HONOLULU, Hawaii—It's debatable what was Michael Bennett's best moment in the 2016 Pro Bowl, though it's entirely possible that two of them didn't actually have much effect on the game.
During one TV timeout, the Seahawks defensive end danced in the end zone with mascots, hardly a moment you'd expect to see in a football game, but a fitting one for a fun-loving player like Bennett, who was soaking in every moment of the first Pro Bowl appearance in his seven-year career. Late in the game, Bennett somehow talked his way into the game at running back, where he took a direct snap and appeared to run 57 yards for the unlikeliest of touchdowns. Bennett, however, was whistled down after a 7-yard gain, the result of officials having quick whistles when a play was even close to over given the lack of real tackling going on late in the game.
But Bennett's day was a lot more than just goofing around. He had the game's only sack, another quarterback hit (though he showed tremendous restraint to not level Derek Carr on that play) and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage, leading to a Jurrell Casey interception.
For all of that work in a 49-27 Team Irvin victory, Bennett was named the defensive MVP of the 2016 Pro Bowl. And Bennett wasn't alone accepting that honor on a stage after the game, because Russell Wilson earned offensive MVP honors after throwing three touchdown passes, all in the first half.
The play of Wilson and Bennett highlighted a big day for the Seahawks in the Pro Bowl, which also included Bobby Wagner piling up a game-high 10 tackles—including one memorable one of Richard Sherman—Tyler Lockett catching a pass for 10 yards and returning a punt for 24 yards, and Sherman breaking up three passes.
"It was exciting," Wilson said of his and Bennett's big day. "To see Michael Bennett and myself be fortunate enough to get MVP. This opportunity is such a special thing. my rookie year I was selected for the Pro Bowl and I got to be around Drew Brees and Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, and just gain knowledge. Every day you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it, so I'm just grateful for that opportunity."
Wilson, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 149.3 passer rating, has been spectacular in his only two Pro Bowl appearances. After his rookie season, Wilson went 8 for 10 for 98 yards and three touchdowns in the Pro Bowl. And while it might be easy to dismiss Wilson's 73 percent completion rate (16-of-22), 262 yards, six touchdowns, and 151.9 rating through two all-star exhibitions, the seven interceptions thrown by other quarterbacks on Sunday shows that big passing numbers aren't just a given in the Pro Bowl.
"We made a lot of plays today, it was special to see," Wilson said.
For Bennett, who spends his offseason in Honolulu, this would have been a special game even if he hadn't left with an award.
"It's always good to get acknowledged, but it was good just to get a chance to play with those guys… I had a great time," he said, "So many great guys, so many great friends. It's just been a great experience overall."
Both Bennett and Wilson made a point to stick up for the relevance of the Pro Bowl, a game that has come under scrutiny in recent years, especially this season when a record number of players who were selected decided did not attend.
"It's just the fans, how many fans came out," Bennett said. "This game being under scrutiny, it was a good chance for fans to sell out the stadium and enjoy a great game."
Added Wilson: "You can't get rid of this game, just because it's a great opportunity to get around so many great players and enjoy the game."
Still, as big of a day as it was for Seahawks at the Pro Bowl, Bennett had one complaint.
"I didn't get touched, did I?" he said of his long run that wasn't. "I was robbed, man. The story of my life."
Game photos from the 2016 Pro Bowl between Team Rice, featuring wideout Tyler Lockett and linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Team Irvin, with quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive end Michael Bennett, and cornerback Richard Sherman at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.