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Breaking Madden: Edge of Tom-orrow

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A quarterback sneak from inside your own 1-yard line is a terrible idea. Let's do this hundreds of times.

The "money play," as far as I can figure, is dead.

We all have our favorite money play -- the play that guarantees a big gain every time, or at least most of the time. In Madden '93 we could call "HB Toss Left" with the Bills, and Thurman Thomas would more than likely take it to the house. NFL Sports Talk Football '93's "Fake Punt," one of the most cynical exploitations in the history of video gaming, resulted in a touchdown every single time if performed correctly. My personal favorite is a Kansas City verts play in NFL 2K3: give Tony Gonzalez the lone slant route, have Trent Green chuck it to him, and gain 30 yards against any defense that isn't Prevent.

Madden is now the world's only NFL video game, and year after year, it's pressed into the service of searching itself for non-real things and stamping them out. Even a couple years ago, it was possible for a Devin Hester or Jamaal Charles to field a kickoff, run a sequence of well-timed zig-zags, and score a touchdown every odd chance he got. No longer.

If the money play is extinct, let's turn instead to the most hopeless of offensive plays. If this isn't the very most hopeless scenario in Madden NFL 15, it has to be very, very close:

1. We give the Patriots offense the ball on their own 1-yard line.
2. The defense calls this.

goalline

3. The offense calls this.

sneak

The quarterback in this scenario, of course, is Tom Brady. We call him Touchdown Tom around these parts, and so it follows that he ought to score a 99-yard quarterback-sneak touchdown on this play. If he does not, we will place the ball back at the 1 and try again.

And again.

And again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again,

and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

And again.

Months ago, I came up with this idea with Spencer Hall as we stood around in a Las Vegas casino, a place in which failure is a concept so constant and inextricable that it ought to be awarded its own tape-measure dimension somewhere in space-time.

We were discussing Edge of Tomorrow, this year's criminally under-seen Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller, which they desperately re-titled Live Die Repeat because you wouldn't watch it. It's near-flawless for the film it is: in the future, Tom is a PR man in Earth's military as it battles an alien race that's laying siege to the cities of the world. After talking bunk to the wrong general, Tom is dumped on the front lines of battle despite having zero combat experience. He doesn't know how to use his gun or get his robo-suit-thingy to work, and he dies nearly instantly. It's just a mess.

But then Tom wakes up again in the previous day. He can't die. Every time he's brutally killed in battle, he just goes back in time and wakes up again. His mission is to live the battle over and over and over again, becoming a barely-better soldier each time, until he can fight the perfect battle and save the human race.

The title of this week's Breaking Madden, appropriately, is "Edge of Tom-orrow." Tom Brady will relive the same Hellish scenario over and over. I will re-live it with him. I do not know whether we will get better.

THE PLAYERS.

I needed 21 players -- 10 Patriots and 11 Jets, their Week 7 opponent -- to help conduct this nonsense. I found them on Twitter.

rostercuts

Click that image to check out this week's Breaking Madden Roster Cuts, in which I reviewed, and was thoroughly disgusted by, the tweets of the 21 individuals who made it into this week's game. Just to give you an idea of what you're in for, this

was probably only the third- or fourth-worst tweet. You're warned now.

Anyway, all 21 of these folks weigh 400 pounds and are as wide as possible, so as to give Tom as little room as possible to squeeze through. For cruelty's sake, they're only five feet tall, which gives Tom -- by far the tallest player on the field -- an excellent view of the territory he may never reach.

There is one gesture of charity: they're all as slow as possible. This means that if Tom ever, ever can penetrate this defense, he has nothing but daylight.

STAGE I: HITTING THE WALL.

Well, I doubt anyone has ever asked Madden NFL 15 to render hundreds of consecutive dogpiles of squat little folks. It's doing its best, even if "its best" means starting a b-boy at defensive tackle.


b-boy

This experiment was held within Madden's "Practice" mode, which made it far easier to reboot a game situation over and over. I played as Tom Brady, and only Tom Brady, for hours, and I should note that this was the Tom Brady that came out of the box. I didn't change any of his skill ratings in any way. This is as Tom as Tom can get.

Tom and I abided by one sacred rule: no running backwards and trying to flush out to the side of the field. This must be a true quarterback sneak, one in which Tom plunges through the middle of the line, just as the Devil intended.

And man, we tried everything I could think of. Trucking, juking, diving, spinning, breaking left and right. I even sent Tom to straight-up leapfrog his center, since he was mostly just getting in the way.


leapfrog


Trucking over dudes dong-first was perhaps slightly more effective than one might imagine, but of course, knocking over one guy wasn't nearly enough. Bowling over a guy slowed him down so much and took him so much time that by the time he did, half the Jets defense was all over him.

And while these Jets were slow as Hell, they were also mean as Hell. Well after the whistle blew, Jonah Keri went scrappin' with Tom Ziller, and threw all 400 pounds of him square on Brady's knees.


zillerkeri


The game's "fatigue" effect was disabled, so the players ran and hit just as hard on every play, but they still let us know they were gassed. Here's Schwartz executing an uncanny Flair flop.


flairflop

STAGE II: ANGER.

Tom and I had run dozens of quarterback sneaks, and never even came close to snapping one off. Worst of all, we weren't really even learning anything. No maneuver seemed to work better or worse than any other. My fear was being realized: unlike Mr. Cruise, we weren't improving. A Groundhog Day in which nothing ever, ever changes. That is Hell.

I was fearful. Tom was fucking pissed.

sweeto

Not only would he not stop fighting, he was throwin' knees into gullets when I told him to jump.

Brady was going down, but some Biblical shit was going down with him. He wore this force field of hate that would sometimes just send fools flying.

pow

I mean, look at this. Throughout the history of Breaking Madden, I've almost never seen a super-powered man-God do things like this. And yet, Tom Brady -- kinda-old, unmodified Tom Brady -- was out here using a free hand to chuck a poor 400-pound fellow out of the frame, head over heels.


tomispissed

It's 200th and 99, and Tom ain't happy about it. DON'T PISS OFF 200TH-AND-99 TOM JUST YET.

STAGE III: MANIA.

A few times -- I'm talking maybe three times out of 250 -- I felt like we were getting close, but I think my idea of "close" was severely warped by our unbending vector of failure. Tom just got past four guys! Oh yeah, there are seven more guys. Tom trucked a guy! Oh yeah, well now he's standing flat-footed in no-man's land.

Tom began to hallucinate. The ball, it was ... moving. Slowly, but ever forward ...

dream2

And now you are running, Tom! Run, Tom! Run! You are free!

RUN!

dream

And he runs, but from who? Where are the Jets? Where did they go? It doesn't matter. He is finally running.

And then, in this fever dream, the ball begins to creep backwards, back to the one-yard line, back to his little Hell.

No. Nooo. It was real. It was ... real ...

dream3-2

And all of a sudden, there he was, at the one, his opponents snapping back into view. He had, in fact, not run anywhere at all.

Do not follow your dreams, Tom. They will only break your heart. If you abandon your hopes, they will never hang above your head. And if a Hell has nothing above it, it is no Hell at all. It is mere living.

STAGE IV: AN END.

There must be an end.

[UPDATE: If you watch the video below, you'll know what The 344th is. We've got the story on that here, as well as an extra GIF.]

Click here for many more episodes of Breaking Madden.