This is the kind of defense a wide receiver (like Larry Fitzgerald) loves. (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

NFL players were on the defensive about the future of the Pro Bowl on Sunday night and, given the 62-35 final score, you could argue that’s the only time they played defense all night.

Under Commissioner Roger Goodell, the game faces an uncertain future and the players, who are well rewarded for playing in it, were well-aware of that. J.J. Watt proudly displayed his bloodied shirt and finger for Michelle Tafoya in a sideline interview and said, “Hey, Commish, we’re playing hard.” Peyton Manning said he “thought it was a good, competitive game.”

Victor Cruz, who set a record with 10 receptions, noted that the game was being played under the threat of the death penalty. “We understood exactly what he wanted. Guys were making plays all over the field,” Cruz said. “There was a little bit more high intensity than in years past and we were excited to play.”

Hey, the Mannings! (David Nishimura / AP) Hey, the Mannings! (David Nishimura / AP)

League officials have indicated that they’ll decide what to do with the game by the time the 2013 NFL schedule is released in April. If this was the last one, here are a few highlights (for those who were watching the SAG awards):

Ed Hochuli: The league’s most ripped ref unenthusiastically flagged Champ Bailey for pass interference and noted over the mic, “Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl.” It was kind of downhill from there.

Peyton’s glove: Manning took to wearing a glove late in the regular season and kept it on in the playoffs because of the weather in Denver during the Broncos’ playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. It was still there Sunday night.

Marshall Manning: Peyton Manning’s toddler son made a sideline appearance. Expect to see him in the Pro Bowl around 2037.

The Other Manning QB: Eli Manning kept making those funny faces he makes, usually after throwing an ill-advised pass. On Sunday night, though, he was doing it for no real reason.

Jeff Saturday: Peyton Manning’s long-time center is retiring and, although he plays for the Green Bay Packers, he came in for one snap to Manning and the AFC team. It was special, although it looked odd to see a Packers helmet on the same side as all the AFC helmets.

Russell Wilson: The Seahawks’ QB stood eye-to-eye with sideline reporter Doug Flutie.

The future: The players held tight to the line that they love the game (and the paycheck it provides).

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