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Breaking Madden, Week 8: The quest for 511 touchdowns in a game

Peyton Manning is now the all-time leader in touchdown passes with 510. Brett Favre's mission: to surpass that in a single game. We realize how impossible this sounds.

I would like to throw 511 touchdown passes in a single game of Madden NFL 15. I will not disable any rules or exploit any glitches. These will be legal, honest-to-God touchdowns in a standard 60-minute football game. If I score 511 of them and make every extra point, the final score will be 3,577 to 0.

Y'all, I'm serious. Stick with me here.

The significance of the number 511, of course, is that last week, Peyton Manning threw his 510th career touchdown pass and surpassed Brett Favre as the all-time record holder.

I have stated many times on record that, in my estimation, it sure would be something to see Brett lace 'em up and give it one more go and show all these young kids a thing or two. Further, I have posited that the ol' Gunslinger still has some magic left in that arm of his. Finally, and this is crucial, I hold it to be true that it just hasn't been the same without the Gunslinger out there runnin' and gunnin' and finding a way to win any which way he knows how and goin' out there and choppin' it up and just havin' some fun out there.

The game plan for this particular episode was inspired by valued Internet subscriber and visitor Keith Mullett:

I laughed it off at first, but my heart began to fill with dread as I realized that throwing 511 touchdown passes in a game might actually be possible, at least on paper. I began to wish I'd never even considered it, because once I knew it was within the realm of possibility, I couldn't not try it. Trying it would probably mean a single game that lasted 14, 16, maybe 18 hours.

My first step was to find companions who would understand my struggle.

Turns out, lots and lots of people have really terrible work-shift stories! Narrowing the field down to 12 was a challenge. Click here to hear their stories. One individual had a boss who took a dump in a 7-11 cup. Another accidentally destroyed a Humvee with a tank. Still another worked a double at the Olive Garden on his 21st birthday after moving to a new city with no friends. Remarkable, all of them.


Brett Favre and I will not break any NFL rules along our journey, but we will definitely tip the scales in our favor in every way that is legal. Nowhere in the rule books does it forbid the Broncos from fielding 5'0 cornerbacks and safeties who are bad at everything. Nor does it disallow the Packers from suiting up four unstoppable 7'0 wide receivers.

Nor, unfortunately, is there an NFL rule that prevents some doofus from wasting hours and hours of his life in pursuit of something he won't even be able to prove he did. See, as longtime readers of Breaking Madden know, the game stops counting once you reach 255 points. After that, you can keep scoring as many touchdowns as you want, but they won't show up on the game's scoreboard. There is no screenshot I could possibly take that would prove to you that I really did do this.

But I will know. This isn't about you.


This number is everything:


In order to score 511 touchdowns in a 60-minute game, I will have to score one touchdown per 7.045 seconds of game clock. After running a few experiments, I think this strategy is the most effective and reliable.



I should mention here that I'm controlling both the Broncos and Packers in this experiment. The Broncos will be completely aiding and abetting Brett Favre's quest. This is legal! If you've been watching the NFL for very long at all, you know it's perfectly legal for a team to defeat itself.

On the kickoff, I'll move the Broncos' return man out of the way to ensure he doesn't field the kick. The ball will drop out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, and no time runs off the clock. This is the easy part.



Oh, there's another thing I forgot to mention! Peyton Manning is now the Broncos' field goal kicker. He is terrible at it, which is important. I need him to make the worst, shortest attempts possible so as to conserve game clock.

The duration of this play varies, but it usually runs about three seconds off the clock. The Packers take possession.


Here, the Broncos call a field goal block, which means they have no secondary. The Packers call a Hail Mary, Favre throws a bullet as soon as he possibly can, and we've got our touchdown. Boot the extra point, which takes no time off the clock, and we're back to Step 1.

If every step is properly executed, scoring a touchdown takes between six and seven seconds -- just barely under our limit of 7.045 seconds. If y'all can think of a more efficient means of doing this, I'd love to hear about it in the comments, but this strategy was the most efficient I came across.

And dang it, I think that means something. It would appear as though 511, or a number very close to it, is the logical limit of touchdowns that can possibly be scored in one game. Why wouldn't the career touchdown pass mark arbitrarily be 350, or 617, or 820? Why would it sit right there at the precipice?

It all joins together. It's like watching glass shatter in reverse. The numbers have been patiently waiting for me. I have to do this.


Madden is going apeshit in a hurry this week.

This year, the franchise introduced a new feature to the kicking game. It displays an array of paths that estimate your kick's trajectory and helps you to aim a little better. It's pretty neat! Except for when your kicker is Peyton Manning.


I'm not even touching the controller there. The game is just totally flipping its shit. This display is implying that Peyton might somehow kick the ball 30 yards backwards. Lord knows I tried, but I never managed to pull that off.

Kicking was far and away the toughest part of this whole thing. I had to keep it away from any Packers who might catch it and run it back to the house. I also ran the risk of hitting one of my dudes in the butt.


That was bad news. It seems that if your field goal attempt hits a teammate and then falls on the ground, Madden counts it as a fumble. Precious seconds go off the clock, especially if I didn't realize what happened and I'm not quick to call a timeout. And remember, this is such a tight operation. Assuming I did everything exactly right 511 times (which is probably not humanly possible), I'd only have around 200 seconds of game clock to spare. Losing 10 seconds on some random play could scuttle the whole deal.

So, Peyton. Peyton ain't too good at all this kickin'.


Peyton would much rather be throwing the ball, as evidenced by this play, which I ... guess is legal?


He kicks the ball to his offensive lineman, who takes it and rumbles forward for a few yards. It's the opposite of an armpunt. It's a legpass!

I mean, it's certainly illegal to throw the ball to an offensive lineman, since he doesn't line up as an eligible receiver. But hell, ain't mean you can't kick it, I guess! By exploiting a loophole, Peyton Manning just blew our understanding of legal offensive football wide open.

If Madden was correct in allowing that play, that is. We might not wanna trust Madden.


This is the game's play-by-play report from a test run I did. Those of you who are sports experts may find this to be unusual!

Peyton Manning attempted a field goal from his own 20, but rather than turn over possession to the Packers, the game let the Broncos keep the ball. Not only that, the game decided to re-spot the ball all the way across the field to the Packers' 13. Madden was trying to hide the ball from me, or maybe it just no longer understood what the hell was going on.

With 14:01 remaining in the first quarter, I was feeling an ounce of optimism and a bucket of dread. The good news: I scored my ninth touchdown in the 59th second of the game, which meant I was keeping a pace of one touchdown per 6.55 seconds. I was a half-second-per-touchdown ahead of schedule. If sustaining this pace for a minute was doable, it meant to me that whether or not I succeeded was entirely in my hands.

The bad news: I looked up and realized the first minute of game clock had taken up 30 minutes of real-world time. By that pace, the game would take me 28 hours. Now, that first minute was so slow in part because I kept pausing and recording replays, but bare minimum, each game minute was bound to cost 15 real minutes. That meant 15 hours of gameplay, unless I took breaks, which I would have to do ...

... for the time being, I decided to stay the course. Things got messy. On one occasion, I accidentally called a Denver pass, and completed a pass despite trying to throw the ball away. That cost me about 10 seconds. Another time, a field goal was caught and returned for a Packers TD, which of course was of no use since it wasn't a passing touchdown. More seconds wasted.

I just couldn't slack off at all. I had to be careful to do everything the same way every single time. Example: never, ever call trips right on a Hail Mary.


My receivers took up so much mass that they essentially played defense against one another. It didn't matter which button I'd pressed, they all decided the ball was for them.

We've seen this time and again in Breaking Madden: when some stuff gets weird, even the stuff that shouldn't be weird gets weird. This, for example.



An outlandish game score should have absolutely nothing to do with a game's physics engine, right? No matter how ridiculous it is? Why would a 217-0 score make the physics mess up? And yet, the game throws a tantrum and yanks Ryan Van Bibber 30 yards downfield for no reason. This is the first time I've ever seen that happen.

It's like the various elements of the game -- the textures, rendering, physics, scorekeeping, artificial intelligence, all that -- is part of one big game of telephone. Except, instead of a coherent message being gradually deteriorated, everyone's just screaming. It's just a room of people screaming, "AAAAAAAAAHHHH."

Here's a man whose hand has been replaced with a football.


This poor fellow's ball-arm probably isn't all that difficult to explain. There was just an error in the collision detection or something. The engine was trying to make the ball be in his hand, and it messed up terribly. What I can't explain: he's holding his arm in the sky, which I never see a ball carrier do, and which no ball carrier would ever do. Just holding it aloft in horror as the townspeople prepare either to hoist him around as some sort of demigod, or devour him alive.


I'm not gonna try to hold y'all hostage. Look, I failed. I do believe I successfully proved that it was at least possible, and that in a real-world football game, with both teams working toward the same goal, 511 passing touchdowns could happen. But it didn't happen.

Here is why it didn't happen.

Click here for many more episodes of Breaking Madden.