Thanks to Yip, Lucard, and Chambers for lessening my insecurities in regard to the concept of this column. I thought it was a dumb idea at first; everyone else thought it was gold. So thanks for the reassurance and, of course, keep ’em coming.
That said, a little more about the purpose of all of this. The final scores and stats that the game predicts don’t interest me nearly as much as the little things. See, the goal here is that if, in the simulated game, the Jets go for seven straight pass plays and come Sunday, the announcer says something like “The Jets are fearing that run-stopping Raiders defense right now”, you might think back to this column and say “Wow, the game was right! They couldn’t run the ball in the simulated NFL 2K3 game, either!”
As your friends fawn over your vast football expertise in this scenario, you come to this realization – that video games are more real than they’ve ever been. Playing some of these games today, you might be convinced that it’s real life. You can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want, and you can fulfill dreams you’ll never accomplish. You can even play in the NFL and face an opponent who functions in every way like the real thing.
Onto Sunday’s games.
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa
Temperature: 55 degrees
Precipitation: Light Rain
Tampa Bay showed the explosiveness in its passing game just moments after receiving the opening kickoff. A Brad Johnson pass to Keenan McCardell for 42 yards put the Bucs into scoring range, driving down to the five-yard line. From there, Johnson threw to a wide-open Ken Dilger in the end zone to put Tampa Bay up 7-0. This was followed up by an almost identical drive by the 49ers. Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens hooked up on a 45-yard pass play, which helped to set up a Jose Cortez field goal to get San Francisco on the board.
Tampa then tried to incorporate the run into its offensive attack. However, it was not very effective in the early stages. Electing to run on 3rd and 6 instead of pass, the drive stalled and settled for a 51-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica. The half ended with the score 10-3 in favor of the home Buccaneers.
Jeff Garcia completed all four passes he threw in the first half, but the streak was ended when Brian Kelly picked him off, returning it 21 yards to the San Francisco 14. 34 seconds later, Johnson threw a thirteen-yard TD strike to Joe Jurevicius to make it a two-score game.
After a 49ers three-and-out, the Bucs got the ball back just in time for its ground game to start clicking. The backfield combination of Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott ground out a 10-play, 32-yard drive that took 4:07 off the clock, culminating in another Gramatica field goal. San Francisco, though, would not say die, charging downfield. Terrell Owens caught three passes on the drive; however, the Niners had to settle for a 27-yarder from Cortez. An attempted onside kick was recovered by Tampa Bay, who ran out the clock to seal the 20-6 victory.
San Francisco 6
Tampa Bay 20
Garcia (SF) 11/19, 181 yards, 1 INT
Johnson (TB) 8/10, 131 yards, 2 TD
Hearst (SF) 10-8
Pittman (TB) 13-49
Owens (SF) 6-131
McCardell (TB) 3-82
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders
at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland
Temperature: 60 degrees
Precipitation: Light Rain
The Raiders, much to the surprise of football fans everywhere, came out running the ball. The plan, though, did not work, resulting in a punt. On the Jets’ ensuing series, quarterback Chad Pennington looked a bit off, as he did most of the day. The pressure of playing a playoff game in Oakland, along with the Raiders’ constant pressure, rattled the confidence of the young QB. Before making a completion, he threw an interception to Oakland’s Philip Buchanon, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.
Shockingly, that would be the only score of the first half. The Raiders charged down the field in the closing seconds, but a clutch goal line stand by the New York defense ensured that Oakland would not even be able to get off a field goal attempt in time. Despite the close score, though, the Raiders were clearly the better team on both sides of the ball, with the Jets collecting only one yard rushing and one first down.
The Raiders increased their lead to ten on a Sebastian Janikowski 17-yard field goal. Buoyed by a 44-yard pass from Rich Gannon to Jerry Rice and a 19-yard run by Charlie Garner to get to the Jets 3, Oakland looked prime to get into the end zone. However, they were again unable to convert in the red zone, as the Jets stopped Oakland on three consecutive tries from the 3.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets continued to flounder. Apparently lacking confidence in their running game due to the intimidating Oakland front four, New York took to the air. Much like their first series, though, the drive was stopped by an interception, this time by Charles Woodson. This pick set up a 26-yard Janikowski field goal, which made the Raider lead 13-0. More importantly, though, the 30-yard drive took up three minutes of the clock.
The Jets finally got their heads in the game after a 32-yard Chad Morton kickoff return. Taking the ball with 1:45 left and only one timeout, Pennington ran the two-minute drill to perfection. Pennington found Anthony Becht 22 yards downfield in the end zone from away with 56 seconds remaining to get within a touchdown. New York then went for the onside kick, which the Raiders recovered to end the game.
Pennington (NYJ) 11/19, 129 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack
Gannon (OAK) 7/12, 103 yards
Martin (NYJ) 3-3
Garner (OAK) 15-66
Chrebet (NYJ) 5-46
Rice (OAK) 3-83
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Charles Woodson, Oakland Raiders (1 INT, 3 tackles, 1 pass defensed)
As a diehard Jets fan, here’s hoping that the game was wrong about this one. My predictions, though, are as follows, with pro-Jets bias severely intact:
Tampa Bay 28, San Francisco 14
New York 21, Oakland 20
Thanks for reading. See you next week for the Conference Championship games. Go Jets!!