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Pro Bowl Games: Cousins Finds Jefferson; Cook & Hockenson Score in NFC Comeback

LAS VEGAS – Snoop Dogg, the Blue Man Group and Pete Davidson walk into a bar...

Actually, they all walked into Allegiant Stadium for the culmination of the 2023 Pro Bowl Games.

The celebrities joined the NFL's best of the best in this week's NFL all-star festivities that featured seven Vikings: QB Kirk Cousins, LS Andrew DePaola, TE T.J. Hockenson, WR Justin Jefferson, OLB Za'Darius Smith, RB Dalvin Cook and OLB Danielle Hunter.

Minnesota was well-represented by the Vikings teammates in a trio of flag football games.

View photos of Vikings players competing in the 2023 Pro Bowl Game in Las Vegas.

After winning Game 1 33-27, the NFC fell to the AFC 18-13 in Game 2. In the third and final contest, Cousins threw three touchdowns to help lead his squad to a 20-12 win, which helped the NFC claim the Pro Bowl Games, which also featured various skills contests.

"It just felt normal – what we dealt with all season, finishing games and stuff," Hunter said. "It only made sense to have him finish at the end."

Team NFC was coached by former QB Eli Manning, while his brother Peyton Manning coached Team AFC. During ESPN's broadcast, Eli told former QB Robert Griffin III that he intentionally slated Cousins for the third game due to his fourth-quarter success throughout the regular season.

"That's a good strategy. Kirk definitely closed it out for us and got us the 'dub,' " Jefferson said. "I guess we're 12-1 [in one-score games] now, huh?"

The three flag football games were played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones, with midfield marking the first down line-to-gain. Each game was played with 10-minute halves; teams received two 30-second timeouts per game.

Touchdowns were worth the typical six points, with two different options for post-TD conversions: 1-point conversion from the 5-yard line or a 2-point conversion from the 10-yard line.

Jefferson caught a 1-point conversion following a touchdown pass from Cousins to George Kittle, the NFC's final score of the day. Cousins eluded Maxx Crosby with a nifty spin move before rolling out and finding Jefferson.

Previously, Cousins threw a 9-yard touchdown to Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and pitched one underhanded to 49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk in the end zone.

"Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing," Cousins said. "It was hard to wait around to go in, but I appreciate Eli letting me be the third guy, and it was fun to go in there and be the closer.

"It was a game of cat-and-mouse a little bit, and it was a lot of fun," he added.

Cousins finished his outing 15-of-19 passing for 150 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 139.1. He was the only NFC QB who didn't throw an interception on the day.

"[The most challenging part was] drawing stuff up in the dirt. It's not as defined of a plan," Cousins laughed. "Some of our best plays were guys coming into the huddle and saying, 'Hey, I think if we did this,' and you try to listen to them and incorporate it. So it was fun but also a little hectic."

Jefferson had five catches for 90 yards, and tight end T.J. Hockenson had two catches for 55 yards, including a 45-yard score in the afternoon's first game. Dalvin Cook had three catches for 26 yards.

Hunter and Smith combined for four "tackles," though no real contact was made in the game.

"It was quite strange," Hunter said. "But it is what it is, and we were good with it. I was out there covering, so I was good with it.

"It seemed like we had more fans than we've had out before," he added of the new format. "It was fun, it wasn't too hard on the athletes, and it was more engaging."

In addition to the flag football games themselves, Teams AFC and NFC were awarded points from various skills competitions that took place Thursday and Sunday. After fan voting, the Best Catch Finals came down to St. Brown and Bills WR Stefon Diggs, and St. Brown took it for the NFC.

View photos of Vikings players participating in the NFC Pro Bowl practice on Feb 4. in Las Vegas.

Below are breakdowns of the first two flag games that led into the Cousins-led comeback:

NFL Flag Game 1

Hockenson made the play of Game 1.

With Team NFC already leading 13-12, Seahawks QB Geno Smith found T.J. Hockenson over the middle, and the Vikings tight end ran it into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown.

The Smith-Hockenson duo connected again for the 1-point conversion, helping the NFC go up 20-12.

Though Game 1 did include three lead changes, Team NFC seemed to control most of the momentum throughout.

Geno Smith, who manned the QB spot for the game's entirety, spread the ball around to help his team walk away with a 33-27 win.

Team AFC took an early lead with a touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley to his Ravens teammate Mark Andrews, but the NFC answered back quickly. Geno Smith found Kittle in the end zone for a touchdown and then connected with Juszczyk for the 1-point conversion to make it 7-6.

Just a few minutes later and after a turnover on downs by the AFC, Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb caught a touchdown.

Lamb showed up in a big way at the end of the game, too, hauling in the TD catch with just 0:01 remaining to earn a Team NFC Win.

Juszczyk scored the NFC's fourth TD of the game.

NFL Flag Game 2

It was The Chef's turn to shine in Game 2.

Cook caught a touchdown pass from Lions QB Jared Goff after being setup with good field position thanks to a Trevon Diggs interception.

Who did he intercept, you ask? Great question. The AFC attempted a trick play with Stefon Diggs making the toss, and it was picked off by his younger brother.

Following Cook's touchdown, it was Hockenson again with the 1-point conversion.

The pair of scores by Vikings teammates wasn't enough for a second straight NFC win, though, as they fell 18-13 to Team AFC.

The NFC impressed defensively throughout the second contest, with Packers CB Jaire Alexander intercepting Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence and returning it 70 yards for a touchdown.

On the other side, Stefon Diggs matched Hockenson's touchdown in Game 1 with a 45-yarder of his own from Lawrence. Raiders WR Davante Adams and Titans RB Derrick Henry also scored for the conference.