Updated: 1-28-13, 6:15 a.m.
Wide receiver A.J. Green added another chapter to his growing legend Sunday night when he became the first Bengal to score three touchdowns in a Pro Bowl during a scintillating 119-yard performance that was one of the few bright spots in the AFC's 62-35 loss in Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.
Green's four career Pro Bowl touchdown catches are the most in Bengals history, passing the two each of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Houshmandzadeh had two TDs in his lone Pro Bowl appearance after the 2007 season.
Cincinnati had its hands all over this Pro Bowl. Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, an Elder High School product, was named the game's MVP with a 100-yard day on five catches and one for a touchdown.
Green, ending his second season in another Pro Bowl, put on a clinic with two red-zone touchdown catches and finished off his display with a 49-yard bomb from Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck down the right sideline in the fourth quarter.
"It was just a go route and Andy put it right there," said Green, momentarily forgetting that it wasn't Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on the throwing end. "I mean Andrew. Andrew put it right there."
On his seventh and last catch, Green took a shot over the middle and limped off the field but said he's OK.
"I'm fine,' he said. "I just took a knee to the leg."
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins had a tackle and tight end Jermaine Gresham added a catch for five yards in their second straight Pro Bowls for the Bengals. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth appeared in his first Pro Bowl and rotated on both sides with Cleveland's Joe Thomas and Houston's Duane Brown. Whitworth says it was the first time he took snaps at right tackle in his life.
Green, tuning up for next season's game with Chicago, put the two Bears cornerbacks to the test. He put the AFC on the board in its first series of the game when he converted a fourth-down pass from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning when he beat Charles Tilman running from left to right in the middle of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown catch.
Then early in the fourth quarter Green caught his first of two touchdowns from Luck when he outjumped and outran Tim Jennings heading to the right corner on a third-down play from the 4. Luck and Green got some help from Whitworth at right tackle when he fended off Giants end Jason Pierre-Paul as Luck got rid of it. Then Green went deep for his third touchdown when he ran past Tilman.
Three receiving TDs don't happen every day, never mind a Pro Bowl. It has happened 11 times in Bengals history, the last coming five years ago when Chad Johnson did it against Tennessee at Paul Brown Stadium.
Of course, all of this came as no surprise to Whitworth.
"I told the Denver coaches all week they had something special and that they were going to end up throwing it to him often," Whitworth said of his discussions with AFC head coach John Fox's staff. "(Green) is just a special player and a special kid. Especially in a game like this where you know there's going to be a lot of one-on-one coverage. You're just not going to be able to cover him for very long."
On the sidelines during that last drive, Whitworth admitted he made sure Green was OK after he limped off the field.
"That's all I cared about that; he was OK," Whitworth said. "He said he just got hit in the shin. Then I could breathe again."
The hands-on effort by Green and Rudolph is a big reason why Whitworth thinks with their performance Sunday night the players have pumped life back into the Pro Bowl by convincing the league office that the game shouldn't be abolished. In the wake of last year's sleepy seven-on-seven game that was played with all the intensity of a brunch, Whitworth, the Bengals player representative to the NFL Players Association, felt this game went much better.
But he also thinks the NFL can now drop its questions and not only continue the game, but move it back to its original date of the week after the Super Bowl so the Pro Bowlers in that game can still play.
"It was a lot of competition. Guys were going at each other. It was definitely the game people wanted," Whitworth said. "It's a can of worms. I really don't understand the NFL's position on the whole deal. It's an all-star game and all all-star games are supposed to be fun. If we're going to be graded on performance every time, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
"It's treading some bad water if you're going to start up an evaluation on every game. They're hard to judge. It was a good game; that should be the end of it. I don't know what it was last year, but guys made up for it and I don't think we should discuss it any further. It's important to the players, their families, and our game and it should stay."
Whitworth got a kick out of playing right tackle for the first time in his life, but what he really enjoyed was spending the week picking the brains of players that have been on successful teams in his effort to get the Bengals to the Super Bowl. He found himself spending time with Manning and brother Eli, the quarterback of the Giants, as well as Packers center Jeff Saturday and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
"Asking about team, leadership, stuff like that. I'm just trying to push us over the hump. We've been good the last two years. I want us to be great," Whitworth said. "We talked about a lot of things. Everything from schedules to how things are done, the things they really thought were important and helped them. It was real fun to sit around and listen to them."