Are you ready for some football? Well I for sure thought I was when I faced off against LqNoble in game 1 of the SportsGamersOnline - Premier Madden League Play-in Tournament. It's been some years since I've balled out with the likes of such top tier talent that roams the Madden landscape with certified OG's (Original Gamers) like The Natural. Excited to take my first crack at securing a spot in this league, with my opponent choosing the Atlanta Falcons, I took the lesser of the remaining teams between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This choice had less to do with making it more challenging for myself, as it did with choosing the team that was a better fit for my play style. Unbeknownst to me, a target had been placed squarely on my back by the announcement by The Natural that was given the distinction of being a Madden NAK (see Lqnoble blog post). With my opponent no doubt poised to put on his best performance the stage was set for what would undoubtedly be a barn burner (see:match).
Before the game I took time to set my depth chart, identify the weaknesses of my roster, and make adjustments to ensure that I could maximize on the strengths my team presented in this match-up. Early in the game we had some success bracketing Julio Jones and not allowing anything deep over the top in the pass game, and minimizing the big plays made with the run. On my first offensive drive I was able to capitalize on a gap in the cover 3 zone between the weak side Safety and the outside corner with a quick pass to my speedy slot receiver running a 19 yard out, that I hot routed to the first down marker, for a long touchdown. At the end of quarter 1 we were up 7-6.
Early in the second corner we halted a red zone opportunity by intercepting Matt Ryan trying to hit Julio Jones who with a pre-snap read, might have appeared to be facing single coverage as he was wide left with 2 receivers, the TE, and RB all to the right of the offensive shotgun formation. However, post snap Julio was covered by 3 DB's and it made for an easy turnover to the defense. On the ensuing drive we had a big splash in the run game as one of our speedy wideouts broke a 64 yard run on a WR handoff from the Ace formation. Unfortunately, bad playcalling on the next snap saw Jameis Winston intercepted on an attempted fade in the corner to Mike Evans in the endzone. After driving down field the Falcons would again surrender the ball in the end zone on an attempted end zone pass across the middle to Julio that was intercepted by rookie LB Devin White that I had usered from the snap. Poor time management by Lqnoble on a late drive with under two minutes to go ended the first half with the game still at 7-6.
Both offenses awoke in the 3rd quarter as the lead was pushed to 10-6 on the Bucs first drive, only to be overtaken by the Falcons after a four verticals play call say Calvin Ridley beat the Buccs secondary over the top to put the Falcons in the driver seat with at 13-6. Trying to answer back quickly, Winston gave the ball back to the Falcons with a deep throw across the middle to Mike Evans being grabbed by Safety Keanu Neal. On the next drive, as with their first of the second half, LQnoble took advantage of the Buccs inability to cover the Falcons speedy receivers and TE's out of the Trips Left formation, which facilitated a 3 play drive, culminating in a 19 yard run to put the Falcons up 20-10. After entering the red zone late in the quarter the Buccs would again turn the ball over, this time on a attempted corner route to Mike Evans who was being manned up by Safety Damonte Kazee on a cover 0 blitz. However a bad throw by Winston, an ineffecient catch animation by Evans, saw the quarter end as the Falcons took possession up 20-10.
On the first drive of the 4th and final quarter an all out blitz on 3rd and short allowed the Buccs to capitalize on a broken up pass to Devonte Freeman that was intecepted and returned 75 yards to bring the score to 20-17. Another Matt Ryan inteception on a pass attempt to Julio Jones put the Buccs in position to take the lead, which they did on the next possession with Jameis Winston hitting former Alabama TE OJ Howard in the corner of the endzone putting the Bucs up 24-20. Two plays later, running out of the Quads Tight formation, Matt Ryan hit Mohammad Sanu deep across the middle, capitalizing on a botched cover 2 zone that saw the deep safety on the left side bite down on a Julio Jones corner route from the inside slot position. Late in the game, down 30-24 Jameis Winston would make his 4th and final turnover on a forced throw to a crossing OJ Howard, when a better decision to hit the RB cutting on a Texas route out of the backfield could've saw the Bucs move the ball into scoring position.
All in all it was a hard fought, tightly contested game. The Buccs inexperienced secondary gave up too many big plays and were unable to cover the Atlanta receiver on plays out of the Trips Left and Quad Tight variations of the bunch formation. LqNoble is a skilled defender usering the middle of the field with his LB's and skilled in switching defenders while the ball is in the air and undercutting a poorly placed passes. He brings pressure on short yardage and 3rd down situations. Offensively, makes you pick your poison with corner route and drag combos, will run it in any situation, and if you bring pressure without a saftey over the top you better get to the QB. Salute to LqNoble on the W, for all the rest of my opponents in the tournament and beyond, Nat was lying about me.
For full highlights of the game check me out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYeQiNQVUGI
Salute to SGO and the PML Tourney participants.