The power of the pup was unleashed Sunday.
Team Fluff released their inner hounds to win the coveted Lombarky Trophy at Puppy Bowl 2022.
Back for its 18th year, the big game for little dogs returned to the turf Sunday at 2 p.m. on Animal Planet and Discovery+, just before the human 2022 Super Bowl.
“These are not trained puppies,” long-time Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner told The Post. “These are dogs in their purest form.”
This year was the largest competition yet, with more than 100 dogs from 63 shelters in 33 states, including a pup from Hawaii. This edition also included the most special needs dogs the Bowl has ever featured.
There’s only one rule in Puppy Bowl: Drag a chew toy into the end zone. Any other calls, Schachner said, are made up on the fly. To avoid total chaos, only a handful of pooches are introduced to the turf at a time.
The star-studded spectacle got started with a special message from “coaches” Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, naturally, as well as First Lady Jill Biden and Elmo and Tango.
Then Team Fluff got off to a rollicking start, with Chihuahua Birch scoring both the first and second touchdowns of the game. The smallest pup in the Bowl, Birch was drafted from Ninna’s Road to Rescue in Louisiana, and was adopted on Thanksgiving Day to a family with five kids, two guinea pigs, a dog and a tree frog.
Team Ruff’s Ellington, a Siberian husky chow-chow mix, brought Team Ruff back up with their first touchdown — only to be thwarted by another touchdown from Team Fluff, this time from Chorizo, a dachshund and American Staffordshire terrier mix, at the end of the first quarter.
Moby, a French bulldog, then swooped in with a field goal for Team Ruff.
Then, Team Ruff’s Lulu, a fluffy Shih Tzu and Pomeranian mix, closed in the game’s gap, bringing the score to a close 21-17 halfway through the second quarter. Ruff’s Bimini, a beagle and Australian cattle dog mix, went long into touchdown glory. Ruff took the lead.
Fluff fought right back thanks to Kirby, a Labrador retriever who is enrolled in a pup-in-training program that partners with America’s VetDogs, a New York-based non-profit that provides service dogs for free to veterans and first responders with disabilities.
Things got a little rough between Fluff’s Baxter and Ruff’s Ted D. Bear — who got a penalty and fumbled before going on to score a TD at the end of the first half. Bear’s big moment brought the score to 28-31 Fluff as the kitty cheerleaders took the field for a rousing halftime show — lasers included, of course.
The big dogs took the field — with big dog moves to boot. Penalty flags flew, with a two-paw punch from Ruff’s Scout and a rumbling tumble from Fluff’s Sky. Scout got pegged with a “terrier-izing” the referee penalty. Woof!
But leave it to Fluff’s Benny, a wheelchair-bound poodle who was born with his vertebrae fused together, to bring all the pups back to business.
Ted D. Bear then helped Ruff take the lead at the end of the third quarter. Mr. Bear pounce-flip-sprinted his way to his third touchdown of the game.
Hearing impaired Dalmatian Pongo blocked Fluff’s Kali to keep the game paw-some for Team Ruff. But there was no stopping very valuable pup Kirby who bow-wowed fans with a double touchdown for Fluff heading into the fourth quarter.
After an impressive series of rolls down the field, little Chorizo brought the score for Team Fluff to an impressive 59-48. But leave it to beagle/chow chow mix Odell Barkham to be the comeback pup for Ruff, bringing the score nail-bitingly close for paws everywhere.
After New York native Wasabi was nailed with a penalty for “invasive sniffing” (and a hearty pup-talk from Elmo), he brought Fluff up to 66 points, helping the team maintain their lucky lead, even with a touchdown from Ruff’s Banjo, an American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier mix.
In the end, Ruff couldn’t maintain their streak from last year, with Fluff claiming the trophy at 73-69 — thanks in part to their official Most Valuable Pup, Kirby.
Aside from being a chewable football-alternative, the annual puppy palooza serves a larger paw-pose: to find these furry friends a forever family. In fact, the Puppy Bowl has always had a 100% adoption rate.
At the shelters providing the playful pooches, adoption rates also increase after Puppy Bowl every year, he added.
“Every Puppy Bowl ends with every single dog being adopted,” Schachner, who has refereed the big game for 11 years, said. “Our goal is to showcase as wide of a variety as possible.”