Last week we started something at Blogging The Boys that we will be doing throughout the season. We simulated the Dallas Cowboys game for the week by way of this year’s version of the popular video game Madden.
If Week 2’s 20-17 simulation loss to the Los Angeles Chargers told us anything it’s that the score was precisely right, if only flipped. Madden remains a quirky simulation in 2021, but it can provide some perspective on key matchups. With that said, here are three takeaways from our Week 3 simulation against the Philadelphia Eagles. which you can watch right below.
Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel (which you can do right here) so you can see our simulations every week and all of our other videos.
Madden clearly has no idea how good Dak Prescott is and that is not okay
Through the first two weeks of our Madden simulations, one key theme has been inconsistent play from Dak Prescott. While Dak does run well—albeit not in accordance with his run/pass balance—his passing has been wildly inconsistent. That continued against the Eagles with two interceptions and several other dangerous passes.
It’s odd that a quarterback who threw for more than 1,800 yards last season through just five games (really four and a half games) would be so poorly evaluated for accuracy and decision-making. At times Prescott is rolling out of the pocket and then firing into double coverage in the middle of the field before he’s even set himself. Other times he’s staring down a target and throwing directly to a defender as though he never saw them. Against the Eagles, the worst example was the game-deciding pick-six with just over three minutes to play.
The Cowboys run defense remains troubling
The Cowboys defensive line is thin right now with injuries, and the back end of the defense has key players on its Reserve/COVID-19 list to boot. In Philadelphia’s 24-17 win over Dallas in this simulation, Miles Sanders was a big difference-maker. On Philly’s first touchdown drive, he chewed up yardage on a pair of big gains to put the Eagles into the Cowboys' redzone, capping off the drive by trucking Luke Gifford in the backfield on his way to the endzone.
He remained a factor throughout the game, moving the chains and keeping the Cowboys offense off the field in the second half when Dallas had built significant momentum toward the end of the first half. Dallas had answered Philly’s 10-0 run to start the game with a 17-0 run of their own, but when the Eagles needed to slow the game down and kill Dak and company’s rhythm, Sanders did exactly that.
While it may have been the Eagles defense who secured the game-deciding touchdown, and a deep ball from Hurts to Jalen Reagor that tied the game previous to that, Sanders outplayed Ezekiel Elliott and helped turn the tide in Philadelphia’s favor.
Madden’s window-dressing animations make no sense
Whether it’s a way overly-animated Mike McCarthy on the sideline or McCarthy yelling at who I presume is supposed to be offensive coordinator Kellen Moore following a defensive blunder by Dallas, the program makes no sense whatsoever. But while the first two examples might be considered tame, Madden’s over-reliance on Dak Prescott-centric reactions is egregious as can be.
After Philadelphia scored on a Mike Sanders touchdown run in which he trucked Luke Gifford on his way to the endzone, Dak Prescott is seen on the sideline flexing his chest and biceps through several poses. Keep in mind his team has just fallen behind 10-0 and he’s thrown an interception on Dallas’s opening drive at this point. Were that the end of it, I’d just call it a minor bug and move along, but Dak continues to pop up in situations that are ridiculous.
On Dallas’s final drive, Dak takes a terrible sack on third down. The camera cuts to the Cowboys sideline for reaction to the bad development and who’s there? Dak Prescott, of course! Not wearing his helmet and standing with a blank expression as he holds a Gatorade cup in hand, he watches as the ball is reset for the game-deciding fourth and 14 play.
It’s not over yet, though. After the game ends, Prescott initially seems to be jogging off with relative frustration, only for the camera to cut to him and another Cowboy teammate posing with a pair of Eagles players. He’s jovial in this photo-op, even playful as he strikes boastful poses in front of the cameraman despite a loss in which he played poorly. It’s absolutely absurd.
While Dallas falling to 0-2 in these simulations isn’t great or obviously accurate so far, it’s so striking how the game seems to have no grasp of Dak Prescott’s tremendous growth over the past couple of years. He plays largely like 2017 Dak after the Atlanta game, and even then his mannerisms are nothing like the team’s franchise star. Getting outdueled as a passer by Jalen Hurts? When Hurts has how many starts under his belt, exactly? Madness.
On the plus side, the simulation was wrong when it picked the Chargers to win last week, so perhaps it’ll be wrong again Monday night. Regardless, we know we’ll see a far stronger performance from Prescott than what Madden believes him capable of.