Green Bay’s Za’Darius Smith, Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett and Detroit’s Darius Slay got together following a second-quarter sack and faked fadeaway jumpers in an homage to Bryant. Smith and several NFC teammates did it again following a fumble early in the third.
Green Bay receiver Davonte Adams pointed to the sky and flashed the No. 24 on his fingers as an ode to Bryant’s jersey after a touchdown catch in the third.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led a prayer with teammates before the game in the locker room.
The NFL’s annual all-star game also held a moment of silence for Bryant at the 2-minute warning in the first half, showing the retired NBA star’s picture on the scoreboards while announcing his death at age 41.
Several players removed their helmets during the break. Others took a knee and seemed to pray. Fans broke the silence by chanting ”Ko-be! Ko-be!”
Players checked cellphones for updates before and during the game, all of them looking for information and answers.
Bryant died in a helicopter crash early Sunday near Calabasas, California, and the news put a damper on the NFL event held on the other side of the country.
The AFC ended up beating the NFC 38-33 for a fourth consecutive victory in Orlando. The latest one might have been the last near Walt Disney World. The NFL is considering moving the game around, with new, multi-billion-dollar stadiums in Las Vegas and Los Angeles being viable options.
The play of the day was Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt’s 82-yard fumble return in the fourth. Jacksonville defensive lineman Calais Campbell beat Dallas’ Travis Frederick and sacked Kirk Cousins on a fourth-and-goal play from the 9. Campbell stripped the ball, which Watt scooped up and went untouched the other way to put the AFC ahead 38-27.
The NFC had a chance to rally late and tried to take advantage of a new rule that allows the scoring team to retain possession by facing a fourth-and-15 play from its own 25-yard line. Cousins threw a deep ball that Baltimore safety Earl Thomas intercepted.
Campbell was named the AFC’s defensive player of the game. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson was the offensive MVP.
AFC players earned $70,000 for winning the game. NFC players got $35,000 each.
Jackson threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception. Houston’s Deshaun Watson threw for 148 yards, with a touchdown and a pick.
Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill hooked up with Jacksonville’s DJ Chark for a 60-yard score in which officials opted not to rule him down after two defenders touched him.
Wilson gave his NFC starting spot to New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who is contemplating retirement. Brees said this week he will take some time before deciding on his future.
Cousins, Brees and Wilson threw TD passes for the NFC, which also allowed Ezekiel Elliott and Adams to attempt throws. Elliott’s was picked off. Adams added two TD receptions.
The NFC’s top highlight was Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox rumbling 61 yards for a score. Minnesota’s Harrison Smith intercepted a pass from Watson at the 3-yard line and returned it to the 39 before lateraling to Cox, who took it the rest of the while.
No one tried to tackle the 310-pound Cox. Denver receiver Courtland Sutton slapped at the ball for the final 20 yards.