Inside Pulse 12

The Box Score: Saturday’s NFL Playoff Games!

Teaser: Can NFL 2K3 accurately predict the NFL playoff games this weekend?

Santana Moss came into his rookie season with the New York Jets a feared player. He’d had quite a history at the University of Miami, but that’s not how he built his reputation as an NFL player. It wasn’t by playing in the NFL either – he was hurt for most of the season. So how, you ask, did he manage to become such a feared player?

Video games.

See, when EA says “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game”, they mean it. NFL players swear by Madden 2003 and Sega Sports’ NFL 2K3. Playing the game, these players saw the skill of Moss. And sure enough, in 2002 he set a modern NFL record for punt return average.

With the NFL playoffs in full swing, football fever has hit America. There are four games this weekend. Can a video game give us any insight into these matchups?

Let’s find out.

Using the Playstation 2 version of NFL 2K3, I have simulated all of this weekend’s games, with roster changes and weather as they will be seen on Saturday and Sunday. Games were played with five minute quarters, on Pro difficulty level, with full penalties.

Here are the games that will be played on Saturday.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

at The Coliseum in Tennesee

Time: Day

Weather: 60 degrees

Pittsburgh won the coin toss and elected to receive. It was a wise choice. Sparked by two runs of twenty or more yards by Jerome Bettis, the Steelers struck first on a nineteen-yard TD run by The Bus. However, the Titans came right back with a rushing touchdown of their own, scored by Eddie George from the one yard line.

On their next possession, the Steelers took the lead back on a 36-yard Todd Peterson field goal, thanks in large part to a 13 yard completion from Tommy Maddox to Plaxico Burress on 3rd and 9. Jerome Bettis also cashed in on a 41-yard screen pass from Maddox on the drive. At the half, it was 10-7 Pittsburgh.

Tennessee began the second half by exploiting the Steelers’ weak run defense. The 10 play, 77 yard drive featured Eddie George running for four first downs and running in a touchdown from five yards out to give the Titans a 14-10 lead. But Pittsburgh was not done yet. A 42-yard strike from Maddox to Burress put the Steelers’ heads back into the game, and a potentially costly fumble by Maddox was recovered by Pittsburgh, setting up a Peterson 29 yarder.

After running down a significant portion of the clock, Tennessee was faced with a long third down. Steve McNair attempted to thread the needle, but was intercepted by Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior on the Titans’ 32 yard line. However, the Steelers’ poor clock management meant that they would not have a chance to win the game, giving Tennessee the 14-13 win.

FINAL SCORE

Pittsburgh 13

Tennessee 14

QB SUMMARY

Maddox (PIT) 7/11, 126 yards

McNair (TEN) 10/13, 110 yards, 1 INT

RB SUMMARY

Bettis (PIT) 14-101, 1 TD

George (TEN) 11-78, 2 TD

WR SUMMARY

Burress (PIT) 4-76

Mason (TEN) 6-75

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Eddie George, Tennessee Titans

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia

Time: Night

Temperature: 35

Philadelphia got the ball first and set the tempo from the very start. On the game’s second play, Duce Staley broke off a 52-yard run up the middle, establishing the ground game and taking the wind out of Atlanta’s sails. The Eagles marched down the field, taking only 2:11 to go 79 yards, culminating in Donovan McNabb’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Chad Lewis.

Atlanta then had their first possession of the game, which ended in its early stages when Michael Vick threw an interception to Shawn Barber. Starting their drive from the Atlanta 36, the Eagles moved the chains on a 20-yard Chad Lewis catch on 3rd and 14. From there, David Akers kicked a 20-yard chipshot on the first play of the second quarter.

The McNabb-to-Lewis combination struck again before the first half was complete, this time on a 28-yard pass play. However, this drive was not all pleasant for Philadelphia. Running back Duce Staley, who had been on pace for a career game against Atlanta’s pitiful run-stopping defense, was injured and was forced to stay on the sidelines for the remainder of the game. Backup Correll Buckhalter was not nearly as effective. Nevertheless, the Eagles led 17-0 at halftime. The defense had more than done its job, holding the Falcons to -5 yards rushing and Michael Vick to only 16 yards passing.

Atlanta’s fortunes would change, as they began the second half with a lengthy drive with running back Warrick Dunn finally breaking loose. His efforts, including a twenty-yard run, set up a 48-yard Jay Feely field goal. Soon after, though, they would lose the services of wide receiver Brian Finneran to injury.

Feely’s field goal gave Atlanta new life, no longer reeling from Philadelphia’s fast start. Allen Rossum intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass at the Philadelphia 28. Despite this, the Falcons could not cash in. After going no-huddle for a few plays, a Vick incompletion on 4th and 10 stalled the Atlanta drive. The Falcons were given one last chance with 1:34 left, but turned the ball over on downs in similar fashion.

FINAL SCORE

Atlanta 3

Philadelphia 17

QB SUMMARY

Vick (ATL) 5/13, 31 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack

McNabb (PHI) 7/12, 92 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

RB SUMMARY

Dunn (ATL) 12-47

Staley (PHI) 9-83

WR SUMMARY

Jefferson (ATL) 3-27

Lewis (PHI) 4-57, 2 TD

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Chad Lewis, Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday’s games will appear in the next edition of The Box Score. My personal predictions? Tennesee over Pittsburgh, 24-21, and Philadelphia over Atlanta, 34-21. Thanks for reading.