We simulated the Patriots/Rams Super Bowl in Madden 19 100 times — here's what happened
Can Madden accurately predict who will win the big game?
With Super Bowl 53 on the docket this Sunday, we thought it'd be interesting to see if we can predict who will win the big game and take home the Lombardi trophy. It's Tom Brady and the New England Patriots versus Jared Goff and the Rams.
The sports fans in our office certainly have their own opinions (or biases), and we're sure millions of sports fans out there will be debating this hot matchup right up until cleats dig into the turf inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
And while Vegas will certainly have its say about who's going to be crowned the victor (spoiler: it's the Patriots), we have a pretty interesting prediction of our own to share. I fired up Madden 19 and simulated Super Bowl 53 100 times. Yes, I'm crazy, but I wanted to see if Madden is truly realistic enough to predict the winner of the Super Bowl.
Step onto the gridiron
Madden 19 delivers the deepest gameplay the series has ever offered. With real player motion and much-improved AI, it'll be like you're at the big game watching it for yourself.
I even went a step further and recorded the full box score stats and stats for some of the star players on each team, all averaged out to give us our final tallies.
While most others who have done this experiment tend to simulate one game in full, I decided to take it a step further and add 99 more. I used Madden 19's supersim feature, which lets you sort out the results of a matchup in under a minute to simulate those games.
I set the quarter length to 15 minutes as per the official NFL rulebook and used the accelerated clock feature to run the play clock down to 15 seconds after each huddle break.
One little quirk I made sure to include: the New England Patriots' tendency to kick the ball off when they win the coin toss (even though they don't always do that in the playoffs). I set that team's preference to always kick off, while the Rams were left on default.
Other than that, I made sure my rosters were updated and accurate, then I signaled for kickoff. Everything was done on an Xbox One X.
Full game summary
Here's a full summary of everything that happened in the contest. It's some heavy reading, but I felt the need to do this so you can better understand how the game played out.
As expected, the Rams received the ball to start the game. Also as expected, the Rams drove down the field in effortless fashion. The game kicked off with an eight-play 70-yard touchdown drive that had receiver Josh Reynolds hauling in a quick out pass for the touchdown.
The opening drive saw a lot of running back Todd Gurley III early on. He set the tempo with a 22-yard run on the first play of the game.
Things didn't go so well for New England's first possession. Quarterback Brady was sacked on the first play of the drive as he tried desperately to escape a fierce Rams pass rush.
The Rams and the Patriots would trade another set of possessions until early in the second quarter.
Score: 7-0, Rams.
The Patriots continued their drive until they eventually pulled into field goal range. The Rams would get a stop, so kicker Stephen Gostkowski came in with his trusty leg to kick a 51-yard field goal.
Score: 7-3, Rams.
On the ensuing Rams drive, Todd Gurley wasted no time controlling the tempo. After a pair of sizable completions, he picked up the bell cow to go for another 27-yard chunk. By this point, he already had 95 yards on just eight carries.
That big play put the Rams into the Red Zone, where head coach Sean McVay would curiously opt to throw it in despite his running attack looking lethal early on. The bet paid off because wide receiver Reynolds came down with the ball in the back of the end zone with some toe-tapping action. The referees would review the call, as it looked like he stepped out, but the touchdown stood.
Score: 14-3, Rams.
Tom Brady started to get into a groove on the next drive. He completed all 7 of his passes spread out between tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Chris Hogan, running back James White, and receiver Julian Edelman. The drive stalled because Tom Brady horribly overthrew a wide-open Chris Hogan up the left sideline.
After a quick three and out for the Rams, the Patriots got the ball back. Brady seemed to be getting impatient, because he fired a 50-yard bomb downfield, only for it to be picked off by veteran cornerback Aqib Talib (a former Patriot). The turnover was all on Brady as he severely underthrew his intended target Phillip Dorsett, who was wide open on his way to the end zone.
Despite the mistake, the Patriots wouldn't immediately perish as Rams QB Goff lost the ball on a strip sack that the Patriots would recover.
There were only 43 seconds left in the first half at this point. The Patriots had a chance to put on a rushed two-minute drive, but they didn't go very far. They punted the ball with 21 seconds left on the clock, but the Rams blocked it to get the ball back right in Patriots territory.
This allowed the Rams to kick an early field goal with 10 seconds remaining, leaving the Patriots with just six seconds on the return to make something happen. You'd normally kneel it there, but Brady tossed a hail mary downfield to add another point to his interception total just before halftime.
Score: 17-3, Rams.
The Patriots received the ball to start the second half, but couldn't quite make it past the first down marker. Coach Bill Belichick (well, the guy they use in place of Bill Belichick because the man is no fun and doesn't like being in video games) decided to punt, which is certainly a curious decision considering he only had inches to go and is known as one of the most aggressive coaches in football. Granted, they were backed up near their own 20 so they likely didn't want to risk giving the Rams such premium starting field position. But it was still a tad surprising to see.
Back on the Rams' possession, the team attempted to continue riding on the success of Gurley's first half, but the Patriots seemed to be selling out to stop the run. It's a valiant strategy to challenge Goff to play mistake-free football through the air.
After managing to get a stop, the Patriots appeared to find a bit of rhythm with Brady going to his safety blanket in Gronkowski. There were a lot of screens, hitches, and other underneath routes coming out now, which we all know is the Patriots' way. It did wonders to soften the blow from the Rams' pass rush, but it appeared Brady had already been rattled enough, as he threw yet another interception on the goal line.
Score: Still 17-3, Rams.
Remember that thing about forcing Goff to play mistake-free football? Well, he pretty much did that. The ensuing drive began with five straight completions before Todd Gurley got the nod again for a modest gain.
Goff then brushed off a sack that put the Rams into a third and 15 situation, which the red hot youngster eliminated with a monster conversion for a first down up to the four yard line. McVay also abandoned conventional wisdom to run on the goal line and Goff ended up throwing an interception of his own as he tried to force a pass into the endzone.
The Patriots got the ball back with 12:54 on the clock and all three timeouts left, just enough for the comeback story of the ages. But Brady made yet another ill-advised throw, this time trying to force the ball to Hogan deep down the field. That's four interceptions for the GOAT.
Two big Goff completions get the Rams to the two yard line in just two plays, and McVay has learned his lesson by now. He decides to run it down here, only tight-end-temporarily-turned-fullback Gerald Everett gets the nod to take it in for the touchdown, not Gurley.
Score: 24-3, Rams.
The game looks just about out of reach for the Patriots at this point, but Brady's not going down without a fight. Brady went to Gronkowski (whom we'll opt to call "Gronk" from now on) on back-to-back plays for big gains, putting the big guy over 100 yards receiving for the day. Brady really wanted to get him a touchdown, too, so he tried to force one into double coverage on the left sideline of the endzone.
The freakishly tall Gronk wasn't able to climb over two defenders, however, and the pass was broken up. Brady goes right back to Gronk on the next play, this time in the back middle of the endzone. Gronk came down with it for a touchdown, but the replay appeared to show him stepping out of bounds. The referees reviewed the call and somehow decided to let it stand, which was predictably met by a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Score: 24-10, Rams.
With the game approaching the final two-minute warning, the Patriots needed a miracle to get back into this one. They go for the onside kick, but the Rams recovered with little drama. A few plays later, the Rams pick up a first down just as the whistle is about to blow and stop the clock. The Patriots still have three timeouts, but they used two in a hurry after back-to-back stops to force third down. But Goff completes a pass to make it first down with 1:50 left.
This is where the pissing match began. Patriots head coach Belichick is usually the one with a big lead and still looking to pile on points late in the game, but it seems like McVay wanted to give the Patriots a taste of their own medicine.
Instead of simply running the ball to run the clock out, the Rams decided to throw it, resulting in an incompletion and a stopped clock. Another pass to the sideline was completed to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, but since he stepped out of bounds the clock gets stopped once again. A third time, the Rams throw the ball right into the endzone, but Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore broke the pass up with excellent coverage. Rams settled for three.
Score: 27-10, Rams.
Patriots have one last chance with 1:08 on the clock, and vintage Brady finally shows up. Back-to-back first down passes to Gronk and Julian Edelman get them to the halfway mark before a massive bomb to Chris Hogan puts the Patriots on the 10-yard line. It didn't take Brady long to find a paydirt as he hit a wide-open James White underneath, who walks it in for a touchdown.
Of course, the Patriots attempted to get the ball back using an onside kick, but the Rams recovered and kneeled the ball out.
Final score: 27-17, Rams
After my initial simulation, I simulated this matchup 99 other times and averaged out the results. The winner of the first game held up over the bigger sample size, though the score was much closer.
The Rams scored an average of 29 points compared to 26 for the Patriots. A three-point spread is typical for most postseason game predictions. Taking a closer look at the stats, we can see why the Rams were able to upset the Patriots.
|Total offense yardage||387||452|
|Third down conversions||50%||52%|
|Red zone rrips||4||4|
|Red zone touchdowns||2||3|
|Red zone field goals||1||0|
|Red zone percentage||75||78|
|Time of Possession||30||30|
The Rams outgained the Patriots on offense with 452 yards to New England's 387. While the two quarterbacks were pretty much even on quarterback stats that matter, the X-factor was Todd Gurley, whose 163 yards and a touchdown on the ground were enough to make up for losing the turnover battle. The Rams also had more red zone trips, more red zone touchdowns, and more overall red zone conversions, all this despite being nearly even in time of possession.
As for the receivers, I'm happy to say no one had a case of the dropsies. The yardage shakes out as you might expect, too. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks were responsible for over 182 of the Rams' yards alone. The ball was spread out a little more evenly on the Patriots' side, with Gronk, Edelman, and Hogan hauling in 61, 74, and 56 yards, respectively.
What we learned
The live game was pretty eye-opening in that it exposed a lot of Madden's flaws despite the game progressing in a way I felt was really natural.
For starters, defenders were getting juked way too easily in the first half. I saw a play where Gurley received the handoff right as his intended point of attack got plugged up, but instead of being tackled for a loss he put a juke move on the defender and broke away for more than 15 yards. It was a cool moment, but this defender was pretty much within arm's length of Gurley and wasn't able to get the tip of his pinky onto the edge of his jersey. Strangely enough, juke attempts completely disappeared in the second half.
On penalties, there just weren't enough of them. Even with the NFL's guidance to referees to just "let them play" in the Super Bowl, you'd expect more than one flag. The bulk simulations didn't fare any better in this area, with that method only generating an average of three penalties.
It was also obvious that Madden teams don't always play like they do in real life. The Rams didn't look like Sean McVay's Rams until the third quarter when the first play-action pass was called, and then we only saw a tad bit more of it in the fourth quarter when the first bunch receiver set was called. They did run the ball a lot, but the team seemed to lean on a power run attack despite McVay's preference for zone running.
For the Patriots, I did see a lot of the quick passing game they like to do, but I didn't see many of the patented two tight-end sets they favor. The one time they did call a play action pass out of the dual tight ends, the Rams bit on Gronkowski as the primary threat and allowed Dwayne Allen to catch a wide open pass. Otherwise, Brady spent much of the night waiting for tough windows to open up and trying to force passes down the field, a huge departure from the timing-based short game the team has run all throughout this year's playoffs.
Other areas of the simulation were better. Whether by design or happenstance, the Patriots started selling out to stop Todd Gurley, which eventually caused the Rams' attack to slow down. The added lethargy might have also been due to player fatigue.
I could also feel the difference between the Patriots' front seven and that of the Rams. With defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on the same line, it's hard for anyone to run the ball effectively against the Rams, and that trend certainly showed up in both the live and quick simulations.
Tom Brady appeared to get rattled after his early mistakes, too. He was a statue in the early parts of the game, but as it wore on he would begin to scramble even before any defenders had crossed the line of scrimmage. I would have preferred to see a change in offensive gameplan before seeing the most clutch performer in the history of football break down into a puddle of fear. But I was happy that there was at least some sort of logical response to the fierce pass rush of the Rams.
Despite its flaws, Madden 19 actually depicted a matchup with the sort of ebb and flow that keeps you glued to the edge of your seat. I was 100 percent invested in seeing Tom Brady complete the comeback ... despite my wishes not to see it happen in the real Super Bowl. I dropped my jaw as Brady threw his fourth interception, a rare occurrence for sure. I loved seeing the young Jared Goff stand in there and sling the football as if he's been doing this for years and Gurley continuing to make his case for being one of the league's top backs.
It's too bad that some inconsequential areas of Madden still take away from the overall experience. A hurried halftime show by Jonathan Coachman featured a whopping one highlight, and that highlight was of a routine screen pass to New England's James White. Coachman also apparently spent the entire game doing something other than watching it, because he had no details to offer about the action that took place up to that point. It's an outlier situation for sure, as I've seen much healthier halftime shows than this in previous games.
Strangely enough, the commentary was actually one of the strongest parts of Madden 19's broadcast presentation. That's because this year, EA partnered with Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis to provide updated commentary throughout the season to reflect actual league happenings. Hearing them remark about how great Tom Brady is or how innovative Sean McVay's offense looks was refreshing.
So who wins?
All that's left to do now is wait and see who will actually win this thing. I personally want to see the Rams win it if only to promote league parity.
Who do I think will win? That answer is still the Rams. They possess all the tools they need to throw the Patriots off their game. A stout front seven will keep Brady uncomfortable with full coverage pressure. Their high-powered offensive attack will also create lots of problems for a Patriots defense that's seen better days. The Rams have a similar makeup to the Eagles of yesteryear, and that team completely embarrassed the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
That said, this is a Tom Brady and Bill Belichick production. These are the same guys who came back from a 28-3 deficit to win Super Bowl 51 against Atlanta. I stand by my prediction, but I do so with bated breath.
Who do you have taking home all the marbles? Comment below with your prediction to pass the time until Sunday!
Step onto the gridiron
Madden 19 delivers the deepest gameplay this series has ever offered. With real player motion and much-improved AI, it'll be like you're at the big game watching it for yourself.
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