Tuesday, February 7, 2017 12:01 AM
I hated seeing Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl too, but don't blame the rules!
Apparently bitter over the New England Patriot's unprecedented comeback victory in overtime of Super Bowl LI, a CBS Sports blogger is arguing that the NFL should adopt college football overtime rules. The author asserts "But the one thing college football does better than the NFL? Overtime, without a doubt.".
The college football overtime rules is something that I despise about that game. For many reasons.
First of all, it's a totally different rule set than the regulation game. The CBS writer claims that "The overtime rules in college football are straight forward." I disagree on that point as well, as college overtime is full of caveats of its own. After two overtimes, for example, teams are required to go for two-point conversions. It's a more complicated ruleset than the CBS writer gives it credit for, and its no less complicated than NFL overtime rules which allow for the game to continue if the opening possession results in a field goal.
Special teams stars like Devin Hester are
completely irrelevant in college overtime.
Perhaps most importantly: these rules completely ignore special teams. Have an explosive punt or kick returner like, say Devin Hester? Well, in college football, he never gets to step foot on the field - at least, not as a return man. Same goes for an exceptional punter or kick coverage unit. They all get to sit on the sidelines and watch because they're arbitrarily no longer part of the game. Special teams is part of football, and should be part of overtime. Any overtime rule that neglects special teams is not football.
Another of my biggest complaints with college football overtime is that it favors the offense, exhausts the defenses, and leads to inflated scores and stats. A 10-10 defensive struggle that is unresolved in regulation can end up turning into a 38-35 shootout. Don't forget that this supposedly-exciting "shoot out" could turn into a slog of exchanging field goals indefinitely.
The college rules also don't allow for a game to end in a tie. I know that with only 10 to 12 games, every game in college football counts, and a tie would look awefully confusing to any top 25 pollsters. But the reality is that sometimes a tie might be more representative of the outcome of a hard-fought game than some inflated triple overtime score.
Lastly, by not permitting a tie, the college overtime rules permit a game to go on indefinitely until a winner is decided. This is a rule that changed in 1995. Prior to that year, college football games could end in ties, but the rules committee decided that was undesirable. Even regular season games must go on until there is a winner. This can wear out the players and can dramatically increase the risk of injury. I can understand the desire to play a playoff or championship game until a winner is determined, but is it really necessary for every single regular season game too...? [More]
I recently wrote regarding a proposal for improving practice squad and training features by hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Of course, there's still a lot of other aspects of the game that I'd like to see improved. I was pleased that this year's Madden 17 implemented some items from my wishlist from last year. There's still a lot from last year's wishlist that I'd like to see implemented in some fashion. Playing Madden 17 has also raised new ideas for improvement.
Let's start out by going over some of the things that are left over from last year's wishlist:
Loose ball A.I. was a point on my wishlist last year, but it wasn't addressed, as evidenced by this clip.
Now, admittedly, a lot of the following suggestions are going to be based on my own subjective experiences with the game. And these opinions come from someone who is almost exclusively a single-user Franchise player. My priorities are going to be far different from the desires of MUT players or even online franchise players.
I'm also not going to bother (right now) with the obvious problems: rubberband AI that creates obnoxiously artificial "momentum swings", the broken man coverage, robo QBs, the complete unwillingness of my linemen to block at the point of attack on run plays, or the down-tuning of new features (such as throw out of sack, aggressive catch, and defensive line moves) to the point of irrelevance, and so on. Instead, I'm going to try to focus on less-obvious mechanics that interact with these problems and which have forced EA to make the [bad] decisions that they've made.
Better run-pass balance and longer games
The general design of Madden isn't very run-friendly. The fact that the game is balanced and tuned for quick, 6-minute quarter, pick-up-and-play online matches (instead of full 15-minute quarter games) means that grinding it out on the ground to establish the run is futile. Trying to run the ball in a 6-minute quarter game (with accelerated clock turned ON, which is the default) can rapidly burn through time. I regularly eat up an entire quarter and a half in a single drive when I commit to the running game in such matches, and that is just unrealistic. This forces both players and the CPU to depend on the passing game to score before a half expires. In my opinion, this is a fundamental design flaw of Madden, and the game will never be truly great as long as 6-minute quarters is the focus of design.
Madden's fundamental design is not very run-friendly.
But fundamental design flaws aside, my experience with Madden 16 and 17 has been that the CPU is completely inept at running the ball. Even when the blocking is solid, the CPU-controlled back can rarely identify and hit the hole, and usually runs right into a waiting defender or one of his own blockers. CPU backs are even worse at running to the outside, as they'll often run backwards in a futile attempt to get to the edge, instead of just cutting upfield for whatever yardage they can get. This often leads to large losses of yardage, backs up the CPU, and contributes towards the CPU's over-reliance on passing the ball. I usually play with the CPU Run Blocking A.I. slider up between 80 or 100, and yet CPU running backs still routinely finish games with stats along the lines of 15 rushes for 20 total yards. Pathetic. If a CPU runner does have a successful game, it's usually because they broke one or two long runs due to a missed tackle, and 90% of their yardage total comes from one or two plays. Also pathetic. Seriously, I have rage-quit games because of the CPU's ineptitude.
CPU Doug Martin runs right into his pulling guard [LEFT] instead of going inside like the trap play is designed.
CPU Doug Martin has a huge hole with only a single cornerback to beat [RIGHT], but cuts into traffic instead.
I also have a lot of trouble running the ball myself with my own Run Blocking A.I. slider set to anything below 50... [More]
UPDATE OCTOBER 23, 2016: LATEST PATCH AND/OR TUNER HAVE PRACTICALLY RUINED THE GAME FOR ME.
I've been having miserable experiences with Madden 17 since publishing this review. I suspect that either patch #2 or tuner #2 are the culprit. CPU QBs have become robots that have 80% completion percentages every game. Running the ball has become impossible (for both human and CPU teams). Man coverage simply doesn't work at all, making corner routes, in routes, out routes, and slant routes unstoppable. The throw out of sack mechanic has been tuned down to the point of being irrelevant. And the list goes on...
Sliders don't seem to improve the experience at all. In fact, certain sliders (like CPU QB Accuracy and CPU Pass Blocking) don't seem to have any effect at all anymore. I am tempted to rewrite this review with a much lower score (Somewhere in the range of a D or D-), but I'm hoping that EA will fix the problem - or at the very least, that deleting the most recent Tuner data will resolve some of the issues. Sadly, I don't think it's possible for me to re-download the first tuner data. This is a shame, since that one actually did fix some genuine problems the game had at launch.
DO NOT DOWNLOAD PATCH #2 OR TUNER #2!
Electronic Arts has supposedly spent the last three years or so rebuilding Madden from the ground up. Because of that, the past few years' games have felt very incremental, and somewhat incomplete. It was obvious that there were still major holes in many facets of gameplay. Personally, I would have preferred that EA just take a two or three year hiatus in order to hold off on releasing a game until it was actually complete. I'm happy that it seems like we're finally getting a "finished" version of EA's vision of a "next gen" Madden game, and I was curious to see if it would live up to expectations.
By their own admission, EA has finally rebuilt the final few phases of gameplay that still used predominantly legacy code (e.g. special teams and the football itself). For the first time in a long time, it feels like Madden can be approached and reviewed as a complete retail product rather than one step in a long-term incremental beta process. Is it worth the wait?
We'll, first impressions let it down a bit. Much like last year's game, the introduction and tutorial for Madden 17 seemed like a pointless waste of time that misrepresents the actual content of the game with its frequent cutscenes and dialogue from players and coaches. I'm not sure who these scripted gameplay intros are intended for. I would expect that new players would likely be confused and unsure what to do, resulting in failing the intro without any clue what they did wrong or what they were supposed to do. Experienced players, on the other hand, are probably just annoyed with the lack of control in this sequence. The inability to skip the cutscenes only makes repeat playthroughs (if you care enough to try to actually beat the scenario) feel tedious, as you'll have to sit through more cringe-worthy dialogue. EA Sports / Tiburon isn't Naughty Dog, and so writing dialogue and directing voice actors are not the studio's strong suits. About the only thing that this intro sequence does is highlight the new commentary team, which is actually pretty good.
Slowly becoming a complete football game
Despite the blocked field goal in the intro being an un-playable cutscene, special teams was one of the primary areas of focus this year. It's an area that's been mostly neglected since the analog kick meter was introduced back around 2007. And what was the innovation that EA decided was necessary to bring their kicking game into the next generation? Well, actually, they decided to bring back a kicking meter that works almost identically to the older PS1 / PS2 era games. You start the meter charging by pressing X, then press X again to set the kick strength as the meter fills, then press X again to set the kick accuracy as the meter returns to the bottom. Nothing new here.
The "new" kick meter is basically a return to the older kick meter.
However, you now have to hold the analog stick to aim the kick prior to starting the kick meter. If you let go, the kick trajectory will snap back to the default. This does require a bit more dexterity than either of the previous kick meter systems ever needed, but it's still fairly easy once you get used to it. Though, EA could maybe loosen up the accuracy window for online games because any amount of lag makes the kicking game virtually impossible. You also have to be more careful with timing your kicks, as the game and play clocks both continue to tick while the kick meter is charging. Not sure if this is a bug or a feature... So be careful that you don't wait too long and give yourself a delay of game (or let the game clock expire before) you get the kick off.
On the other side of the ball, defenders can now actually block kicks by jumping the snap... [More]
One of the things that I like about preseason is that I get to watch all the Bears games, since NFL Network shows re-broadcasts of every preseason game. I don't have any of those fancy satellite TV services, which means I'm stuck with only the regular season games that are broadcast on cable. So I didn't get to watch the Bears week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. I didn't miss much.
Offensive ineptitude ruined any chances of Chicago staying in their week 1 match-up against the Texans.
My preseason perception of the Bears as being inept on offense was validated by the final score of 23-14. Granted, the Texans are one of the better defenses in the league, but sloppy play has been the Bears M.O. throughout preseason. The defense actually gave the team some opportunities, but offensive mistakes just undid any gains that the Bears made early. Botched snaps, sacks, an interception, and fumbles ended too many drives, and the defense just couldn't hold back the Texans' offense.
I did get to watch the Bears' game against the Eagles on Monday night. It looked very similar. The defense played very well throughout much of the game, holding the Eagles to only nine points up through almost the end of the third quarter. Jacoby Glenn and Tracy Porter made some key pass break-ups that ended Eagles drives and gave the Bears offense opportunities to buffer the score. But once again, a fumble and an interception from Jay Cutler gave the Eagles a two-score lead. Cutler was under siege right from the start of the game, and the very first play from scrimmage was a sack of Cutler. It also didn't help that Connor Barth missed a field goal early in the game. So much for replacing Robbie Gould in order to save salary cap space. As Jay Gruden pointed out, you get what you pay for. With the offense being as bad as it has been, Gould was likely going to be the team's leading scorer this year. That should have made him a valuable commodity who is worth paying, even though he is "only a kicker". Cutler eventually left the game with a hand injury, only to have other players make costly mistakes. The Bears were driving at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Brian Hoyer under center, until Jeremy Langford gave up the first fumble of his pro career.
The defense stood firm early, but the Carson Wentz phenomenon
was too much for it to handle without help from the offense.
Then the flood gates opened. The defense just couldn't contain the Eagles anymore. The defense managed to make a fourth down stop on the goal-line, only to give the Eagles a second chance (and a walk-in score) due to an offsides penalty. This sequence also saw starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman go down with an apparent leg injury after being bent over backwards. He had to be carted off the field. Hopefully, the injury isn't as serious as it looked... [More]
Earlier today, I experienced what might be the craziest, flukiest play that I've ever seen in a Madden video game! And not in the way that fluke plays in Madden are usually glitchy plays or plays in which the CPU cheats to affect an outcome. No, this was a fluke play in the genuine football sense of a fluke play.
Special teams is no longer to be ignored, and PATs are not forgone conclusions...
To put the situation in context, I was playing an exhibition game in Madden 17 as the Seahawks against the 49ers (on All Pro difficulty). It started out as an intense defensive struggle with the first score not coming until midway through the second quarter. Down 17-3 in the fourth, the 49ers started mounting a comeback. The 49ers got into the end zone in the waning minutes of the game to make the score 17-16. They lined up for the PAT that would have tied the game - a play that should be routine. But what happened next was anything but routine.
Therold Simon and Kam Chancellor rushed off the outside to block the PAT and ice the game. Simon beat Bruce Miller around the edge and successfully blocked the kick, but Miller was the one who managed to pick up the ball. He then proceeded to run around the edge and managed to make it into the end zone, turning the 49ers' blown extra point into a successful two-point conversion. Instead of tying the game, they now had a one-point lead.
Perhaps the flukiest play that I've ever seen in a Madden game.
I couldn't believe what I had seen.
And it was amazing!
Damnit Kam Chancellor! All you had to do was fall on the ball!
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