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Madden simulation: Lions top Texans in OT thriller, 37-34

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The virtual Matthew Stafford is every bit as good as the real one.

Last week’s Madden simulation was a disaster. The referees completely and entirely squandered not one, but two opportunities to make the correct call on the virtual Washington football team, and they didn’t. Twice the referees failed to enact a 10 second runoff when Washington committed back-to-back false start penalties, and, of course, Washington scored the touchdown they needed to send the game to overtime. The virtual Lions would lose in that overtime period: it wasn’t interesting at all, which was a fitting conclusion to something so heartbreaking.

The Madden sim record sits at 4-3, and while that jives with the Lions’ actual record heading into Week 8, it’s only been correct about two of the outcomes—wins against the Colts and the Eagles. Let’s see what Madden has to say about the outcome of the Lions-Texans matchup this week.

First Half

The Lions would start with the ball, and they wouldn’t waste any time utilizing a target that had missed the previous three weeks; Eric Ebron caught a pass along the Lions’ sideline for 26 yards that took the team to midfield. They also wouldn’t wait to go to Theo Riddick, another player the team has been without for a few weeks. The results wouldn’t be the same: Riddick ran for negative 4 yards on two carries, and the Lions would punt after an 8-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate III failed to make up for the lost yardage. The Texans’ opening drive would quickly go three-and-out as Brock Osweiler looked as bad as advertised. Detroit would get the ball back at their own 27-yard line, and move the ball forward in small, but effective chunks of yardage: 3 yards from Riddick, 6 yards to Marvin Jones Jr., 7 yards to Ebron. Houston’s pass rush would get to Stafford once the Lions got to midfield and Sam Martin would be brought back on for punting duties.

With just under seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Texans’ offense would get moving: Lamar Miller would rush the ball for a pair of 6-yard gains and then Osweiler found DeAndre Hopkins for a 57-yard pass and catch to take Houston down to the Lions 5-yard line. From there, Osweiler found rookie Will Fuller V for a touchdown, and the Texans jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Lions’ offense wouldn’t wait to respond. After a big pass play from Stafford to Tate for 26 yards, the Lions leaned on the run game, calling four straight run plays and getting a first down in the process. Stafford targeted Anquan Boldin to take the Lions into the red zone, and from there it was a tie game:

Houston would benefit from some more yellow laundry on their next drive, something that has cost the Lions before on Sunday; a 54-yard pass interference penalty took Houston from their own 26-yard line and into the red zone. After a 14-yard run by Miller, Alfred Blue took his first carry of the day to the house to give Houston the lead once again, 14-7. But the Lions offense wouldn’t even get a chance to respond after Andre Roberts got a hold of the ensuing kickoff:

Not to be rattled, the Houston offense responded methodically, using an almost eight minute drive to collect another seven points when Osweiler threw a 5-yard touchdown to the tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz when Antwoine Williams blew a coverage assignment. The Texans had the lead once again, and were only a few minutes away from taking that lead into the half with the prospect of starting the second half with the ball.

Taking over from their own 26-yard line, the Lions didn’t bother utilizing the ground attack: Stafford would throw the ball 10 times to the usual suspects of Jones Jr., Boldin, Roberts, Ebron and Riddick, but he also found T.J. Jones—fresh off the practice squad(?)—and Corey Fuller—still not activated from the PUP. After an incomplete pass to Ebron on third down, Matt Prater would get in on the scoring, kicking a 38-yard field goal good to cut the Houston lead to four at halftime, 21-17.

Second Half

Houston started with the ball, but their first drive of the second half was cut short due to some blunders and mental miscues after just four downs. A short punt and solid 9 yard return from Roberts gave the Lions offense good field position for their first chance to put points on the second half box score. Detroit would work their way into the red zone, but after a couple of plays for no gain, the Lions faced third-and-10 from the 16-yard line:

Prater’s extra point gave the Lions the lead again. The Texans offense would move the ball effectively against Detroit’s defense both through the air and on the ground—a common happening all game long—but would stall out after a big sack by Ezekiel Ansah. Houston would bring out Nick Novak for his first field goal attempt of the game, a 54-yard attempt that would land about 3 yards left and 8 yards short: the Lions maintained the lead for the rest of the third quarter.

Novak would redeem himself later in the fourth quarter as the Texans offense couldn’t get into the end zone after getting the ball into the red zone. A 22-yard field goal made Novak half perfect on the day, and tied the game at 24’s. Detroit’s offense would respond, or rather not respond, by going three-and-out after a couple of passes were defended by the Houston defensive backs. Three plays after getting the ball back, Houston scored in a Texas-sized way:

The Lions’ offense would stay cool and calm, just like their MVP candidate of a quarterback as they took the field down by seven points. Relying heavily on Stafford, Detroit’s offense made its way down the field by way of Tate and Roberts picking up big chunks of yardage. The unlikely heroics of Corey Fuller and Cole Wick pulled the Lions inside the Texans’ 10-yard line and let them get into the end zone by way of Anquan Boldin yet again: this time on a quick 3-yard out where Stafford hit him in stride. The game was all tied up at 31-31, but there was still four minutes left for Houston to put points on the board.

But they wouldn’t after Ansah once again came up with a huge sack on third down, pushing the Texans out of field goal range. Detroit still had time left, and all three of their timeouts to give themselves the lead for good, but they couldn’t do so as the Texans’ pass rush was able to generate some pressure and bring Stafford down on consecutive plays to end the regulation period. Another Madden simulation, another week of some free football.

Overtime

In the overtime period, the Texans won the coin toss and elected to receive the football. A seven minute drive resulted in a 33-yard field goal from Novak and Houston had the lead. All they needed was one stop, but Detroit has Matthew Stafford, and that’s a problem.

On the first play from scrimmage, Matthew Stafford took the ball from shotgun and faked an inside run to Riddick—not that the defense would have any reason to bite on the run today—and fire the ball deep down the left sideline. Marvin Jones Jr. leaped into the air against cornerback Jonathan Joseph and hauled in a 43-yard gain! After the most impressive 6-yard loss from Stafford you’ll ever see, the offense got the ball moving again: 17 yards to Fuller, 11 yards to Fuller and then a 1-yard run by Riddick to remind the defense that Detroit could run the football and to remind Detroit that they shouldn’t run the football. On second-and-goal from the Houston 6-yard line, more Stafford magic: a pass in the flats to Riddick gave the Lions the victory in overtime, 37-34.

Lions Madden sim record: 5-3

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