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Pro Bowl Games Skills Showdown: AFC takes early lead behind Derek Carr’s precision passing

Many of the NFL’s best players have descended upon Las Vegas for the inaugural Pro Bowl Games Skills Showdown. The festivities kicked off on Thursday night, as players from the AFC and NFC competed in several events that included dodgeball, a driving contest and a water balloon toss. 

The points won during the skills competitions will go towards Sunday’s flag football game between the two conferences. Peyton Manning is leading the AFC squad, while younger brother Eli is running the show for the NFC Squad. 

The festivities kicked off with a precision passing contest that was the first of the evening’s four competitions. The second half of the skills competitions will begin on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. ET prior to the flag football showdown. 

Here’s recap of the events that took place on the first night of competition, including highlights and notable quotes from Las Vegas. 

Precision Passing: Winner — AFC (3 points) 

Derek Carr, throwing in his soon-to-be former practice facility, led the AFC to a win in the one-minute accuracy competition. Peyton Manning, sensing that Carr would be motivated to perform well, placed him as his anchor thrower. Manning’s tactic paid off as Carr showed the Raiders what they will soon be missing. 

When asked if he’d ever been that hot. “Not that hot,” Carr told ESPN when discussing his performance. “It’s probably why I’m going somewhere else.” 

Trevor Lawrence and Tyler Huntley also competed for the AFC. Geno Smith, Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff made up the NFC squad. 

Lightning Round: Winner — AFC (3 points) 

This event featured 16 players competing in a three-part challenge: water balloon toss, catching punts from a JUGS machine and “Thrill of the Spill,” where remaining players from each conference threw at targets attached to a bucket hanging above the head of an opposing team’s coach. The first team to dump the bucket on an opposing coach was awarded three points. 

Not surprisingly, the best catch during the balloon toss was recorded by a receiver. It was made by Terry McLaurin, who scooped the balloon just off the top of the turf. 

What was surprising was that a defensive lineman, Trey Hendrickson, paced the field with five caught punts. No other AFC participant caught more than three balls. 

Hendrickson then won the challenge for the AFC by hitting the bullseye, which led to confetti hitting the younger Manning brother. 

“I’ve got a good quarterback to look at in Joe Burrow,” Hendrickson said when asked about his throwing prowess. “Throwing darts is something he does all the time, so I was trying my best impression.” 

Dodgeball: Winner — NFC (3 points) 

Four teams of five players, beginning with the offenses and defenses from both conferences, faced and ended with an NFC vs. AFC showdown to determine which conference earned the three points. 

As he has done throughout his career, Marlon Humphrey’s clutch play helped the AFC’s defensive squad prevailed over the conference’s AFC squad. 

The final game pitted the NFC offense against the AFC defense. The NFC squad enjoyed a 4-2 player edge, with just Myles Garrett and Minkah Fitzpatrick left on the AFC side. Garrett made a nice catch before stepping out of bounds, which left Fitzpatrick as the last man standing. 

The NFC won after each remaining player fired a ball at Fitzpatrick. George Kittle’s throw was the one that secured the win for the NFC. 

Showing off his agility was Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who looked like a pro as he ducked and dodged oncoming throws. 

Longest Drive: Winner — AFC (3 points) 

C.J. Mosely’s drive of 306 yards held the lead for a long time before T.J. Hockenson took the lead with a 316-yard moon shot. Jordan Poyer, however, gave the AFC a walk off win by drilling a 320-yard drive on his final attempt. 

Za’Darius Smith, who said he watched several YouTube videos prior to the competition, may have also watched “Happy Gilmore” before hitting his drives. Smith missed on two slap slot attempts before connecting on his third attempt. 

Best Catch: Round 1

A matchup between two players from each conference. Patrick Surtain II went up against Stefon Diggs, while Amon-Ra St. Brown competed against Justin Jefferson. Whoever received the most votes from each conference advanced to Sunday’s final. 

St. Brown made several balletic poolside catches, while Jefferson counted by catching a pass that was thrown from the top of Vegas’ Eiffel Tower. 

Which receiver was more impressive? You make the call. 

Surtain went to the sky to make his catch. Diggs decided to do his damage while enjoying one of Vegas’ many pools. 

Fans can vote to determine which of these catches will join the NFC’s top catch in Sunday’s final. 

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