the AFC's lowlights of the game when in the second quarter, he was stripped by Washington's DeAngelo Hall at the AFC 34-yard line. Hall scooped up the fumble and scored to put the AFC down, 27-0.

In Jerod Mayo's first Pro Bowl game, the All-Pro linebacker finished with seven tackles, which was the second-most on the team.

Safety Brandon Meriweather chipped in with three tackles.

The game was devoid of hard-nosed play in the trenches, meaning it was a fairly uneventful day for Patriots offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork's day was spent mostly leaning lackadaisically into NFC offensive linemen and raising an arm to try to block passes thrown over his head.

Interestingly, Mankins and Light finished the game with as many tackles as Wilfork; each player had one.

Light tackled London Fletcher after the Redskins' linebacker intercepted San Diego's Philip Rivers in the first quarter. Mankins got his name in the box score by tackling Hall, the game's MVP, after he intercepted Rivers on the AFC's next possession.

Rivers started in place of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was voted in as the AFC's starter. Brady elected not to make the trip to Hawaii, opting instead to have foot surgery Jan. 20 to repair a chronic stress fracture.

Kansas City's Matt Cassel was named to the AFC team in Brady's place. He went 5-12 for 95 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Mayo: Patriots QB situation has him thinking back to 2008

Jerod Mayo looks at the looming quarterback situation for the Patriots and can’t help thinking back to his rookie season.

The former Patriots linebacker who graduated (ahem) to co-hosting “Quick Slants” with me on Monday nights, was asked how drastic the impact of Brady’s four-game suspension will be.

“I still remember 2008, my rookie year, in the first game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom tears his ACL,” said Mayo. “Matt Cassel, at the same point, had zero starts just like Jimmy Garoppolo and we won 11 games. I know we missed the playoffs, but we still won 11 games and that’s something.”

Asked what the message Bill Belichick gave the team in the wake of Brady’s injury and what Mayo anticipates the message being now, Mayo answered, “Honestly, it’s so cliché but it’s that ‘next man up’ mentality and the depth of the team that Bill Belichick builds, you just can’t top it.”

Later in the show, Mayo indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if the team did add a little more quarterback depth in camp. In 2015, the team brought on both Ryan Lindley and Matt Flynn as a cushion behind Brady and Garoppolo.  

Hurley: Why the rush to clear Manning's name?

Hurley: Why the rush to clear Manning's name?

Michael Hurley discusses the NFL's investigation into Peyton Manning's alleged PED use with Toucher and Rich. Hurley wonders why their was such a rush to clear a retired player and continue the probe into still-active players.