Fantastic Football: The Kansas City Shuffle (Week 4)

Welcome back to Fantastic Football, my ongoing Let’s Play of Madden NFL 2002 on the PlayStation 2. Last time, I helped the Las Vegas Vandals do a terrible thing to the Green Bay Packers, and witnessed what may have been an on-field assassination attempt. This week, the Vandals return to Sin City to face down the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, in order to make them not-undefeated… that is to say, defeated.

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Looking at how Madden rates this matchup, I would say the Vandals are in for a much easier time, although I said that last week about the Packers and look what happened. Unlike the Packers, however, the Chiefs do not appear to have much in the way of offense — certainly nothing like star running back Curtis Martin. And a few more trades and tweaks to the Vandals roster after week 3 have increased the strength of the defense a little bit more, although it doesn’t appear to have shown up in Madden’s assessment.

The Chiefs have had a good run, but they’re about to learn they’re not in Kansas anymore.

(Given that there have been some roster changes, I’ve gone ahead and posted the latest version of the roster/depth chart here.)

THE GAME

The Vandals win the coin toss, and choose to receive the football. The sooner they can get points on the board, the better.

As usual, Tremain Mack receives the kickoff. He runs it up to the 25 before going down, and that’s where Peyton leads the offense onto the field, accompanied by a chorus of cheers from the stadium. The first play from scrimmage ends in a 6 yard sack, which seems like an ill omen. Coach Hugh Mann adjusts the play calling to keep tight end Tony Gonzalez on the line to help cover Peyton.

It works, and the Vandals quickly gain ground, but an incomplete pass and a sack on third down end up bringing the drive to an end at the Chief’s 40. The Vandals punt it away, and now we get to see what the boys from Kansas City are packing.

The Chiefs start their drive at the 20. Using a fairly even mix of rushing and passing, Steve McNair steers the Chiefs downfield for 52 yards over the course of 11 plays before the Vandals finally stop them at the 26. The Chiefs are forced to make a 31 yard field goal attempt on 4th and 13. It’s good, and the Chiefs put up a 3 on the board.

The ensuing Vandals drive starts at the 20 after a touchback, and completely fails to go anywhere due to a series of successful but far-too-short passes by Peyton and his receiving corps. The Vandals punt the ball back from the 26.

The Chiefs get the ball at the 44, and the Vandals are determined not to let them move from there. The Vandals succeed in holding the Chiefs to 4th and 4, forcing them to punt the ball from the 50-yard-line. The punt bounces out the back of the end zone, and the Vandals take the field at the 20.

Peyton goes easy on the passing this time, giving the ball to Garner and Alstott about as much as he throws it to Tony and Sharpe. Over the next 13 plays, the Vandals move 76 yards down the field, ending in a 14 yard touchdown pass to Sharpe.

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As usual, Matt Stover comes on to boot the extra point, bringing the score to 7-3.

After the kickoff, the Chiefs start their next drive from the 23. Although McNair panics on 2nd down and attempts to run the ball himself, losing 3 yards, the Chiefs manage to convert on their first 3rd down, due in part to an offsides penalty against the Vandals. Despite this, the Vandals manage to keep the Chiefs pinned in the backfield, forcing them to punt on 4th and 4 at their own 43.

The Vandals start their own drive from their 45, and immediately kick it off with a ten yard pass to Tony Gonzalez for a first down. That’s followed up by a 26 yard pass to Shannon Sharpe, which is followed by the end of the quarter. After the teams switch sides, the Vandals are at the Chiefs’ 40. After a few more passes and some rushes, Mike Alstott runs it into the end zone for a touchdown. Stover makes the point, and the score is now 14-3.

Following the kickoff, the Chiefs spot the ball at the 29. The Vandals pin them in place, forcing them to punt on 4th and 5 at the 34.

And now we finally see the power of a complementary offense and defense — the Vandals defense minimizes the time of possession for the Chiefs, giving Peyton and his receivers even more time to run-up the score. After 4 weeks and many tweaks to the roster, head coach Hugh Mann has finally gotten the entire thing running like a well-tuned machine. A machine that plays football.

It takes the Vandals 3 plays and exactly 56 seconds to score another touchdown. The football machine is performing perfectly. Stover makes the point, and the score ticks up to 21-3.

The Chiefs get the ball back at their 24, and that’s where it will stay if the yellow wall has anything to say about it. McNair throws a deep pass on 3rd down, and succeeds in moving the line of scrimmage up to the 50-yard-line. The Vandals hold them here, and the Chiefs are forced to punt from the 46 on 4th and 5.

The punt sails out of bounds, spotting the Vandals on their own 27. Peyton hands the ball off to Garner, who runs with it to the first down line, but a holding penalty knocks them back to the 19-yard-line. The Vandals continue on, undiscouraged, and a 19 yard pass to Gonzalez is all they need for another first down.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to point out that, at this point into the game, with about 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Peyton Manning’s single-game passer rating for this game is 142.1. Yes, the passer rating that caps out at 158.3. That one. Dude has just been on fire tonight, and while I don’t expect his 80% completion rate to hold, it is an incredibly dominating performance.

Soon, the Vandals are sitting at 4th and inches on the 49. Hugh Mann calls for a direct snap to Lamar Smith, who manages to get across the 1st down line, but an offensive holding penalty sets the Vandals back to 4th and 8 on the 41. Left with little other choice, they punt the ball back. The Chiefs’ returner calls for a fair catch, and they get the ball on their 21.

The Chiefs manage to press down the field, ending in a touchdown after a 33 yard pass from McNair to Wesley Walls that Walls manages to run the remaining 20 yards into the end zone, despite three different attempts by Vandals defenders to tackle him. After the extra point clears, the score is 21-10.

Mack takes the kickoff return, and runs it up to the 29 before going down. The Vandals fly up the field before getting stopped at the Chiefs’ 33. On 4th and 1, Hugh Mann orders another direct snap to the running back. Smith manages to gain enough yards to convert, and this time, there’s no penalty to set the Vandals back. They continue their drive, reaching 4th and 1 on the Chiefs’ 4. Hugh Mann orders a fake field goal run, reasoning that the worst that can happen is that the Chiefs get the ball back in their own red zone.

The Chiefs are ready for the ploy, and they end up getting the ball back on their own 7. The Chiefs don’t even get the ball out of their red zone, punting it away on 4th and 6 from their own 12. Mack takes the ball and gets it to the 50 before being brought down.

The drives gets stopped at 4th and 1 on the goal line again. This time, Hugh Mann tells them to not even bother with the ploy, and just lines the offense up in an I formation. Garner manages to punch through the defensive line to score the touchdown, and after Stover boots in the extra point, the score is 28 to 10.

The wind blows the kickoff out of bounds, leading to a penalty against the Vandals and the Chiefs getting the ball on their own 40. With 50 seconds left in the half, the Vandals just have to stall the Chiefs until the clock runs out. They do, and the half ends with the score at 28-10.

The Chiefs get the ball at the start of the half. Or they would, if their kickoff returner didn’t fumble the ball. Jason Fisk (#97), dives on it, and the Vandals get the ball at the Chiefs’ 24. After a pass to Tony gets the ball to the 1, Garner runs it in for a touchdown. Stover comes on to kick the extra point, and the score leaps up to 35-10.

This time, the Chiefs hold onto the ball, starting their drive at the 29. The Vandals’ yellow wall holds, and the Chiefs are forced to punt on 4th down. The Vandals get the ball back on their 39.

The Vandals press down the field, lead by Peyton’s high flying offense. They make it to 3rd and goal, but a lucky sack by the Chiefs puts them on 4th and 12 at the 13. Hugh Mann tells Stover to take the field goal. It clears easily, and the score is 38-10.

The kickoff ends in a touchback, starting the Chiefs at the 20. Despite heavy opposition from the Vandals’ defense, McNair starts hitting his targets, and the Chiefs manage to score another touchdown. After the extra point, the score is 38-17.

After the kickoff, the Vandals start their next drive from the 29. It does not go well.

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Question: Is it pass interference if you clip your hand into the receiver’s arm? Apparently not, because no flags are thrown, and the pass is ruled incomplete. The Vandals are forced to punt on 4th down from their own 29.

Despite the wind, it’s a long punt, and the Chiefs end up beginning their next drive at their own 26. McNair seems to have perfected the art of the fast, short pass, and uses it to great effect to carry the Chiefs up the field. But despite their inability to keep McNair from hitting his targets at short range, the Vandals defense do have their moments, like this amazing leaping deflection at the goal line by Dexter McCleon (#21).

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I have the strangest suspicion that McCleon would be excellent at ballet.

With McCleon’s mad jumps, the Vandals manage to force the Chiefs onto 4th and 10 at the 30-yard-line. The Chiefs line up to attempt the field goal, but it sails wide right. The score remains at 38-17. The Vandals get the ball at their own 37.

On the first play from scrimmage, Peyton hits a 30 yard pass to Tony, who just… walks right through 4 tacklers. Not literally through them, but they just don’t seem to be able to bring him down until he gets to the 22-yard-line, despite him only moving forwards at walking speed. I’m not sure what the game thought it was doing there, but it looked hilarious.

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Madden giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other, for this happens on the next play.

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Peyton, how do you expect to maintain a passer rating of 140 when you keep throwing interceptions like that? Not good, my dude.

Because Charles Woodson went down in the end zone, the Chiefs get the ball at their own 20. The Vandals aren’t having any of it though, and the Chiefs only manage to pickup 5 yards, being forced to punt on 4th and 5. The wind carries the ball out of bounds, and the Vandals get it at the 50.

I feel like I should clarify at this point that the wind in Goodman Field is about 15 mph so far today, with certain gusts reaching as high as 20. It is blowing almost completely perpendicular to the field, and it has ruined everything.

Despite their excellent field position, the Vandals are unable to advance very far down the field, ending their drive with a punt from the Chiefs’ 40. It lands in the end zone, resulting in a touchback and spotting the Chiefs at their 20.

The Chiefs end up punting it back from the 30, and once again it flies out of bounds. The Vandals get the ball at their own 48. This time, the Vandals’ drive ends in a touchdown, with an 11 yard pass from Peyton to Tony capping it off.

Hugh Mann now plans to do something unusual and probably unethical, but after last week’s assassination attempt, he probably doesn’t care too much that. He has noticed that all of the Vandals’ games so far have ended with scores that have never been seen before in the NFL, and wants to see how long they can continue the streak. It will be 15 years before Jon Bois coins the term scorigami, but the Vandals are about to attempt it intentionally. Hugh Mann orders the Vandals to go for 2.

It fails, and with it, Hugh Mann’s dream of making a scorigami, at least for now. The score is 44-17.

The Chiefs get the kickoff to the 25 to start their next drive. It does not go well for them.

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Although McNair manages to successfully duck under this attempted sack by Roye, he ends up going down on this play anyways, putting the Chiefs on 3rd and 15. A 10 yard pass on the next play isn’t enough to get them a first down, and the Chiefs punt the ball back from their own 30. The Vandals get the ball back at their 48.

You all know how this goes. The Vandals fly down the field, propelled by Peyton’s passing power, ending the drive in a touchdown. There aren’t any immediately apparent scorigami opportunities, so Hugh Mann has Stover kick the point in. It’s good, and the score jumps up to 51-17.

The Chiefs get the ball at their 20. With only 17 minutes left in the game, they must realize now that they have no hope of winning, but still they line-up for another futile offensive drive. I wonder if the Vandals feel pity for them, or merely contempt.

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Whatever the Vandals might have been feeling, now it’s likely rage. McNair hauls off a deep pass to Raghib Ismail, who sprints into the end zone for a touchdown. The Chiefs, unlike Hugh Mann, do not care for or about scorigami, and content themselves with kicking in the extra point to bring the score to 51-24.

Another kickoff, another touchback. Another failure of the flying offense to go anywhere. Another punt on 4th down. The Chiefs manage to return the punt all the way up to the 38, putting them in excellent position for another scoring drive. The quarter ends with the Chiefs at 2nd and 12 on the 30.

Two plays later, they score another touchdown, and suddenly the prospect of a Chiefs comeback doesn’t look so futile. After the extra point, the score is 51-31.

But hey, at least that one is scorigami!

After a rapid drive down the field, the Vandals score again after Alstott runs it in 3 yards for a touchdown. Stover comes on and kicks the extra point… and misses wide right. The score is 57-31, and that is NOT scorigami.

The Chiefs start their next drive from the 25. McNair seems to have taken a page out of Peyton’s book, because not only does he start throwing deep to try and move the Chiefs up the field, he also does this:

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Thanks for the ball, loser.

It doesn’t do the Vandals any good though, because the Chiefs force them to punt soon after on 4th and 17. The Chiefs get the ball back at the 50, having lost nothing, and in fact even gaining a few yards. They score another touchdown, boot in the extra point, and bring the score to 57-38.

Hugh Mann has had enough. He tells Peyton that they need to start trying to kill the clock, even if it means missing scoring opportunities. They are going to end the Chiefs’ attempt at a comeback right here and right now.

They manage to kill 3 minutes off the clock before being forced to punt, leaving the Chiefs at their own 29 with 8:17 left in the game.

Something has gone seriously wrong with the Vandals’ defense, and it might just be the fact that the Chiefs are using their own offensive strategy against them. In the space of a minute and a half, McNair throws the Chiefs downfield for another touchdown. The extra point is good, and the score is 57-45.

Just as their defense seems to be collapsing in the face of the Chiefs’ offense, so is the Vandals’ offense flailing against their defense. Peyton barely has the ball for a minute before the Vandals are forced to punt on 4th and 15, giving the Chiefs the ball back at the Vandals’ 44.

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Ismail makes an amazing one-handed catch and runs the ball in for a touchdown. After the extra point, the score is 57-52, with 5 minutes left in the game. Hugh Mann begins to sweat.

The Vandals start their next drive from the 23, and end it in the Chiefs’ end zone. The flying offense might not always work, but when it does, it works spectacularly. After the extra point, the score is at 64-52.

After a touchback, the Chiefs start their next — and hopefully final — drive on the 20. The yellow wall holds this time, and the Chiefs are forced onto 4th and 15 at the 15. The Chiefs punt it back, and the Vandals get the ball on the 50 with 2:56 left in the game. Hugh Mann tells Peyton to kill the clock.

Actually, his specific words are to assassinate the clock, but Peyton gets what he means.

The Vandals run the ball forwards until they reach 4th and 1 at the Chiefs’ 19. With 1:55 on the clock, Hugh Mann orders a fake field goal run, hoping to pick up a first down and kill more time.  It fails, but the Chiefs only get the ball at their own 22, and they only have 1 timeout left. Down at least two touchdowns, they cannot possibly make a comeback at this point.

Right?

The Chiefs push downfield towards the end zone, spiking the ball when they need to stop the clock. They get to the 15 yard line, and the Vandals manage to hold them to 4th and inches. With 50 seconds left in the game, the Chiefs go for it.

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The Vandals get the ball back at their own 15.

Peyton takes a knee to run out the clock.

The Vandals win, 64 to 52.

And that, my friends, is a scorigami.

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