Bills' defenders come up big for AFC squad at Pro Bowl - The Buffalo News
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Bills' defenders come up big for AFC squad at Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl had a distinctly "Buffalo" feel to it Sunday night.

That's because members of the Bills – who were represented by guard Richie Incognito, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown in the game – kept making big plays.

Their performances helped the AFC to a 20-13 win over the NFC before a sold-out crowd of 60,834 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

The decisive play was turned in by Alexander, the former journeyman who had a career season with 12.5 sacks. He intercepted Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter. Cousins' pass bounced off the hands of Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham and into the arms of Alexander, who returned it 20 yards before throwing a lateral to Denver's Aqib Talib, who then raced inside the NFC 10-yard line before getting stripped by Cousins.

"I just thought I'd try to strip him and do my best Don Beebe impersonation," Cousins said on the ESPN broadcast.

Talib, however, recovered his own fumble to secure the AFC victory.

Alexander finished with an AFC-leading eight tackles, two passes defensed and the clinching interception – a performance that earned him the defensive MVP -- and the new car that goes along with it. A few plays before his pick, he laid out Graham with one of the hardest hits of the night – something that didn't sit well with the Seattle tight end.

Alexander's heroics in his first Pro Bowl as a defensive player (he made it in 2012 with Washington on special teams) weren't the only meaningful contributions made by the Bills in the AFC's win. Playing in his first Pro Bowl, Brown made an honest-to-goodness goal-line stand in the first quarter. That's highly unusual in a game that traditionally resembles two-hand touch, but had a noticeably higher intensity level than in recent years. Brown, who had seven tackles to finish second to Alexander on the AFC squad, stuffed Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for no gain on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line.

Brown's big play came after Gilmore was in coverage on two of the previous three plays. On first and goal, Dallas' Dak Prescott threw incomplete intended for Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. – an interesting subplot to the game given his history with Gilmore. Then on third and goal, Prescott overthrew his Dallas teammate, Dez Bryant, with Gilmore defending again.

On the AFC's third offensive series, Incognito entered the game. That drive ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to Titans tight end Delanie Walker for the game's first points.

On the NFC's ensuing possession, Gilmore did give up a 15-yard completion to Bryant, but bounced back from that with an interception of Drew Brees in the end zone. Gilmore stepped in front of a pass intended for Beckham.

Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore secures an interception in the first half of the Pro Bowl. (Getty Images)

Later in the first half, Alexander dropped Elliott for no gain, then a couple plays later had tight coverage on Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to force an incompletion.

“He is the all-time grinder,” analyst Jon Gruden said of Alexander on the broadcast. “When he got an opportunity with Rex Ryan this year and the Bills, he was ready.”

Incognito, who usually plays left guard, took some snaps at right guard shortly before halftime. Although Gruden did point out once that Incognito was late getting out to block on a screen pass, he did pancake an NFC defender on a 23-yard scoring play that came when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hooked up with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who won the AFC's offensive MVP award.

Players on the victorious AFC side were paid $61,000, as opposed to the $30,000 earned by the NFC squad.

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