Should NFL football be played every Thursday night? Today’s Madden simulation gave us the definitive answer.

No, absolutely not. This simulation features perhaps the worst game of virtual football ever played. The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Nashville to “play” — I use the term loosely — the Titans.

Would the Steelers maintain the momentum gained from their last-second win over the Eagles last Sunday? Could the Titans pull off one of the bigger upsets thus far in the young season? Would Matt Hasselbeck make use of his new lease on life thanks to Jake Locker’s injury? The answers seem obvious, but as with any game of Madden, you just never know.

The first quarter foreshadowed things to come. Let’s detail the carnage.

First Half Notes

  • Papa John’s is attempting to infiltrate every facet of my life. Reality, fantasy — it doesn’t matter. I’ve never hated someone’s father this much.
  • Via Sean Tomlinson: “virtual Phil Simms’ cliches are way more tolerable than those from real Phil Simms.” Scary Pixelated face aside, I have to agree.
  • The first pass of the game came with two minutes left in the first quarter. Mike Munchak’s play calling was awful. Chris Johnson ran the ball on a 3rd and 12 for no gain. Madden really does mimic real life.
  • Nate Washington came back to haunt his former team with a huge 48-yard grab early in the second quarter. With their best field position of the game, the Titans proceeded to run the ball with no success. Chris Johnson’s line — eight rushes for one yard. I should ask Madden for some stock advice at halftime*.
  • Rob Bironas put the Titans ahead with a 38-yard field goal. 3-0. Make plans for Thursday night that don’t involve this game.
  • With two minutes left in the half the Steelers offense finally came to life. Ben Roethlisberger completed five passes — three to Antonio Brown — to get his team inside the five-yard line. Some hilariously inept clock management nearly killed the drive. Big Ben averted disaster with a touchdown strike to Mike Wallace, burning Jason McCourty in the process.
  • 7-3 Steelers at the half. Eight combined first downs and virtual Roethlisberger celebrating way to much as he walked to the locker room. What a terrible half.

Second Half Notes

  •  After pouring my savings accounts into EA stocks* — I trusted too much — and ordering some Papa John’s, I was ready to give up on this game. Thankfully the second half began with a bang. Big plays from Rashard Mendenhall and an excellent grab by Wallace put the Steelers in line for a field goal attempt. A false start on the ensuing kick ruined the dream. Punt.
  • Johnson proceeded to fumble deep in his own territory, setting up the Steelers for a shot at redemption. Alas, a field goal was the best they could do. 10-3. 15 minutes remaining. Good god.
  • Hasselbeck nearly had Jared Cook killed with a suicide pass over the middle.
  • Down by a touchdown with under five minutes to play, the Titans ran the ball on 2nd and 22. Fuck you virtual Munchak. Somewhere Chan Gailey is furiously taking notes.
  • The Steelers were home free. With under two minutes left they had the ball at midfield, and they could have kneeled and ended this catastrophe of a game. They didn’t. Instead they inexplicably kept throwing, and throwing deep, and throwing all the time on nearly every play. Emmanuel Sanders had a 40-yard touchdown grab, and Hasselbeck followed that up with an interception. Then more absurd throwing, and a 30-yard TD run by Mendenhall. More action happened in last two minutes than the entire game.
  • Final Score: Pittsburgh 24 – Tennessee 3

 Final Stats

Steelers Titans
Total Offense  258  88
Rush Yards 100 34
Pass Yards 158 54
First Downs 11 5
Turnovers 0 3
3rd down conversion % 45% 30%
4th down conversions 0/0 0/1



Ben Roethlisberger: 13 for 19, 188 yards, 2 TDs

Matt Hasselbeck: 5 for 12, 70 yards, 2 Ints


Chris Johnson: 21 carries for 32 yards

Rashard Mendenhall: 30 carries for 92 yards, 1 TD


Mike Wallace: 5 receptions for 81 yards, 1 TD

Antonio Brown: 3 receptions for 41 yards

Emmanuel Sanders: 2 receptions for 47 yards, 1 TD

Nate Washington: 2 receptions for 55 yards

Jared Cook Jr. 2 receptions for 14 yards

Ogletree of the game: Mike Wallace

Final Thoughts

Virtual Mike Munchak is the worst coach in the history of virtual sport. Watching this game was a test of my character. I’m not pleased with what I found.

Three things I learned from this simulation:

1. Superliminal advertising works. Papa John’s for life.

2. Running on 2nd and 22 when down by a touchdown late in the game is something people do.

3. Kneeling ain’t cool.