Andy Dalton helps AFC hold on to beat NFC in Pro Bowl

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Andy Dalton helps AFC hold on to beat NFC in Pro Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Andy Dalton completed 10 of 12 passes for 100 yards and engineered two scoring drives to help lead the AFC to a 20-13 victory over the NFC in the Pro Bowl on Sunday night.

The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce late in the first half and then guided the offense down the field to set up Justin Tucker's 38-yard field to put the AFC ahead 17-7 midway through the third quarter.

In an NFL all-star game that lacked spectacular play on either side, the AFC put together just enough scoring drives and then held on to preserve a win.

It marked the return to the AFC vs. NFC matchup after the NFL used a format the last three years in which teams were drafted among the Pro Bowl players by designated captains.

The NFC had a chance to tie or take the lead in the waning moments, but Kirk Cousins pass to Jimmy Graham went off the Seattle tight end's hands and was intercepted at the AFC 2-yard line by Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who lateralled the ball to Denver's Aqib Talib on the return that ended at the NFC 12 to end the threat.

This was the first time the Pro Bowl was played in Orlando, and the ending certainly didn't disappoint the 60,834 fans who packed Camping World Stadium.

New Orleans' Drew Brees completed 10 of 19 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown to lead the NFC. Kansas City's Alex Smith, the starter for the AFC, completed six of eight passes for 74 yards and one touchdown.

In a first half defined by big plays and key interceptions, the AFC was able to come up with one more play to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.

The NFC should have had 17 points in the first half, but a decision to not a kick a chip-shot field goal and an interception in the end zone denied the squad of points during the first two quarters.

Dalton's scoring strike to Kelce put the AFC ahead 14-7 with 1:40 remaining in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 36-yard punt return by the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill to the NFC 38.

Brees had a 47-yard pass to Doug Baldwin earlier in the second quarter that had tied the game at 7, making up for being intercepted by Buffalo's Stephon Gilmore in the back of the end zone a possession earlier.

Smith put the AFC on the board first when he found Tennessee's Delanie Walker for a 26-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter.

Jason Kelce, Darren Sproles to replace 2 Falcons in Pro Bowl

Jason Kelce, Darren Sproles to replace 2 Falcons in Pro Bowl

Jason Kelce, one of the Eagles who could potentially be a salary cap casualty next season after an up-and-down year, is headed to the Pro Bowl. 

Kelce and Darren Sproles were each named to the Pro Bowl Monday as replacements for center Alex Mack and running back Devonta Freeman, who will be in the Super Bowl for the Falcons.

Kelce didn't miss a snap this season for the Eagles and hasn't missed one in 39 straight games dating back to Week 10 of the 2014 season. 

Despite the Pro Bowl nod, Kelce gave an honest, harsh assessment of his season in November.

"I think that I quite frankly need to do a better job. That's what it comes down to," he said. "I love playing in this city, I love playing in this organization, and if I'm going to keep doing that, I have to do a better job."

Sproles, meanwhile, has now made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with the Eagles, all of them after his 30th birthday. Sproles had 438 rushing yards, 427 receiving yards, four TDs and a punt return average of 13.2 yards this season. His 94 carries were a career high.

Kelce and Sproles join Jason Peters and Fletcher Cox, giving the Eagles four Pro Bowlers after a 7-9 season.

Eagles sign DT Justin Hamilton to futures contract
The Eagles on Monday signed defensive tackle Justin Hamilton to a futures contract. 

Hamilton, 23, went undrafted in 2015 but spent time with both the Bills and Packers. This past season, he spent six different stints on the Seahawks' practice squad, constantly being waived then re-signed. 

He has never played in an NFL game.

Hamilton played collegiately at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he totaled 14 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in four years. He was First Team All-Sun Belt as a senior. 

The Eagles have signed 15 players to reserves/futures contracts this month.

With ketchup, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles share special bond

With ketchup, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles share special bond

From the time Wendell Smallwood arrived to the NFL last spring, veteran Darren Sproles has tried to help the rookie catch up. 

Smallwood has repaid him with ketchup. 

At least that’s what happened last week when Sproles’ bottle ran dry. He hit up his neighbor and rookie mentee, who was happy to help. See, in addition to sharing a common wall on their stalls in the Eagles’ locker room, the two are neighbors at a nearby apartment complex in Philadelphia. 

“Having the easy access to Darren Sproles is great for me,” Smallwood said. “It’s a great experience.”

Smallwood said he and Sproles didn’t plan on living next to each other, it just sort of happened that way, which has turned out to be a great help for the rookie. Smallwood said Sproles has taught him a lot without ever having to say much. He watched how professionally his new mentor took football and how seriously he took care of his body. 

And despite their age gap — Sproles is 33, Smallwood is 22 — the two running backs became friends during the 2016 season. 

“I bang on the wall when he’s up running around and he bangs on the wall when I’m up running around,” Smallwood said. 

While Sproles was able to finish the 2016 season, Smallwood’s season ended when he suffered a knee injury against Washington on Dec. 11 and was placed on injured reserve. 

A couple weeks ago, head coach Doug Pederson expressed some disappointment because Smallwood was missing valuable playing time toward the end of this season, but Smallwood said he’s been getting better without playing. 

The last three weeks have given him a chance to gain a new perspective on the game as he’s watched from the sideline. 

The timing of the injury was rather unfortunate, in that Smallwood is just about completely healed and has resumed running recently. He healed just in time for the offseason. 

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “Healed in time for nothing. I can’t really worry about it. I look at it and realize it could have been worse. Just have to attack the offseason, because, you know, one play and you could be done. Gotta take advantage of the opportunities.”

When Smallwood did play this season, the Delaware native found some success. The fifth-round pick from West Virginia University carried the ball 77 times for 312 yards (4.1 YPC) and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 55 yards. 

Smallwood became the first Eagles rookie running back to average over 4.0 yards per carry in a season (minimum 70 attempts) since Bryce Brown in 2012. He’s just the 10th Eagles rookie to do so. 

That’s a decent start, but Smallwood expects to get better. He wants to use this offseason to spend time in the weight room, getting stronger and more explosive. 

He will also use the offseason to study his game. He said he’ll analyze and grade each of his plays after watching them about four times each. 

The Eagles’ running back situation is somewhat cloudy heading into next season. Sproles is expected to be back for his final NFL season, but Ryan Mathews will likely be cut to save $4 million in cap space. Kenjon Barner will be a restricted free agent. And after that, Smallwood and undrafted players Byron Marshall and Terrell Watson are all that’s left. 

Sure, the Eagles are probably going to add another running back either through free agency or through the draft, but Smallwood said Monday he’s ready for a bigger role next season. 

“I definitely think so because I want to take from it and learn from it and not make the same mistakes that happened last year,” Smallwood said. “And I’m going to know what’s going on.”

He can thank Sproles for that — with ketchup.