Last year I started a new tradition for my bi-weekly commentary: the Hardcore Bowl. In its inauguration, the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers by a score of 39-13. Once again it is that time to see in advance who might end up the Super Bowl champs this upcoming Sunday. Before getting started with the Hardcore Bowl, I do have a couple guidelines that need to be addressed.
The 2005 Hardcore Bowl will be played on Madden 2005, Xbox version.
Quarters will run for 10 minutes, non-accelerated clock. Penalties will remain at default. The setting will be the same location of the Super Bowl: ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, FL. Weather will be clear, temperatures at 65 degrees (based on 10-day Weather Channel forecast).
The game will be played only by the AI, difficulty setting of All-Pro. I will have NO personal involvement in the final result, so Eagles and Patriots fanboys, don't send any hate mail to me.
The rosters used will be based on the most recent download from EA Sports.
The Hardcore Bowl is only played once. There are no do-overs or resets. I am not responsible for any critical injuries that occur to key players.
Philadelphia wins the toss and chooses to receive. Vinatieri kicks the ball to the PHI 9, where Reed runs it to the 24. McNabb hands off to Westbrook for no gain, then throws an incomplete pass almost picked off by Teddy Bruschi. But on 3rd down McNabb completes a 15 yard pass to Greg Lewis for the first down. On the next set of downs, McNabb pitches to Westbrook for a loss of a yard, followed by a pass to Freddie Mitchell for a short gain. It is now 3rd and 7, and another pitch to Westbrook leads to nothing, and the Eagles are forced to punt.
Johnson punts the ball to the end zone for a touchback. Tom Brady comes out to the field for his first possession: a run by Corey Dillon for a short gain. At 2nd and 9, Brady throws a pass into traffic, but falls incomplete. Third down: Brady completes a pass to Bethel Johnson for 11 yards and a first down. The ball is now at the 32, and Brady throws a misdirection to Branch but it leads to a loss of 3, then he pitches to Dillon for yet another loss. Now at 3rd and 15, Brady makes a successful pass to Branch, but is 4 yards short of the first down, and the Patriots have to punt it back to the Eagles. Fair catch is called at the 27.
McNabb returns to the field, and on 1st down he throws to Greg Lewis for a 15 yard gain and another first down. He then hands off to Westbrook for another short gain, followed by another handoff to Westbrook, but this time it goes for 6 yards. With 3rd and 3 coming up, a play fake then pass to Freddie Mitchell leads to a first down at the NE 38. McNabb pitches to Westbrook again but this time it comes out to a loss of 3. On 2nd down, Westbrook gets the ball again but it's another short gain. On 3rd and 8, McNabb passes to Josh Parry, who can't hold onto the ball, leading to 4th Down. Akers comes out for a 49 yard FG attempt, which is good. PHI-3 NE-0
Akers kicks off to the NE 11, where Bethel Johnson makes an impressive return to the 39. Brady hands off to Patrick Pass, who doesn't get any yardage, but Brady redeems himself with a 9 yard pass to David Givens. It's now 3rd and Inches at the NE 49, and Brady passes to Branch for 7 yards and a first down. The next pass falls incomplete, but the next play from the shotgun is a failed draw play to Corey Dillon for a loss of 3. At 3rd and 13, Brady's pass is deflected, leading to another 4th down and punt. Miller punts the ball, which ends up in the end zone. Touchback for the Eagles.
On McNabb's first play, his pass is incomplete, and is sacked on the next play. With a critical 3rd and 11 coming up, McNabb's pass is INTERCEPTED by Peyton Manning's best friend Ty Law, who returns it to the PHI 17.
Already in the red zone, Brady throws a screen to Branch but doesn't get anything. In fact, he loses 2 yards. Another screen pass under pressure to Dillon results in a 1 yards loss. Brady gets up wobbling, as there is something wrong with his hip, and backup Rohan Davey comes in, throwing a pass for only 2 yards, leading to 4th down. Adam Vinatieri comes in to kick a 34 yard FG attempt, and succeeds. NE-3 PHI-3
Reed returns the kickoff at the PHI 9, and returns it to the 20. On McNabb's first play, he throws an incomplete pass that almost looks like a fumble, then hands off to Westbrook who still can't get any yards. Facing a tough 3rd and 11, McNabb throws to Todd Pinkston, but is short, resulting in a punt. Johnson punts it to the NE 30, where Troy Brown calls fair catch.
Davey is still out on the field, with no word on Brady's condition, and he is sacked by Simoneau for a 6 yard loss. He then throws a pass that is almost picked off. It's not looking good for the Patriots at 3rd and 16, and from the shotgun a pass by Branch only gets to the 27. Punting time again, as the quarter ends. At 3-3, this is not the type of start I would like to see in a Super Bowl.
The Patriots punt, and Reno Mahe calls fair catch at the PHI 33. McNabb hands off to Westbrook, who gets a gain of 7, then McNabb scrambles for a first down after a gain of 6. On the next set of downs, another handoff to Westbrook for a gain of 4, followed by an incomplete pass. 3rd and 6, and it seems that McNabb loves handing off to Westbrook, because he again gets a loss of one, leading to yet another punt, which goes out of bounds at the NE 8.
Still no sign of Brady, but a handoff to Corey Dillon results in a 4 yard gain, followed by another run for no gain. 3rd and 5 coming up, and yet another handoff for a short loss. Brady is desperately needed right now, as the Patriots have to punt. Fair catch is called by Mahe, but he MUFFS the catch, and the ball is recovered by the Patriots' Rosevelt Colvin at the PHI 46.
However, there is bad news for Brady, as he is diagnosed with a hip fracture, and is out for the rest of the game. It's up to Davey now, who hands to Corey Dillon for a short loss, and then is sacked deep by Mark Simoneau for number 2. At 3rd and 18 from the gun, Davey gets a high snap but completes a long pass by Johnson for a surprise first down. The ball is now at the PHI 33, and Dillon gets another hand off for a single yard. He only has 1 total yard rushing so far. Davey throws to Branch, who is unable to catch an easy pass. 3rd and 9, and Davey passes to Brown for another first down at the 11. Dillon gets another hand off, but is able to run all the way to the 4, but on the next play Davey almost throws a pick in the end zone, a terrible pass. 3rd and 3 coming up, and another terrible pass leads to 4th down. Looks like Vinatieri is coming back in for a chip shot of 21 yards. The kick is good, which offers some satisfaction for a disappointing drive. NE-6 PHI-3
The kickoff is picked up at the line, and returned by Reed to the PHI 25. Westbrook, with another handoff, loses 3 yards. McNabb then hands off again, but once again, he gets another loss. Maybe a pass is coming next? I was right, but it's a stupidly planned screen pass which goes nowhere. Punting time YET AGAIN!
The punt is caught at the NE 46 and returned to the PHI 43. Davey throws again into traffic, but is once again lucky to have an incomplete pass, followed by yet another incomplete pass. Davey is learning quickly the pressures of playing in the Super Bowl. With 3rd and 10 coming up, he finally completes a pass to Johnson for a first down. Dillon receives yet another pitch but is stopped by Jeremiah Trotter for no gain. A poor pass turns into a shoestring catch for a gain of 8, leading to 3rd and short, which is ruined by another incomplete pass. Vinatieri comes out again for a 38 yard attempt, which again is good. NE-9 PHI-3
Vinatieri kicks off to the PHI 3, and is rushed back to the 19. Westbrook gets the ball and rushes it for a gain of 9, and then McNabb throws an incomplete pass. But on 3rd down, Westbrook barely makes it across the line for the first down. Westbrook gets another rush for 4 yards, followed by a McNabb scramble for a first down plus extra, leading to the two minute warning. Westbrook gets another handoff for a 4 yard gain, and after a hurry up offense, McNabb rushes it for a gain of 1. Still in the hurry up at 3rd and 5, McNabb throws deep, but it is caught out of bounds, leading to another punt. The punt is downed by the Eagles at the 10.
Pass gets the handoff, but only 4 yards are gained. With the clock running, another handoff to Dillon results in a big gain and a first down. The Patriots call a time out, which is puzzling considering they were running the play clock down to 3 seconds on the last play. Davey is in the shotgun, and throws to Brown for another first down, then calling their second time out.. Davey throws again, this time to Daniel Graham for a 7 yard gain. With 20 seconds left, New England calls their final time out. At 2nd and 3, Davey throws again to Branch for a big 20 yard gain, and the players line up quickly for the next play, but there is none, as the Patriots run the clock out for halftime. At least here we will not be subjected to a "wardrobe malfunction."
Akers kicks off to the NE 5, where the ball is retuned to the 26. Davey was getting hot at the end of the half, and it continues with another 19 yard pass to Branch, but on the next pass he is hit, but lucky for him it was incomplete. The following pass heads towards three Eagles, but is again incomplete. It's now 3rd and 10, and with 5 wide receivers, he throws a pass to Brown, but is a yard short. It's punting time, but what's this, they attempt a fake, but the Eagles read it perfectly, getting the ball on downs at the PHI 42.
McNabb hands off again to Westbrook, who gains 7, followed by another run for a gain of 2. At 3rd and 1, the D-line pushes the Eagles back 3 yards, leading to yet another punt, which goes out of bounds at the 12.
Lucky to not give up any points after the fake, the Patriots retake the field. Davey screens the pass to Givens, and thanks to a perfect block by Matt Light, he gets a first down. Corey Dillon gets a gain of 5 on the following run, but on the next play, a backwards screen pass is FUMBLED, and the Eagles recover.
With the ball at the 24, the Eagles take over, but the first rush results in a loss. McNabb then throws to Freddie Mitchell for a gain of 9. At 3rd and 2, Westbrook gets a solid 5 yard gain and the first down. The Eagles are finally in the red zone at the 11. Westbrook gets another run, this time gaining 8. McNabb then fakes the run, but is eventually sacked at the 13. 3rd and 12 coming up, as McNabb throws to Westbrook, but is downed by Ty Law at the 3rd, just 2 yards short of the first down. The Eagles play it conservatively and send Akers in for the 20 yard FG. The kick is good. NE-9 PHI-6
Akers kicks off to the NE 8, but there is a big return".IT GOES ALL THE WAY!!!!!! TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS! Bethel Johnson gets a 92 yard kickoff return. The extra point attempt by Vinatieri is good. NE-16 PHI-6
Reed receives the kickoff return at the PHI 2, and he makes the return to the 34. An uphill climb for McNabb now, as his first play is a completed pass to Mitchell for a first down. He then hands off to Westbrook who breaks a few tackles to get a 6 yard gain, followed by another run for only 2 yards. 3rd and 2 is upcoming, and McNabb passes again to Freddie Mitchell for another first down. The ball is now at the NE 35, and Westbrook runs it again for 4 yards, but in the next play McNabb is sacked again for 5 yards. 3rd and 9 at the 34, and McNabb throws deep to Lewis, who is downed at the 15th, but there is an injured Patriot, free safety Eugene Wilson, who is favoring his arm. McNabb throws again to Pinkston, who gets the ball to the first down line, but not quite, leading to 2nd and 1 at the 6. McNabb is sacked yet again by Warren, losing 3 yards in the process, and yet again, he is sacked, this time by Bruschi, leading to a horrendous 33 yard FG attempt. Akers makes it, but the Eagles need to get touchdowns right now. NE-16 PHI-9
The kickoff goes to the end zone, but is returned to the 38, another great return. Davey is sacked on his first play by Simoneau (his third sack), and a handoff by Corey Dillon again results in nothing. 3rd and 13 coming up, and Davey is hit as he throws, for another incomplete pass. The Patriots are going to punt, with a fair catch called at the 30.
With a chance to tie it up, McNabb hands off to Westbrook, who breaks out to the 45, another first down. He gets the ball again, but this time for no gain. In what looks like the last play of the quarter, McNabb throws to Parry for a gain of 7 yards.
3rd and 2 to start off the quarter, and Westbrook breaks it for the first down. He now has 29 carries for 79 yards. But for his 30th carry, he ends up losing 2 yards, and in the following play he loses another 2 yards. McNabb really needs to pass now, which he does, but is almost picked by Bruschi. Johnson comes out for his 7th punt, which goes to the end zone for a touchback.
Davey screens to Givens for a first down, where another key block came into play. However on the next play, Dillon is read for a loss of 2. He still gets the ball again but is stopped at the line. With 3rd and 12, Davey has to pass, which he does to Branch, barely making the first down. But on the next play, Jevon Kearse sacks Davey for a loss of 4. On the ensuing play, he passes again to Branch for another first down. The next pass is complete but only gets 3 yards. The following pass is blocked, and falls incomplete. With 3rd and 6 looking at the PHI 32, Davey throws to Brown, who gets 17 on the play and another Patriots first down. Now the Patriots are in the red zone. A pitch out to Dillon results in a 4 yard gain, but still he only has 24 net yards for the game. Dillon gets the ball again, but is pushed back 2 yards. 3rd and 8 coming up, and Davey throws yet another incomplete pass. I guess Vinatieri has to make this a two score lead, and makes a 29 yard Field Goal Attempt. NE-19 PHI-9
5:30 left to go in the game, and Vinatieri kicks it off to the PHI 8. Reed is stopped quickly at the 22. Westbrook gets a quick gain of 3, then McNebb scrambles for another 4 yards. 3rd and 2 is next, and McNabb completes a pass to Lewis for the first down. Time is dwindling now, and the Eagles need to start thinking deep. The following pass falls incomplete, but the next pass is complete for 11 yards and the first down. The ball is now at the PHI 48. Westbrook gets an 8 yard burst, then McNabb rushes it but is short by a foot. Westbrook gets a screen pass for the first down. Westbrook then gets a pitchout but is held back a few yards. A little over 3 minutes left in the game, McNabb is hit and the ball falls incomplete. 3rd and 11: McNabb throws another screen but is not even near the original line of scrimmage. They have to go for it on 4th and 11, and McNabb throws deep, but is almost picked off and the Patriots take over on downs.
With the game in hand, all New England has to do is make first downs. Dillon gets the ball for a gain of 4, but the clock is ticking away. Pass gets the ball next for 3 more yards. At 3rd and 2, Dillon is stopped before the marker, and the 2 minute warning is called. The Patriots are forced to punt, giving the Eagles one final shot to score. The punt is returned to the PHI 21.
Do or die time, as McNabb completes a pass to Pinkston, and goes into a hurry up. Another deep pass falls incomplete. McNabb then scrambles to the NE 48, and calls time out. The next play is another scramble, a long one going to the 28th. Hurry up offense called again, and McNabb throws a completion, followed by a scramble to the 19. At 3rd and 1, McNabb throws to Pinkston, who drops it. The moment of truth is here. 4th and 1 at the NE 19 with only 58 seconds left. What's this? They're kicking? The 36 yard attempt is good, but now the Eagles need an onside kick. NE-19 PHI-12
Akers preps for the onside kick, but the Patriots recover it. The game looks about over. Pass runs it, and the Eagles call their second time out. Dillon gets another run for a gain of 6. If they get the first down, the game is over, as the Eagles call their last time out. Davey takes a knee and will run the clock down to 7 seconds left before punting the ball away. The punt goes out of bounds at the PHI 5 with only 3 seconds left.
All McNabb can do now is throw a Hail Mary pass. He throws the pass which is incomplete, and the Patriots win Hardcore Bowl II with a 19-12 victory. Patriots' Defensive End Ty Warren is awarded the MVP with 6 tackles and 3 sacks.
In the end, here are how the quarterbacks turned out:
Donovan McNabb-19/34, 181 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 58.6 rating.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:
Tom Brady-7/10, 33 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 74.2 rating (left game due to hip injury)
Rohan Davey-17/29, 215 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 81.8 rating.
All in all, not the type of game I hope the Super Bowl will turn into, but at least this year it came down to the wire. I also hope that Tom Brady doesn't end up injured as well, but we'll just have to see how it turns out.