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NFL Pro Bowl: Colts productive for AFC in end-of-season exhibition

NFL: Pro Bowl Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For most NFL fans, the NFL Pro Bowl game isn’t exactly a must-watch affair. However, the Indianapolis Colts sent three players to the season’s end-of-year exhibition between the league’s two conferences.

Andrew Luck (originally an alternate), Eric Ebron, and Quenton Nelson were all participants this year for the AFC. Luck was added after Philip Rivers was unable to participate due to injury, while Ebron and Nelson had fantastic seasons as well and were on the original roster.

Ebron had a career year in receiving yardage (750 yards), eclipsed his career production in touchdowns with 13 (11 TDs in previous 4 years combined), as well as career-bests in receiving targets (110) and receptions (66). His abilities were critical for the Colts’ passing game in finding a No. 2 target to complement T.Y. Hilton.

Luck also experienced career-bests in attempts (430), completions (639) and completion percentage (67.3%), while having his career’s second best numbers in interception percentage(2.3%) and touchdowns (39). While Luck was fantastic, the fact that he was protected far better than any previous years in his career (league best 2.7% sack percentage) was a large help towards his performance this season.

Nelson was a major part of that vast improvement in protection as he started and held down the left guard position through the entire season and was even given First-Team All-Pro honors in his rookie season.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see rookie standout Darius Leonard as he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl despite being given First-Team All-Pro honors as well in his rookie campaign. Thus, only offensive personnel were on display in this year’s game.

Colts’ Performances

Tight End Eric Ebron got the start at the position for the AFC and got into the box score on the very first possession of the game. As the AFC marched down the field under the direction of Patrick Mahomes, the Colts’ red zone threat was the recipient of an 18-yard touchdown pass via a shallow corner route putting the AFC up 7-0 with 11:26 left in the first quarter.

Ebron was also sprinkled in to Luck’s second drive but was unsuccessfully targeted across the middle of the field.

Andrew Luck and Quenton Nelson entered the lineup for the AFC on their fourth possession of the game, but the early results weren’t all that exciting. Luck tossed an early incompletion to Tyreek Hill that was batted away at the catch point, and another that looked to be the result of indecision on Luck’s part as the ball came out of his hand awkwardly.

Luck’s third attempt was picked off by Chicago Bears’ cornerback Kyle Fuller across the middle of the field as he was targeting Pittsburgh Steelers’ receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The following possession for Luck and the AFC was more productive as he moved the offense down the field on a 17-play drive in which Luck was ‘sacked’ on a third-down attempt and the AFC was forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Jason Myers which gave the AFC a 17-0 lead over the NFC inside of a minute to go in the first half.

Luck connected on 7 of his 12 attempts for 81 yards on the drive after starting 0-3 for the game.

Luck started the second half for the AFC as the rain continued to fall, but the AFC went three-and-out. This was the last Luck would see the field and he finished the day 7-of-17 for 81 yards and an interception.

Ebron finished the day with that sole reception for touchdown in the first quarter, and was only targeted two additional times throughout the game.

Nelson continued to get snaps throughout the game and even played some on the right side of the AFC’s line at times as well.

The AFC pulled out the win, 26-7, and will earn an extra $62,000 to their season’s salary.