I’m playing a football simulator called Second and Ten. I love sports history and I love sports statistics, so I enjoy replaying old seasons as the coach of various teams or dynasties. For example, I plan to play every season of Dan Marino’s career and will try to get him that Super Bowl. I’m also from Minnesota, so I plan to play every season of the Vikings and try to do the same. Whenever I finish a season, I will recap it here. However, since talking about video game scores is right up there with talking about your fantasy teams and your bad beats in poker, I’m going to do things a little differently. You, dear reader, will get to play along, Choose Your Own Adventure style.
It’s 1999 and you are Dick Vermeil, coaching the St. Louis Rams in between bouts of sobbing to the media. Trent Green is out for the season, and you have to rely on some grocery bagger named Kurt Warner to lead your team. Surprisingly, he leads you to an easy 37-3 victory in Week 1 over the Ravens, Marshall Faulk playing a huge part. Today you’re facing the Atlanta Falcons, who made it to the Super Bowl just last season so obviously they’re awesome. The first drive on defense goes well for you as Charlie Clemons picks off a Tony Graziani pass at your own 35 yard line. That’s a good omen. Better not do anything stupid.
Marshall Faulk is one of the best running backs of all-time. He gladly accepts the responsibility of the first play of the game. He gets 4 yards, a solid gain. He provides you with that kind of solid play all season. Unfortunately, it sends a message to your team that you are incapable of independent thinking. Establishing the run every game leads you a nice 9-7 record and a first round exit from the playoffs. Az-Zahir Hakim is forgotten to history except when some blogger in 2017 writes a piece titled “Shocking Names of Football Players You Don’t Remember (Or Want To).”
Why give the ball to a hall-of-fame running back? That’s what everyone expects you to do. While Second and Ten is a text-based game, I found a video in the internets which gives you a reasonable facsimile of what happens after you make this brilliant call. If you didn’t click that link because you’re at work or you really are in 1999 and are on a dial-up modem, Kurt Warner just threw a 65 yard-touchdown pass. It not only scores you 7 points, but it makes the Falcons quiver in fear of Hakim. Meanwhile, Isaac Bruce tallies five receiving touchdowns (don’t worry, Faulk got his share, too) and you trounce the Falcons 62-0. Good work!
Your aggressive style of football is well rewarded. You lose your third game to the WTF Cincinatti Bengals (seriously, they end up going 11-5; I don’t know either) because your players (we’re looking at you Roland Williams and Ron Carpenter) got a case of the fumble farts. But Warner and company roll on, winning several games in a row. You win your next game against the Falcons on an overtime field goal just to give your team the feeling of eking one out, but decide for the most part winning by 30 or 40 is more fun.
It’s now Week 9 and you’re 6-1, facing the Detroit Lions. Don’t worry, you have no chance of losing this one. The Lions did just score a touchdown (which reminds you to cry to your defensive coordinator after the game) with 2:30 to go, but you’re ahead 48-17. Joe Germaine is in the game because Warner got a little owwie on his throwing hand, but he says he’s feeling better now. He’s asking to come into the game. After all, he had thrown four touchdowns to Isaac Bruce earlier in the game, and Germaine decided to show him up and throw touchdowns to Williams and Torry Holt.
Joe Germaine continues to handle himself admirably. He gives some carries to Justin Watson to make him feel better about his role. He even throws a nice little pass to Jeff Robinson to continue the drive. He then takes a couple of kneel downs to end the game without further ado. Everyone is happy. Except Warner and Bruce. They’re so angry with you that they quit the team in a glorious press conference and run away to Barbados together, where Bruce catches all he wants and lives happily ever after. Meanwhile, Germaine goes out and loses the next six games, Marshall Faulk gets traded to the Browns for Tim Couch, and you get fired. Seriously, what’s up with your decision-making?
The Lions are not happy. Instead of boringly winding the game down to an easy victory, Warner cranks up the intensity another notch with two minutes to go. He throws to Bruce and Bruce only. And the Lions can’t do a damn thing about it. With three seconds remaining, Warner finds Bruce for a 1 yard-touchdown for his second 5 touchdown game of the season. Everyone is happy. Except the Lions. And the commissioner for that matter. But other teams fear you now.
The rest of the season has its ups and downs. Despite some fan-friendly games like your 73-10 trouncing of the Bears, you lose both games to the Panthers due to 4th quarter comebacks by Steve Beuerlein. You also lose to Kent Graham and the Giants. But you finish the season 12-4 and get to play a wild-card game. After all, had you won the division, that would have been fewer chances to run up the score! Kurt Warner finishes the season with 50 passing touchdowns, 25 of them to Isaac Bruce. Faulk also gets 29 touchdowns (23 of them rushing) and your Rams score a record 609 points. See what happens when you don’t worry about injuries or the other teams’ feelings?
Like the Vikings, for instance. In the wild-card round, you let Warner throw six touchdowns and 253 yards to Bruce in a laugher, 56-10. But the next round is against the hated Panthers. Once again, they orchestrate a 4th quarter comeback, and it’s tied 20-20 with just 1:30 left. Warner leads your team down the field, and it’s 3rd and goal from the 3 yard-line. There’s 17 seconds left and you still have one timeout.
Wilkins is automatic from 20 yards out. Good decision. You win! Click here to face the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship.
Faulk never fumbles the ball, so you figure it’s a safe bet. And you can wind down the clock and prevent some crazy last minute play at the end of the game. But you forgot that Warner used to drop groceries all the freaking time. He promptly fumbles the snap and the Panthers fall on it. John Kasay stupidly kicks a 56 yard field goal to end your season. God, you’re stupid. I know running up the score is fun, but only once the game is in hand.
You’re already down 7-0 in the NFC Championship when Trent Dilfer has the ball in your territory. Once again, you are down 7-0 to Trent Dilfer. Dre’ Bly intercepts an errant throw and runs it back to midfield. Alright! There’s a penalty flag on the field, and it looks like holding against the Bucs.
Yeah, duh. It’s all uphill from here and you beat the Bucs 40-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. Click here.
You try to plea with the refs that you totally didn’t mean to accept the penalty, but they don’t listen. On 3rd and 17, Dilfer winds up to fire downfield to Jacquez Green. Todd Lyght bails you out and intercepts that pass, too. You are a charmed coach, that’s for sure. The rest of the game is easy and you beat the Bucs 40-18.
Whoever would have thought the Rams and Colts would be in the Super Bowl? Peyton Manning in his second season, and Kurt Warner in essentially his rookie season. The game starts off rather grim, as Peyton and Edgerrin do their thing and your team is down 21-3 at half-time. But Faulk scores early on, and after a Vanderjagt field goal, you whistle a short throw to Torry Holt which bounces off a bunch of defenders and winds up in the hands of Isaac Bruce who scampers for a 62 yard score. Vanderjagt keeps kicking field goals, and Faulk runs off a 57 yard score, his longest run of the season.
You get the ball back down 30-24 with four minutes left. After some poor plays, it’s 4th and 11 from your own 28 with 3:13 remaining. The Colts defense is nervous. It’s decision time.
That might have worked. Then again, it might not have. We’ll never know. I guess you’ll have to throw to Holt and see what happens.
The play works. As in, Bruce and Faulk go deep and Torry Holt catches your silly short pass over the middle. He’s tackled after six yards and you turn the ball over on downs. Vanderjagt promptly kicks his fourth field goal of the game and you lose Super Bowl XXXIV 33-24.
You’re embarrassed, heartbroken. You retire in shame and turn the reins over to Mike Martz for the 2000 season. At least Kurt Warner is happy. 50 touchdowns? That will never be broken. Suck it, Peyton Manning!