When I was younger and had a little more free time, I remember simulating Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. While I was sure the results wouldn’t resemble anything remotely realistic, especially with some unknown kicker named Vinatieri nailing a game-winning 46 yard kick to give the Pats their second Super Bowl victory of the decade, I couldn’t help but keep the stats from that game in the back of my head as the real game was played three days later. Much to my surprise, Adam Vinatieri, who is now a household name for his clutch kicking ability, was able to live up to the expectations set by Mr. Madden and his football video game franchise. Ever since then, I’ve made a habit of simulating the Super Bowl and comparing the results to that of the real game. Over the years, I have received some very strange results that were nowhere near the actual results, but on the whole, Madden is actually pretty close most of the time.
If you’re like us, you are shaking with excitement about the next month of NFL action. That’s right Jim Mora, it’s playoff time! And why would we only want to simulate the Super Bowl when this year represents one of the deepest playoff pools in recent memory? Well, almost (I’m looking at you Seattle). So let’s take a look at the first round games and how Madden NFL 11 thinks these games might just play out.
New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks – Saturday at 4:30pm
Played at Seattle’s Qwest Field; Saints favored by 10.5
The controversy has been swirling around the playoff inclusion of the Seattle Seahawks. The fact that they are a 7-9 team that is not only in the playoffs, but hosting the 11-5 defending champions in the first round is enough for the NFL fans to be calling for a reform of the playoff situation. So do the Seahawks stand a chance, or are they just going to make a mockery of the system they benefited so greatly from?
The first quarter started off with some great defensive stops by each team, including one by Seattle in the red zone to hold the Saints to a field goal. With 6:50 left in the first quarter, Marshawn Lynch stunned the Saints by breaking a 73 yard touchdown run to bring the game to 7-3 in favor of the Seahawks. On the next possession, Drew Brees connected with Robert Meachem for a 58 yard touchdown pass to bring the game to 10-7 Saints. With 4:10 remaining in the first quarter, Tracy Porter picked off Matt Hasselbeck and ran it back 23 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 17-7 lead. On the next drive, the Seahawks drove down the field again, only to see Matt Hasselbeck throw another interception to Tracy Porter.
For the first play of the second quarter, Drew Brees hits Devery Henderson in the endzone for a 21 yard touchdown pass to increase the Saints lead to 24-7. After another defensive stop, Drew Brees drives the Saints down the field on several short plays and hits Robert Meachem again for a 7 yard TD to make it 31-7. After another the Saints are able to score another long drive, the Seahawks are able to stop them in the red zone for a second time, but Garrett Hartley is easily able to hit the 28 yard field goal to make it 34-7. The Seahawks show signs of life by orchestrating a long drive to get them to the Saints’ 4 yard line, only to see Hasselbeck throw his third interception of the day to Jabari Greer in the Saints endzone. On the very next play, Drew Brees throws deep in an attempt to score before halftime, but is intercepted by Earl Thomas. The Seahawks go into their two-minute offense, but two back-to-back sacks by the Saints defense leads to the Seahawks decision to run out the clock to bring up halftime.
After a slow start to the third quarter, the Seahawks are able to create a long drive, only to see it stall out again. Lucky for them, Olindo Mare is able to nail a 52 yard field goal to lessen the Saints’ lead to 34-10 with 7:05 left in the third. Unfortunately the celebration on Seattle’s sidelines is short-lived as Drew Brees immediately connects with Marques Colston for a 76 yard TD to make it 41-10. The third quarter ends in fairly uneventful fashion.
At the opening of the fourth quarter, however, the Saints allow the Seahawks to gain momentum as two of the Saints’ key players, Drew Brees and Reggie Bush, lose fumbles on back to back possessions. While Bush’s fumble yields nothing for the Seahawks, Drew Brees’ lost fumble on the one yard line is returned by Kelly Jennings for a Seahawk touchdown to make it 41-17. After a lot of back and forth between the two teams, the Seahawks finally secure a long drive which results in a Justin Forsett 1 yard run for the touchdown. They fail to convert the two point conversion after Hasselbeck misses a wide-open John Carlson in the end zone. They unsuccessfully attempt an onside kick with a little more than four minutes left in the game, giving the Saints excellent field position. On that drive, the Saints can’t get anything going, but Garrett Hartley is able to hit a 48 yard field goal to make it 44-23. The Seahawks try to make something happen, but when a deep pass perfectly thrown by Matt Hasselbeck goes right throw the hands of the wide-open Ruvell Martin, the final nail seemed to be driven into this coffin. In case that wasn’t enough, however, on the next play, Hasselbeck throws his fourth pick. This time, Jabari Greer returns it for six to make it 51-23. With the game well out of reach, Hasselbeck heads back to Ruvell Martin who, this time, brings it in for a 19 yard TD to lessen the deficit and make it 51-29 with just over a minute left. The Seahawks fail on another onside kick attempt and the Saints run down the clock to win the game handily.
Editor’s Note: The games were played on the Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 11. The computer was in full control of each team for the entirety of the games. The settings were put on All-Madden with 15 minute quarters with a 20 second run-off. The latest roster update released by EA Sports was used with slight depth chart changes made to compensate for injuries not reflected in the roster update.