With the Super Bowl XLII just days away, we decided that playing out this year’s Super Bowl in our theater with Madden 2008 would be a good way to waste some time. For the game’s match up between the Patriots and the Giants, I asked senior producer Craig Lafferty if we’d be willing to take on EA football genius, Todd Howard. He reluctantly accepted, fearing that it would turn out to be a humiliating loss.
Todd, feeling pretty confident, tried to give The Claff some hope by volunteering to play as the Giants (overall rating 81) — giving Craig the top-rated Patriots (overall rating 97). Maybe it was a nice gesture, or maybe it was Todd already playing mind games.
From the onset, The Claff was going to need all the help he could get. In the game’s opening drive, Todd’s Giants punished the New England defense with Brandon Jacobs — who racked up three first-downs before grabbing a 45-yard screen pass from Eli Manning to put the G-men up 7-0.
I could already sense that Craig felt like he needed a miracle to stay in the game — and he got his wish. On a third and long play following the Giants’ first touchdown, Craig utilized the passing accuracy of Tom Brady to convert a key first-down…or did he? After the catch, his receiver fumbled the ball, setting up a red-zone scoring opportunity for Todd and the Pats. Before Todd could get a play off, I suggested to Claff that he should challenge the fumble…that it might get ruled as an incomplete pass. Upon further review, the refs decided it was a completed pass, but decided the ball only came loose after the play was over. Craig had caught a break, and instead of an easy scoring opportunity for the Giants, he was able to safely punt the ball away.
On the ensuing drive, good defense and a forced fumble had Craig back in business. Claff put together a dominant drive topped off by a 33-yard TD reception from Reche Caldwell (yes we know, he’s now on the Redskins). As I glanced over to see Todd’s reaction, I could see he was not pleased with the turn of events. With a few folks coming into the theater to check on how the game was going, Todd buckled down — sticking with his running game and efficient short-range passing. He put together a dominant drive — ending with a 1-yard TD from Robert Douglas.
Once again, things looked dismal for Claff — early in the next drive, Tom Brady continued his unexpectedly errant passing (note: Craig drops back WAAAY to far) and was intercepted by Aaron Ross — leading to another Giants score, which made the score 21-7 late in the second quarter. Near the end of the half, however, Craig put together a solid drive that put the Pats in the red zone with less than a minute remaining. Things were looking good when Laurence Maroney broke a few tackles and pushed his way towards the end zone, but Todd managed to force a fumble before the ball crossed the goal line. Luckily for Craig, with the game’s replay officials in his back pocket, the fumble was reversed — giving Claff the ball at the 1-yard line with the clock moving under 20 seconds. Of course, Claff didn’t realize this. When I mentioned to him that he needed to watch the clock (much to Todd’s dismay), he got a bit flustered. After a QB sack and a poor decision not to kick a last-second field goal, Claff and the Patriots found themselves down 21-7 at halftime.
At the start of the second half, Todd put together another dominant drive — moving the ball 80 yards and burning off four minutes of clock (that’s a big chunk when you’re playing 5-minute quarters). Still, Claff nearly stopped Todd in the red zone. But on 3rd and 13, Todd hit Jeremy Shockey for an 18-yard TD — a play I predicted aloud seconds before the snap. Todd and the Giants now had an insurmountable lead of 28-7 as the game moved to the final quarter.
In the fourth, Todd talked a little smack and had every intention of running up the score, but the Patriots’ defense came to play — only allowing a field goal in the final stanza. The Pats’ offense remained anemic though, simply throwing the ball downfield into double and sometimes triple coverage. It’s worth nothing standout receiver Randy Moss only managed one reception in the game.
In the end, Todd came out victorious, winning 31-7. The game’s MVP was Eli Manning (go ahead Eli, CELEBRATE!), who ended the game throwing 10-15 for 153 yards with 2 touchdowns. A humble winner, Todd declined a Gatorade shower and a special trophy presentation. As for Claff, he blamed the loss on Jessica Simpson.
So Giants fans, remember, anything’s possible come Sunday. That said, Todd’s performance is eerily reminiscent of the Michigan-Notre Dame game he played against me last year. Despite his dominance in NCAA 2008, the Flimsy Irish didn’t stand a chance against my alma mater in real life. With this in mind, Patriots fans should feel pretty good about their chances.