For the second fan vote with STAT BOX STORIES, a series of divisional games from Week 11 in the NFL were put up against one another for consideration: the Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, the Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants. For today’s entry using Madden NFL 12, the Eagles-Giants showdown from the NFC East was the near-unanimous winner. Despite an offseason where the Giants were quiet and the Eagles set the media ablaze with high-profile signings, New York has staked an early claim on the division while Philadelphia hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. With divisional rivalries like this, however, past performances usually mean very little; once the opening kickoff is booted downfield, a gridiron battle begins in earnest.
Despite all of the talent on Philadelphia’s roster, they are the lower-rated team in Madden NFL 12; as a result, I decided to take control of them entering the unfriendly confines of MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. I expected a tough test, and–as it turns out–I got exactly what I expected.
Even though I had kept “big plays” out of the equation against the CPU last week for the Saints-Falcons game, I was not so lucky early on in this week’s entry. On the second play from scrimmage for New York, Ahmad Bradshaw took an outside run 77 yards to the house for an early 7-0 lead. By comparison, I had to fight through a long drive on my way to the red zone for the chance to tie the game up on my first offensive drive. After some perseverence on long 3rd Down conversions, Ronnie Brown ran in a short touchdown to tie things up.
Before the end of the first quarter I managed to take a 10-7 lead on a 56-yard field goal conversion, but on the Giants’ next possession New York drove for another touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham to re-take the lead. When I got the ball back, Michael Vick threw an interception and that enabled the Giants to put together a long drive capped off by yet another Eli Manning touchdown pass, this time to Victor Cruz with 41 second left in the first half. Suddenly down by two possessions, I felt desperation and sought to at least drive into field goal range to get three points back before halftime. Instead, I was able to do much better; on the second play of the drive, a 60-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin streaking down the sideline brought me back within a touchdown of the Giants.
After 38 points were scored in the first half, the offenses suddenly grew quiet. With the first offensive possession of the third quarter, Michael Vick threw another interception to set up the Giants with solid field position. Fortunately, a few plays later I was able to force Eli to throw an interception in return. Each team traded punts on the next few possessions, and aside from another field goal to get within one point of the Giants there was no other scoring heading into the final quarter.
With just over four minutes left in the game I re-took the lead on the second deep touchdown pass of the game from Vick to Maclin. After the touchdown, the score sat at 26-21 and–having a healthy respect for Eli Manning late in football games–I elected to attempt a two-point conversion to make it a full 7-point lead. A short pass from Vick to Brent Celek in the flat gave me a 28-21 lead on the successful conversion.
Unfortunately, there was too much time left on the clock. Although I forced the Giants to punt at the two-minute warning, New York had all three of their timeouts remaining and I was unable to get a first down on three consecutive rushing attempts. Wih 1:35 left in the game and the ball at their own 13-yard-ine, Eli Manning’s “Clutch” trait kicked in and he orchestrated a come-from-behind drive culminating with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz to tie the game at 28 with 13 seconds remaining. My attempt to run back the final kickoff came up far short, and a final desperate Hail Mary pass to get into position for a game-winning field goal fell incomplete as time expired. Thus began the first overtime game of Madden NFL 12 for STAT BOX STORIES.
Though I won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive the ball, my opening possession was a disaster. On the second play from scrimmage, a deep pass intended for DeSean Jackson was intercepted and returned to the Giants’ 49-yard-line. Knowing that New York only had to move the ball 10 or 15 yards to get into field goal range to put the game away, I knew that it would be a tough task for my defense. On first down the Giants gained about 7 yards, and on second down they got stopped for no gain. With only a few more yards to travel to gain a first down and get in comfortable field goal position, my defensive line broke through for a huge sack back on the Giants’ side of the field to force them to punt the ball back to me. With possession back on my side of the field, it only took two plays for LeSean McCoy to break through for a 56-yard touchdown run to seal the game and take home another last-play victory over the Giants in New York.
All in all, the final offensive statistics for the two teams were nearly identical. Although kick return yards gave me an advantage in Total Yards overall, the actual offensive numbers were separated by the slimmest of margins. Each team managed to get 12 First Downs over the course of the game, and each team managed just about a 50% conversion rate on 3rd Down. The possession numbers ended up fairly even as well, with a slight nod to the Eagles in part due to extra time with the ball in the overtime period.
In the quarterback duel between Eli Manning and Michael Vick, Eli came out slightly ahead with more yards, a better completion rate, and more touchdowns with fewer interceptions. However, Vick took no sacks while Eli was taken down in the backfield on seven different plays over the course of the game; perhaps no play more important than the sack which led to the Giants’ punt in the overtime period. Ahmad Bradshawk and LeSean McCoy both finished the night with over 120 yards and touchdowns, though McCoy’s touchdown to win the game surely had a bigger impact than Bradshaw’s long run early in the game. Jeremy Maclin took home Player of the Game honors with 134 yards receiving and two touchdowns, both on long passes from Michael Vick.
After taking two losses to begin this week of STAT BOX STORIES, once again my games in NCAA Football 12 and Madden NFL 12 allowed me to square my record for the week and save some face. Tomorrow I will post the fan voting choices for next week’s NHL 12 featured game here on the blog, so be sure to come back and check that out!