Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

So, maybe the Official Game Losers 2014-15 NFL Playoffs Madden NFL 2001 Simulation didn’t exactly pan out. For one, the Super Bowl (one week from this Sunday) will be a contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Both were #1 seeds in this year’s playoffs—in other words, this was easily the most predictable outcome ever. Both were also left out of the 2014-15 playoffs in the Simulation. In fact, it would have been completely impossible for the Simulation to have predicted this outcome. If you’ll remember correctly, before the divisional realignment in 2002 the Seattle Seahawks were still in the AFC. In other words, one million Simulations could have been ran using the outdated Madden NFL 2001 and not a single one of them could possibly have had the AFC representative Patriots meeting the now-NFC representative Seahawks. Oops.

For what it’s worth (nothing), the Simulation did manage to hit a couple of things correctly. The Ravens went on the road and beat the Steelers both in the Simulation and in real life. The Colts made it to the AFC Championship both in the Simulation and in real life. 1)However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won. Otherwise, it was pretty much a wash. A simulation where the home team won every game would have been far more accurate and would have nailed the Super Bowl. This surprises no one but me. I would have thought the cosmic radiation of a plan so asinine would have come full circle, but nope. Turns out it’s a bad idea to try to use a video game that’s fifteen years old to predict today’s events.

Anyway, there’s still one game to be played this NFL season. 2)I do not count the Pro Bowl. Will the Seattle Seahawks ride the incredible momentum from their incredible comeback to incredibly win a second consecutive Super Bowl? Or will the New England Patriots deflate the egos of so many Seahawks fans? 3)I had to fit at least one reference in here. Personally, anything I predict myself will likely blow up in my face. So, instead, like the first Simulation, I will simply moderate a method taken completely out of my hands. What method will this be?

Well, I figured I needed to move the simulations up a generation. The first Madden game released for the Nintendo GameCube was Madden NFL 2002. Unfortunately, that game does not allow you to view CPU vs. CPU games. The next game in the series, Madden NFL 2003, does. It also is the first game with a real soundtrack, including Andrew W.K., Bon Jovi, and Good Charlotte among many others. It’s also the first game in the series to have Tom Brady properly rated. As we all know, the 2001 edition of Madden had a nameless Brady in his rookie year at 57 overall. Well, I got good news and bad news about 2002…

Well, he at least has a picture now.
Well, he at least has a picture now.

Yikes. Well, 2003 got him right, as it was the first game released after Brady’s first Super Bowl win. Here he is rated 84 overall, which turned out to be a bit of an underestimation. For the record, the best players in this game (those rated 99 overall) are Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Rams running back and Madden NFL 2003 cover athlete Marshall Faulk, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen, and Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp. 4)The latter four are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lewis becomes eligible for induction in 2017 and is a surefire first ballot inductee.

The worst players in this game are a trio of players rated 32 overall. They are Titans fullback Mike Green, Browns defensive back Chris Akins, and Bengals defensive tackle Glen Steele. Of those three, Akins won a Super Bowl as a special teams player with the New England Patriots later on in his career. Greene had three touchdowns in three seasons. Glen Steele recorded a fumble recovery once. Pretty good for 32 overall.

The simulation I’m going to run using Madden NFL 2003 is going to be a lot less complicated and drawn-out than the one for Madden NFL 2001. This will simply be one simulated game, played by the CPUs while I observe. The difficulty will be set to All-Madden. The quarters will be set to their full fifteen-minute lengths. No changes will be made to the rosters. The game will be played in the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium, which admittedly was as of 2003 not the stadium that Super Bowl XLIX will actually be played in. 5)Then: Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Now: University of Arizona Stadium in Glendale. Of these two teams in the rosters of Madden NFL 2003, only one player is still on the same team today: Tom Brady of course. Shouldn’t make too big a difference.

The rest of this piece will essentially be a running diary of this game. I’ll keep you all updated on the score as well as interesting goings-on during the game. Who will win Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 edition? Let’s find out.

1st Quarter

Alexander helped Seattle to Super Bowl XL.
Alexander helped Seattle to Super Bowl XL.

15:00: Pat Summerall (RIP) helpfully points out two of the key players in the game: Patriots defensive back Lawyer Milloy and Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. Both have parallels in the actual Super Bowl: the Patriots’ defense is led by cornerback Darrelle Revis while the Seahawks’ ground game is led by Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.

15:00: The Patriots win the coin toss and elect to receive the ball to start the game. Seattle will get it to start the second half. It is raining pretty hard here in Tempe.

I think we can be pretty sure that it is not going to rain.
I think we can be pretty sure that it is not going to rain.

13:55: On 3rd down with one yard to go, Brady completes a pass to Troy Brown for the conversion. Like most Patriots wide receivers, Brown was relatively unheralded; he was an eighth-round draft pick in 1993. 6)The draft now has only seven rounds. However, he played his entire fifteen-year career for the Patriots, at times dabbling in defensive play and special teams. He is second in career receptions all-time for the Patriots.

13:05: Brady is intercepted! Seahawks safety Reggie Tongue makes the play. Not sure who Brady was throwing to here. Regardless, this is a problem 2015 Brady will have to deal with as well. Led by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, the Seahawks defense is not something to be trifled with. The Seahawks have the ball on the Patriots’ 46.

12:35: Seahawks QB Trent Dilfer throws an interception of his own on second down! Yikes. Ty Law makes the play for the Patriots.

11:58: After a nice pass on first down, Brady throws another interception, this one to Shawn Springs. Will the Super Bowl be a redux of the turnover-laden NFC Championship Game?

11:26: Ty Law puts himself in position to make another interception, but instead is only able to deflect the pass. He would have been wide open for the touchdown had he made the catch.

10:36: Patriots defensive legend Richard Seymour brings Dilfer down and Dilfer fumbles the ball. Luckily, an offensive lineman falls on it.

9:50: Seymour brings Dilfer down again and Dilfer fumbles again. This time a Patriot falls on it. Every one of the four drives so far has ended in a turnover.

7:07: Brady drives it all the way down to the Seahawks’ 4-yard line and looks poised to score when he throws his third interception of the game. This one goes to Marcus Washington, and that makes five consecutive drives to start the game all ending in turnovers. We are still at 0-0. The Seahawks regain the ball on their own 4.

5:54: “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. blares from the stands as the Seahawks drive.

5:13: The Seahawks fail to party hard enough and are forced to punt from inside their own 20. Troy Brown makes a fair catch at midfield.

3:42: We finally have a touchdown. Brady throws a 15-yard pass to Troy Brown and the Patriots go up 7-0 despite having turned the ball over three times.

0:42: A promising drive ends after a third-down pass is dropped by tight end Itula Mili. Seahawks punter Jeff Feagles tries to pin the Pats deep but the ball rolls harmlessly into the end zone.

0:12: Holy hell, another interception for Tom Brady. That makes four, and it’s a fourth different defensive player. This one is linebacker Levon Kirkland. Seattle takes over at the 36-yard line of the Patriots, which is by far their best field position so far.

2nd Quarter

14:30: On 3rd and 7, Dilfer’s pass is deflected. The Seahawks are forced to try a 50-yard field goal.

14:25: The kick is good! Rian Longwell nails it with room to spare. The score is now 7-3.

11:30: The first penalty of the game comes after a long while—a Seattle defensive player jumps offsides. I’m pretty sure there will be more penalties by this point.

11:26: On the very next play, Patriots running back Antowain Smith fumbles and Seattle defensive lineman John Randle recovers. That is the fifth turnover by the New England Patriots. Yet again they are unable to score after marching into Seattle territory.

10:53: Oh jeez. We have turnover number eight of the game. Ty Law gets his second pick. Trent Dilfer has a QB rating of 0.0. New England takes over on the Seahawks’ 25.

10:45: Turnover number nine, and interception number five for Tom Brady. He seems to be sharing the wealth: this one goes to linebacker Chad Brown. Neither team wants anything to do with the ball.

10:06: The Seahawks go three and out and punt the ball away.

9:23: A 5-yard facemask penalty puts the ball on the Seahawks 6 yard. Line. 7)All facemask penalties today are 15 yards. Brady is sacked on the next play to bring the ball back to the 10.

8:11: Brady’s third-down pass is deflected and the Pats are forced to go for the field goal. Adam Vinatieri (now the kicker for the Colts) puts the 25-yarder through. 10-3.

7:14: Trent Dilfer takes a hard hit but manages to get a beautiful pass off that is promptly dropped by the receiver. The Seahawks go three and out again.

6:50: John Madden tells us that “you can’t run without good blocking.” Thanks, John!

6:14: The Patriots fail to convert on third down for the first time all game and punt the ball away for the first time as well. It is the first Patriots drive not to end in a score or a turnover.

2:48: A long, methodical drive ends in a Seahawks touchdown by virtue of a Shaun Alexander rush. We are now tied up at 10-10.

2:11: It’s safe to say this isn’t going to happen: a sixth interception by Tom Brady to a sixth different Seahawks player, this one cornerback Ken Lucas. Can the Seahawks snag the lead before halftime? I should mention here that I have not altered Tom Brady’s ratings in any way.

1:35: Rian Longwell comes on to attempt another field goal but somehow leaves this one short even though it’s just a touch shorter than his 50-yard make earlier.

1:28: Seattle gets another shot though because Brady has now thrown his seventh interception. In the first half!! Most incredible of all is that they have all gone to different players. This one is cornerback Doug Evans. I am starting to think that perhaps putting the game on All-Madden difficulty has something to do with these countless interceptions.

1:10: As I was typing that sentence about countless interceptions, Trent Dilfer threw his third. Cornerback Otis Smith earns this one. We now sit at twelve total turnovers for the game, ten of them interceptions. Interestingly, we have a long way to go before breaking some NFL records. The record for most turnovers by a single team in a game is 12, held by three teams from games all before 1970. Turnovers by both teams is 17, reached twice in games from all before 1950. The team record for passes intercepted is nine, held by the Packers and Eagles again from games all before 190. The Seahawks are at seven.

0:00: The Patriots go into halftime hoping their turnover bug will end. Tom Brady has one name on his mind: Jim Hardy.

The pass he is throwing was likely intercepted.
The pass he is throwing was likely intercepted.

In 1950, Chicago Cardinals quarterback Jim Hardy threw eight interceptions with no touchdowns in a 45-7 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. That record of eight interceptions in one game still stands. If Brady throws one more he will tie it. Two more will break it. Some Super Bowl, huh?

Fluky: Both teams had the ball for the exact same amount of time.
Fluky: Both teams had the ball for the exact same amount of time.

Speaking of which, we are treated to a halftime show where 2003-era polygon cheerleaders gyrate to generic rock music for about ten seconds. Still better than Katy Perry, though.

3rd quarter

11:44: Not much to report so far. Seattle punted on their first drive. New England is about to punt as well. Tom Brady’s potential eighth interception was dropped by the defensive player. The New England punt is downed inside the ten. Speaking of ten, we are still tied 10-10.

7:24: Seattle’s drive is long but uneventful. Jeff Feagles punts and the ball is downed at the five-yard line.

6:33: Three and out for the Patriots. Brady manages not to throw another interception. The punt is short and the Seahawks take over in Patriots territory. Hopefully something exciting happens soon!

5:38: Well, there it is! Another interception. Otis Smith gets his second. The Patriots take over at their own 15.

4:58: Brady is sacked on third down and fumbles but the offense recovers. Regardless, they have to punt it away and the Seahawks yet again have the ball with favorable field position.

2:13: A clutch 30-yard pass on third down is caught by Koren Robinson and the Seahawks have the ball on the Patriots’ 4. Will they score or turn it over?

1:57: They’ll score! Trent Dilfer throws the TD to Darrell Jackson and the Seahawks take their first lead of the game. The score is now 17-10.

0:15: On third and one the Pats fail to convert on a draw run play. The quarter ends with a punted ball rolling just into the endzone. The Seahawks start the fourth quarter with the ball and the lead.

4th quarter

14:42: On the first play of the final quarter, Dilfer airs it out to Koren Robinson, who gets injured on the play, but not until after his catch of just over thirty yards.

14:25: Robinson is probable to return.

13:41: The big pass is all for naught as the Seahawks have to punt the ball away. However, the ball bounces out of bounds at the 4, pinning the Patriots deep in their own territory.

12:59: Jim Hardy’s spot in the record books is safe … for now. But the Patriots go three and out and a good punt return gives Seattle the ball deep in Patriots territory.

10:39: Strong running from Shaun Alexander puts the Seahawks in good position. But what the football gods giveth, they also taketh away. He fumbles and the Seahawks are fortunate to recover.

9:52: Alexander fumbles again and the Patriots are the beneficiaries this time. The Seahawks enter the redzone late in the game up by a touchdown and come away with nothing.

8:22: The Patriots fail to get anything significant done and punt it away. Brady seems to finally know what team to throw to, though.

7:47: The Seahawks also fail to get anything significant done and put it away. Brady has the ball down seven.

5:19: Unable to convert on a long third down, the Pats have to punt. The ball takes a bad bounce and yet again the Seahawks start at their own twenty. Both teams have all three timeouts.

4:40: A quick three and out is all they can muster. The ensuing punt is returned to midfield by Troy Brown. A climactic end to Super Bowl XLIX!

3:46: A diving reception from tight end Joseph Fauria results in a clutch third down conversion. The drive continues.

2:52: The next third down doesn’t end so well. The pass is deflected and the field goal team comes out for a long 54-yarder. Vinatieri has no problem with it. The score is now 17-13 in favor of the Seahawks.

2:41: Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel is called for a 15-yard facemask penalty after making a good tackle on first down. Bad time to make that mistake.

2:29: Shaun Alexander breaks a tackle and goes 29 yards. The Seahawks are now on the Patriots’ 30. We hit the two-minute warning.

1:56: A fullback run goes for one yard. Timeout #2 is called by New England. Their first had been used earlier, apparently.

1:52: Shaun Alexander gets about two more. Timeout #3. One more stop and New England will get the ball back.

1:46: The fullback nearly gets the first down but is stopped two yards short. New England waits with bated breath as the field goal team comes out.

1:08: Longwell hits the 40-yarder, making the score now 20-13. Patriots need a touchdown to tie and have just over sixty seconds and no timeouts to do so.

0:55: On the first play of the drive Brady hits Brown for 27 yards to the Seattle 34. Brady hurries his men to the line and spikes the ball to stop the clock at forty-five seconds.

0:35: Brady’s clutchness is showing. His next pass goes for 22 yards to David Patten. The Pats hurry to the 12-yard line. Brady spikes it again to stop the clock at twenty-nine seconds.

0:25: Brady tries to get to Patten again but the ball is batted down. Third down and ten from the twelve.

0:22: Holy shit! Touchdown Patriots! We have a tie game in the Super Bowl! Troy Brown becomes a hero and catches the pass for the score. Unless the Seahawks do something amazing in 22 seconds, this will be the first-ever Super Bowl to go to overtime.

0:00: The Seahawks run the ball once and let the clock run out. Overtime it is.

I should mention here that antiquated overtime rules are going to apply. Here the first score of any sort will win the game. In real life, if the team receiving the kickoff in overtime can only muster a field goal on their first possession, the other team will be given one drive to tie or win. In any other scenario, the first score will win.

Overtime

15:00: The Patriots win the toss and choose to receive.

13:46: The Patriots start off conservative with two runs but on third down they unleash a bomb that goes all the way to the Seattle 45. Remember: any score of any kind will win the game improbably for the Patriots.

12:43: For the next third down, Brady’s bomb is well off-target. The Patriots punt and down it at the five. Now, the same overtime rules apply both here and in real life. The first team to score any points of any kind wins.

11:35: Three and out for the suddenly punchless Seattle offense. The punt is fair caught by Troy Brown at midfield and the Patriots have another chance to win the game.

10:50: On 2nd and 1, Antowain Smith rushes for a first down to the Seattle 30. The Patriots are well within Vinatieri’s field goal range. However, the offense stays on the field.

10:26: Another run for Smith, who runs for two yards before getting his helmet knocked off by a hard hit. The offense stays out.

9:54: Still not taking any chances, the Pats hand it to Smith again. One yard this time.

9:31: Kevin Faulk can’t get any yards on third down and the field goal team will come out with the ball on Seattle’s 27. It will be about a forty-five yard attempt—easily within Vinatieri’s range.

9:15: The kick is good. New England wins 23-20.

Despite seven interceptions from Tom Brady, the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX. It was a bizarre game to say the least. But no matter how bad Brady played in the first half, he earned this win with a clutch touchdown drive with one minute and no timeouts. The first Super Bowl to go to overtime is won by the team that tied the score in the dying seconds.

But still, it wasn’t exactly a quarterbacking clinic. Brady completed 30 out of a whopping 61 passes for 339 yards for 2 TDs and 7 INTs. Trent Dilfer didn’t have a performance to write home about either; he went 20 for 47 for 265 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs. It wasn’t a running clinic, either. Shaun Alexander of the Seahawks rushed an astonishing 45 times, which would tie the NFL record for attempts in a single game. He got 119 yards and 1 TD. Antowain Smith of the Patriots couldn’t do much either—he had only 73 yards on 34 attempts.

The wide receivers had a good day when their quarterbacks weren’t throwing interceptions. Koren Robinson led the Seahawks with 112 yards on 5 catches. Troy Brown, however, put up a Super Bowl MVP-worthy performance. He had 11 receptions for 171 yards and 2 TDs, including the one that tied the game.

By far the most incredible statistic is that seven different Seahawks players recorded interceptions (all in the first half) and their team still lost. They seemed to use up all their big plays early in the game and they were unable to get one single stop late when it really mattered. Their run game also could have put the game away but they were just two yards shy of that last first down.

This is honestly the same type of game I could see actually happening in the actual Super Bowl. Brady and Russell Wilson make mistakes early and the game starts off slow and disjointed. Neither team really takes control. The Seahawks offense takes a late lead and the defense stops Brady, but not enough times. Brady leads a clutch drive to tie the game late and we actually have the first OT Super Bowl. Stephen Gostkowski, the Pats’ kicker, becomes just as legendary as Vinatieri when he kicks the game-winning field goal. One of the anonymous Patriots receivers goes off and wins Super Bowl MVP.

Personally, I’m pulling for the Seahawks as I still hold a grudge against the Patriots for beating my Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. But if you trust Madden NFL 2003, bet on the Patriots to win 23-20 in OT.

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won.
2. I do not count the Pro Bowl.
3. I had to fit at least one reference in here.
4. The latter four are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lewis becomes eligible for induction in 2017 and is a surefire first ballot inductee.
5. Then: Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Now: University of Arizona Stadium in Glendale.
6. The draft now has only seven rounds.
7. All facemask penalties today are 15 yards.

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