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In the previous essay in this series about how Madden fails to simulate football, I discussed how QBs in real football go through their progressions to find open receivers to throw to. And then the second half pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch and turned into a pitch for the return of the QB Vision mechanic, or something analogous. Surprise!

I also briefly talked about how the goal of the defense is to cover the primary receiving threats long enough for the pass rush to disrupt the play. In the best of cases, the defense can cover the receivers long enough to sack the quarterback, or force him to make a bad throw into coverage that is intercepted. But sacks and interceptions aren't really the goal of the defense. The defense will, of course, be happy to take them when they happen, but no defensive play is really designed to force a sack or an interception.

The full video on YouTube contains additional commentary and examples.

Truth is that a lot of relatively mundane outcomes can be complete successes for the defense. Forcing the QB to throw before he can make his reads and set his feet so that he throws an inaccurate ball is a success. That is true whether the QB deliberately throws the ball into the sixth row of the stands, or if his rush to release the ball puts it inches out of reach of the receiver's outstretched fingertips, or if his inability to set his feet results in a weak, wobbly ball that bounces harmlessly at the receiver's feet. Or maybe the defense tips the pass or knocks it down such that the play gains no yards. All of those outcomes represent unqualified defensive success.

Defenses don't need sacks or turnovers to "win" a series.

If a defense can do this for three consecutive plays and force the offense to punt, then the defense did it's job, even if it isn't flashy, doesn't show up in a Chris Berman highlight reel, and doesn't light up a stat board. Heck, even forcing a check down that is completed for positive yards, but which does not result in a first down is still a success for the defense! Especially if it happens on 3rd or 4th down.

Of course, the defender who wants to pad his stats with a sack or interception, and get a big payday next time contract negotiations come along, might disagree.

EA's Madden video games apparently disagree as well. Since the pace of play in Madden is sped up to facilitate the shortened length of quarters, gaining yards and making first downs is really easy for the offense, but yet sacks are paradoxically too common.

Get used to hearing statements like that. Quarter length and game pacing was the first essay of the series for a reason! -- because it really is so fundamental to almost everything that is wrong with Madden. I would not be surprised if every single essay of this series will refer back to that first episode at least once or twice!

For much of Madden's history, pass rushers either have no impact on the play (because the QB can see the entire field and can hit any receiver on the field with the press of a button), or the pass rush downs the quarterback for a seven yard loss on a sack. Sometimes two or three times in a row if the game's scripting or an X-Factor ability decides that the defense should win this particular possession.

Playing Madden on 15-minute quarters, it's not uncommon to see each team pile up 5, 6, or 7 sacks by the end of the game. For reference, good NFL defenses usually average 2 or 3 sacks per game. You can adjust the difficulty level or the "Pass Blocking" A.I. sliders to reduce the frequency of sacks, but then this leads to the opposite problem of the pass rush being almost completely irrelevant, and QBs having the opportunity to complete more deep shots that inflates completion percentages, passing yards, and final scores.

On 15-minute quarters, it is not uncommon to see each defense record 5 or more sacks.

Disrupting the throwing motion

One of the ways that Madden has historically, routinely failed to model football is that the pass rush rarely (if ever) disrupts the quarterback's throwing motion or timing.

There have been several attempts to address this. And I don't even have to go back to a game from 2006 this time, because iterations of Madden in the current generation of consoles made attempts at solving this problem. One of Madden 17's heavily-promoted new features was the ability of defenses to hit the QB during the throw, causing the QB to throw either a "lame duck" pass or a "gutterball" -- or worse yet, being strip-sacked. This mechanic made passing the ball much harder in Madden 17. It severely punished QBs who spent too long in the pocket, and it also limited users' ability to wait to the last possible moment to throw, because doing so would more likely result in an easily-intercepted lame duck or strip sack.

Madden 17 featured new strip sack and throw-out-of-sack animations that were not well received by gamers.

This mechanic had it's share of problems (and I'll get to those), but instead of adapting their strategy to throw more quick timing routes and checkdowns before the pressure reaches the QB, many Madden users complained to EA that the mechanic was too overpowered in favor of defenses. They weren't "wrong", but they could have worked around the problem by playing the game differently than they were used to. It was actually a very good mechanic -- and a modestly realistic one by Madden's standards. You were just holding the ball too long, Mr. Armchair Jay Cutler.

Like the QB Vision mechanic, the strip sacks and lame duck passes of Madden 17 were cut because it made passing the ball harder, and a vocal subset of the player base complained instead of adapting their play to the more punitive mechanic. They didn't want to play "football", they wanted to play "Madden-ball", and EA capitulated.

Oh yeah, sure, there were legit problems with animation warping, suction, animation canceling, and online lag leading to bad throws and strip sacks in inappropriate situations. More fundamentally, the biggest problem with this mechanic is that the punishment for failure was disproportional to the mistake that was made. Having an errant pass intercepted by a lineman or a strip sack picked up for a walk-in TD, wasn't really a deserved outcome for the mistake of being slightly too slow on the controller.

Madden 17 did not consistently enforce its strip sack and throw-out-of-sack rules.

It is true, that the same risk exists in real football, and it makes sense for Madden to emulate that. The problem is that Madden is completely inconsistent about how and when it choses to enforce such harsh punishment. It's also problematic that it's far too easy for players in Madden to pick up fumbles and run with them. Football players in real life are taught by coaches to fall on a loose football and cradle it (which basically ends the play without being able to advance the ball). Otherwise, a real-life player runs a risk of the ball squirting out of your hands such that a player on the other team can recover it. If Madden's defensive linemen weren't so damned expert at scooping and scoring every time there's a fumble in the backfield, then the strip sack mechanic would have been far more balanced and realistic.

Furthermore, CPU-controlled QBs also had a tendency to hold onto the ball too long -- almost as if Tiburon didn't bother to change the CPU passing A.I. to work with the new pass rush mechanics -- which a problem that mirrors the problems with the Vision Cone 15 years ago. To be fair to those who complained to EA about the mechanic being OP, it did favor the human player's defense versus most CPU QBs who weren't Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, because those CPU QBs liked to hold the ball too long and took too many sacks. The user could adjust your play-calling strategy to the frequent strip sacks; the CPU didn't.

The human user could avoid sacks by calling more short routes and checkdowns.

Even so, the solution shouldn't have been to cut the mechanic. For a player getting frustrated by frequent strip-sacks in competitive matches, the solution should have been to call and throw more quick, timing routes. Or, I don't know, maybe try running the ball instead of throwing a deep post or verts every single play? From Tiburon and EA's standpoint, the solution should have been to fix its game engine. Or maybe add a slider for how quickly the CPU QB gets throws off, that way, users could custom-tailor the experience to whatever they think is fair.

But I get it. When you only have 20 minutes of regulation play in a competitive, ranked match, you don't necessarily have time to build your gameplan around 3 or 4-yard out routes, hitches, and runs. Even though some of the most successful offenses in the history of the NFL were built around those concepts, the shortened length and faster pace of play of Madden makes such gameplans far less viable. If only the game defaulted to a longer quarter length...

By Madden 19 and 20, QBs were almost always
"tucking" the ball and taking the sack.

Sadly EA caved to the complaints of its online and competitive players, and, over a series of several mid-season patches applied to Madden 17, Tiburon toned down the mechanic to the point that it virtually never happened anymore and was rendered moot. By the end of the Madden 17 season, the mechanic had been neutered to the point that it might as well not even be included to begin with, and was compounded by the introduction of "robo QBs" routinely completing 80+% of passes. By Madden 19, I'm not even sure if the lame duck or strip sack animations were even still in the game. I maybe saw it once in my entire time with Madden 19 and 20. In the overwhelming majority of cases a QB will tuck the ball. Even if he gets hit while more than halfway through their throwing motion, he will cancel the throw animation, "tuck" the ball with his magic, magnetic hand, and take the sack. It's incredibly unrealistic, and contributes to the problem of excessive sacks.

Believe it or not, Madden 21 actually makes solid steps to rectify some of these problems that were present in the Madden 17 implementation. Madden 21 actually does allow pass rushers to be consistently more disruptive without having to accumulate half a dozen sacks in a single game, or forcing a strip-sack and turnover. Madden 21 achieves this by adding new "throw out of sack" animations which work much better than the equivalent animations of Madden 17. The new animations don't pop the ball up into the air, allowing a defensive lineman to intercept it and run it in for a walk-in defensive touchdown. Instead, Madden 21's animations usually cause the QB to drill the ball into the ground for an incompletion. No loss of yards. No turnover. Just a mundane outcome, but still a win for the defense.

So ... holy crap ... EA actually took feedback of a past Madden game to heart and made a meaningful improvement to core gameplay?! Do I actually get to start a series of "How Madden succeeds at Simulating Football"? Well, I'm not entirely convinced.

Madden 21 added much better throw-out-of-sack animations that did not lead to excessive turnovers.

Remember what happened to this mechanic in Madden 17? Remember what happened to the QB Vision Cone? Or the targeted passing of Madden 18? History has shown that any new mechanic that adds complexity or challenge to the passing game in Madden will be met with a lot of resistance from certain segments of the fanbase, and such mechanics tend not to last long. Even though this new mechanic is much friendlier to the offense, by reducing turnovers, and even limiting loss of yards by converting sacks into incomplete passes, I would not be surprised if fanboys still complain to EA because they can't complete every single deep post route. Even though Madden 21's throw out of sack animations do, indeed, work far better than Madden 17, EA and Tiburon have not imbued me with confidence that the mechanic will remain in the game for long -- let alone become a permanent fixture of gameplay.

In fact, this feature already seems to have been tuned down considerably since Madden 21's release. By the mid-season patches, I was already seeing QBs tucking more and more passes instead of triggering a more appropriate throw out of sack animation.

Binary blocking

Even though I mostly liked Madden 17's implementation of the throw out of sack mechanic, and Madden 21 is a rare case of a successful iteration of a previous idea from years prior, I will confess that the mere inclusion of the throw out of sack mechanic still does not do a great job of modeling how real NFL defenses generate pressure and disrupt the opponent QB. That is because the even bigger failure of Madden to simulate football is the way that it implements its blocking animations -- specifically pass blocking.

Blocking animations in Madden are very ... binary. A player is either being blocked, or he isn't. There's almost nothing in between, and there's very little transition from one state to the other. Madden's blocking logic will usually just cycle through a looping blocking animation while the block is "engaged". During this time, Madden rolls the dice repeatedly against the blocker's block ratings and the defender's break-block ratings, until it gets a value that either says the blocker should pancake the defender, or the defender should beat the block.

Blockers get stuck in animation loops until a pancake or disengagement is rolled by the invisible ratings dice.

Before a win or loss is rolled, the blocker and defender often just lock arms and cycle through animations with very little variation, making it look as though your blocker has the defender much more locked down than he maybe actually does. This makes it very hard to read the integrity of the pocket and "sense pressure" in the way that a real-life quarterback would.

If a defender beats a blocker on, say, a spin move, he goes immediately from that fully locked-up animation to spinning and instantly being released by the blocker, with very little transition, and no "red flags" to indicate that the defender has an advantage. The blocker makes no attempt to stay with the defender and slow him down during or after the move; he basically just gives up. A defender in Madden can go from being completely blocked, to being completely un-blocked, to lying on top of the QB all in the span of a single second -- far faster than the capacity of the average human being to react.

Defenders don't beat blocks except via insta-block-sheds.

To be clear, the problem here is not that this all happens so fast. This all happens very fast in real football too, and Madden actually replicates the speed of these events fairly accurately. The problem is mostly a game design problem in the lack of robust animation transition and feedback to the user.

The block-shedding animations that exist in the game are largely fine. The rip, swim, and spin animations in which the defender throws the blocker to the side are actually based on real moves that real defensive linemen perform in real football. The problem is that these are pretty much the only animations that Madden has. These insta-block sheds happen too often, and lead to too many sacks because they are the only ways that Madden defenders can beat blocks and get pressure.

From the user's perspective, you cannot reliably read whether the pocket is collapsing because it is always either in a state of holding, or it's already collapsed, and a defender has a free line to the QB.

Because of how suddenly defenders can go from blocked to unblocked to sacking your QB, stepping up in the pocket is actually a very dangerous thing to do. This is despite the fact that stepping up is usually the safest way to buy a precious split second to make a throw in real life. Doing so in Madden, however, is often an invitation for a defensive tackle to suddenly break free of a block and pancake your quarterback before you have time to react.

Many Madden players have long suspected that scrambling outside of the tackles causes defenders to automatically break their blocking engagements as a sort of rubber-banding mechanic to limit the exploitability of mobile quarterbacks. I suspect that Tiburon's code does the same thing when stepping up into the pocket because the game mistakenly thinks you're trying to scramble through a gap and it overreacts to limit the gain.

The difficulty of reading the stability of the pocket makes it hard to tell how long you can hold the ball, and whether a checkdown is necessary. This has always been a problem with Madden. It isn't just a matter of Madden not adequately representing the sport that it is trying to model, but it's also just plain bad video game design.

It is very hard to read the pocket at a glance.

This is one of many reasons why I used to prefer the slow game speed in earlier versions of Madden. I'm not an NFL quarterback. I can't read and react to a defense as quickly as a trained, professional NFL quarterback. Slowing down the game speed allows me make reads at a timescale more reasonable for an average gaming 30-something year old who's reflexes admittedly aren't as fast as they used to be. My own slowing reaction time aside, I still feel like the gameplay of Madden is faster than actual football -- probably owing to trying to squeeze a match into the shortened 20-30 minute format that EA insists on forcing us to use whenever possible.

Playing through the block

To make matters worse, Madden has lacked a concept called a "reach tackle", whereby a defender who is engaged with a blocker reaches one or both arms through the block in order to grab at a runner, or swipe at a QB's throwing arm. A variation of this concept was added to Madden 18, but was severely limited. In real football, reaching through a block like this would rarely result in a tackle or a sack. Instead, it would slow down the runner, allowing another defender to make a clean tackle; or it would destabilize a QB's throwing motion, resulting in a bad throw. In Madden 18, the reach animation always seemed to result in a tackle or sack. The defender would get sucked out of his block and make a tackle, or trigger a "throw out of sack animation".

In the context of pass rushing, defenders should be able to reach or swipe at the QB's arm or ball during the QB's throwing motion. This would reduce the number of sacks, reduce the game's reliance on abstract accuracy modifiers for "pressure", and would allow good and great defensive pass rushers to disrupt passing plays in more realistic ways. And hopefully, it will also come along with better loose ball A.I., so that when a QB is strip-sacked, he would actually know that he's fumbled, and would attempt to recover his own fumble.

X-Factors have good animations, but poor triggers

In Madden's defense, some of the X-Factor animations in Madden 20 and 21 actually do model more complicated pass rush moves. These animations are distinct from the normal pass rush animations, are flashier, and are thus easier for the human user to notice. It's just a question of whether the QB throws the ball before the defender completes the animation. But this feature only applies to pass rushers with certain X-Factor abilities. All other blocks retain the looping binary animations.

X-Factors further imbalance sack stats.

Despite having more readable animations, the X-Factors animations are still very fast and very sudden, and still generate way too many sacks! This sadly, was by design! Defender gets "in the zone" in Madden 20 by getting two sacks. Once in the zone, the defender becomes better at beating blocks and faster at getting to the QB, resulting in even more sacks -- especially in games with quarter lengths greater than 6 minutes. The rich get richer. X-Factors are designed with quick, pick-up games of MUT in mind. EA wants these players to perform at their peak for every competitive match. The end result is that these players end up with multiple sacks almost every game (with 20-minute regulations no less) , even though the best NFL pass rushers only have a multi-sack games a few times in a whole season. Screw Franchise players, whose season stats are all fubared.

Madden 21 reduced the requirement for these pass rush X-Factors to needing only 1 sack (or a tackle for loss) to enter "the zone", but it's still poorly balanced. I easily had Khalil Mack breaking the single-season sack record in both Madden 20 and 21.

OK, now it's time for some [hopefully] constructive feedback. I'm not a big fan of the charge-up mechanic that trigger the "in the zone" bonuses. I'm OK with giving elite players access to special abilities or animations that separate them from other "normal" players. But tying those abilities to charge-up mechanics just feels too game-y and not in keeping with the philosophy of simulation football.

I don't have a problem with elite players having unique abilities or animations,
but the X-Factor "charge-up" mechanic feels too "video game-y".

But if you're going to have charge-up mechanics for these X-Factor abilities, then the way that I think pass-rusher X-Factors should work is that the superstar player should get in the zone by pressuring the QB -- rather than needing to actually sack him. They pressure the QB by sacking or almost sacking the QB, by disrupting the QB's throwing motion, by forcing him to throw without his feet set, by swatting a pass down at the line of scrimmage, or by collapsing the pocket by pushing a blocker back into the QB. By mixing and matching any of those conditions, say, three times, the defender goes into the zone, which grants him a pass rush bonus until his next sack, or until the opposing offense does something to get him out of the zone (such as frustrating him by double-teaming him). At that point, his X-Factor resets.

Past Tiburon games have tracked"QB Pressure" stats.

EA games have tracked stats for QB hurries, QB hits, and deflections, so I'm not asking Madden to do anything that Tiburon isn't already capable of doing. Sadly, it doesn't seem to track these stats for individual defenders. Instead, I've only ever seen them as an in-game stat overlay, applied to the quarterback or the defense as a whole. This leads to yet another way that Madden fails its Franchise players. Because QB hurries, QB hits, and pass disruptions are not tracked over a player's season or career, they therefore (as far as I know) cannot be used for a player's ratings progressions, awards, or legacy score. If your pass rusher isn't getting tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles, he might as well not even be on the field as far as stat-tracking is concerned.

And that simply is not the way that pass rushing works in real football. Watch almost any NFL broadcast with a dominant pass rusher -- Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and the like -- and you'll almost certainly hear the commentators talk about how that player can be dominant and disruptive even if he is not recording actual sacks.

Detering repetitive play

While I'm on the topic of "charge-up" mechanics, I do want to give Madden 21 credit for a couple new features that deter repetitive play on the defensive line, and which actually does help (at least on paper) to reduce the frequency of sacks. Pass rushers now have a number of charges that limits how many pass rush moves they can use. Each rusher recovers one charge each play, so this only punishes users who try using multiple pass rush moves on a single play, which will exhaust the player's available pass rush moves before the possession ends. Each offensive linemen also gains resistance towards being beat by the same moves repeatedly.

Madden 21's pass rush mechanics
encourage diverse play-calling and substitution packages.

Both of these new mechanics are very "video-game-y", but they are good in principle. They both try to model the idea of offensive linemen "learning" a defender's tendencies and moves, and they also serve to deter repetitive play and require the defensive user to rotate pass rushers around the line and to attack different gaps. It also shows the offensive user which gaps are most vulnerable and encourages the offensive user to use counter-rush mechanics such as slide protection, double-team blocking, and ID the Mike, which have been under-utilized in past games. It's a good feature, which I think both competitive and sim player should be able to get behind. It doesn't reduce the frequency of sacks to realistic rates for longer-length games, but it does seem to reduce the frequency of sacks compared to Madden 21, so it's a start. Better yet for sim players, it's a mechanic that (in my experience) scales well with quarter length. Good job, Tiburon.

Failure to model technique

Madden has always been so focused on the physical talents of players (speed and agility being the dominant attributes in most iterations of Madden), that Madden rarely bothers trying to model technique.

Now, this is a video game. It cannot possibly replicate all the nuances of technique for every player, out of the thousands who are in the league. Nor should we expect that. Many players in the league might play similarly because they share coaching pedigrees, or have similar physical gifts. So it's OK for there to be overlap of animation sets between different players of similar skill levels and play styles. In this regard, Madden could take smaller steps to differentiate how different players perform and how opponents can attack a specific player's weaknesses.

Blockers have ratings for finesse and power.

For example, Madden already has attribute ratings for "Blocking Finesse" and "Blocking Power" for offensive linemen, which is separate from the lineman's "Pass Blocking" and "Run Blocking" rating. Presumably, Blocking Finesse plays against a pass rusher's finesse moves and Blocking Power plays against a rusher's power moves. OK. That's a start.

Perhaps a better way of implementing this would be to drop the "Pass Block" and "Run Block" ratings entirely and replace them with "Pass Block Hands", "Pass Block Footwork", and "Pass Block Leverage", along with equivalent ratings for run blocking -- similar to how QB accuracy has been replaced with independent ratings for short, medium, and deep accuracy. Each lineman would have an animation library for their feet, hands, and general body, that could combine for a multitude of different outcomes.

The Hands rating and animation libraries would combine with strength to determine how good the blocker is at preventing the defender from grabbing him or punching his pads or to prevent the defender from punching away the blocker's own hands, and might even reduce the player's risk of getting called for a holding penalty.

Footwork would largely determine the blocker's ability to move laterally with the pass rusher, while keeping himself upright with his feet planted firmly below and beneath him, and while avoiding tripping over his own feet or the feet of his fellow blockers. This rating would combine with speed and agility to access different animation libraries for preventing the pass rusher from beating the blocker to the outside, and keeping the blocker deeper than the rusher to help establish a clean pocket.

Lastly, Leverage would represent the blocker's ability to keep his hips and pad levels low. Leverage would combine with strength to limit the effectiveness of opposing bull rushes, and to prevent the blocker from being driven deeper into the pocket. Leverage and Footwork could also combine with Strength to prevent the blocker from being steered by a pass rusher.

Perhaps blocking ratings should be divided up between hands, feet, and leverage.

Tiburon could also break up players' Strength attributes to "Upper Body Strength" and "Lower Body Strength". This way, the Hands rating would combine with Upper Body Strength, Footwork would use Lower Body Strength, and Leverage would use both.

We would then also want a similar set of ratings for a run blocking, with separate attributes for determining how effective linemen are at driving defenders off the line, at keeping defenders from spinning or reaching out of a block, and for how well the blockers reach, seal, kickout, pull, and get upfield to the second level.

With ratings for different blocking techniques, and animations libraries that represent different techniques and skill levels, the user can hopefully see little red flags in the animations that might show that an offensive lineman has been stood up by a defender and has lost leverage before he gets pancaked, or that the blocker stumbles and give up the edge before the rusher spins, swims, or rips around him.

Instead, Madden has never really expanded beyond its basic, highly limited, looping blocking animations and the two or three blocking attributes that determine how long those loops repeat.

NCAA Football 13 had more readable pockets than Madden 21.

Pass rush as a scheme

Madden also largely ignores the pass rush as a scheme. Real life defenses will use different alignments and spacing before the snap in order to try to get better leverage for their rushers. It's up to the blockers and QB to recognize this and adjust accordingly, whether this means keeping a running back or tight end in to chip an edge rusher with a particularly wide angle of attack so that he doesn't effortlessly run around an offensive tackle, or the QB stepping up in the pocket to use the depth of the pass rush against the defense.

In real football, defensive positioning, stance, line stunts, blitz packages, and so forth are all designed to try to confuse the blocking schemes and force blockers to block the wrong person, leaving someone else free to penetrate the backfield untouched, or to trick a QB into running out of his own protection and into a sack. A selfless defender will bait a block and steer the blocker to create an opening for a blitzing teammate. Not so in Madden.

NFL 2k5 allowed users to mix-and-match different pass rush schemes with different coverage concepts.

Defenses also try to fill in the passing lanes so that the QB doesn't have a clear aisle to throw the ball. This is especially true for shorter quarterbacks who have a harder time throwing the ball over the blockers (or maybe even seeing over them to begin with). In real football, pass protection schemes are designed to try to open up passing lanes by funneling the rushers into positions that leave large open gaps for the QB to either throw through or scramble through for positive yards. Defenses might counter these schemes using line stunts to get their interior linemen into the lanes that the offense is trying to create, and it's up to the offensive blockers to recognize this and pass off the stunting rushers accordingly. This doesn't really work in Madden because blockers can warp or motion shift from one assignment to engage another defender and miraculously fill a gap in protection.

Real defenses will also try to collapse the pocket around the quarterback, while also reaching for the QB's arm or the ball, in order to force the QB to throw off-schedule or off-balance. Madden does sort of implement this in the form of accuracy penalties for the QB being "under pressure". The problem with this mechanic is that it's a very video-game-y feature. The QB's throw isn't inaccurate because his feet aren't set, or he can't properly follow-through on the throw, or because he's trying to physically throw over or around other players. It doesn't even happen because he's throwing off-schedule. They happen because the QB failed his accuracy dice roll against the pass rushers' ratings. These "pressure" modifiers feel completely arbitrary, and are one of the things that Madden uses to skew the outcome of plays to create the illusion of difficulty. These pressure penalties can even be incurred in a clean pocket, throwing through an open throwing lane, when the pass is thrown on-time.

In fact, NFL 2k5 used to have a feature whereby passes are more accurate if the player presses the primary receiver's button at the end of the QB's dropback. This rewards the player for knowing the progressions and throwing the pass on time, to the primary receiver. This was despite the fact that 2K5 doesn't have any practice mode that teaches the route concepts or progressions. Modern Madden has that feature! Yet it doesn't have any mechanics for rewarding the QB for throwing routes on time during the dropback, or penalties for throwing at the wrong time. Or at least, if it does, I'm not aware of it.

NFL 2k5 gave QBs an accuracy bonus for throwing at the correct point in their dropback.

Another sign of a good pass rusher (or of a good defensive scheme) is when the defense draws a holding penalty. Good defensive linemen (especially ones who are good at staying low and keeping better leverage) frequently force holding penalties by the offensive linemen who are stuck blocking them one-on-one. Certain positioning or spacing at the line of scrimmage can also make it difficult for pass blockers to get good leverage against a pass rusher, which may force that blocker to have to commit a blatant hold in order to save his quarterback from being ripped in half. Penalties in Madden however are completely random, and are not drawn by these sorts of situational factors. Penalties is another issue that could probably be the topic of a whole episode or two. Perhaps I'll talk about them more at length on a later date.

On the other side of the ball, offenses will try to beat heavy pass rushes by throwing lots of short, quick routes, such as hitches, slants, outs, and ins. Or you can beat an all-out blitz with screens and draws. Screens and draws have not reliably worked in Madden because of limitations in blocking logic and defensive play recognition (which might also have to be the topic of a future video). Having draw and screen plays that actually work as they are supposed to, and then programming the CPU to use these plays to counter a heavy pass rush, would go a long way towards balancing out the passing game and excessive sacks.

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The tip of the iceberg

Well, this was much longer than the previous essays about Madden's failures to simulate football, but that was still only just the tip of the iceberg of problems with this game. I did not cover breakdowns in A.I. that allow defenders to get into the backfield without being blocked at all, or how users can control down linemen or linebackers and exploit audibles or hot routes to confuse the blocking A.I. and completely break the blocking assignments such that defensive players can reliably blitz the QB without being touched. As someone who doesn't play competitively, those sorts of A.I. exploits don't really concern me as much. If you want to see examples of those, check out other content-creators like Eric Rayweather, Ryan Moody, and the like. I didn't really talk much about pocket formation (or the lack thereof). And of course, I didn't really discuss run blocking at all. Run blocking has its own slew of problems, but is beyond the scope of this particular video topic and would likely need its own episode to do it justice.

If you are enjoying this content, and want me to make more content like it (including YouTube video essays), I invite you to support the creation of further content on Patreon. By becoming a Patron, you'll receive exclusive previews of upcoming projects, early access to select content, and the ability to vote on polls of future projects. As I hit goals, I also intend to make matching donations to a charity or non-profit that will be selected by my Patrons. I may also add additional benefits to Patrons as my support base grows.

It also helps if you share this content. So please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social media platform of your choice. It really does help. Thanks for your continued support!

And I didn't even cover A.I. issues and exploits,
such as my RG (#64) refusing to block either of the blitzing linebackers.

Other How Madden Fails To Simulate Football

Quarter LengthQuarter Length
(06/05/2020)
Quarterback ProgressionsQuarterback Progressions
(07/27/2020)
Pass Rush vs ProtectionPass Rush vs Protection
(06/11/2021)
The Case For LongsnappersThe Case For Longsnappers
(07/18/2021)

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

With EA Sports College Football in the mix, we'll have a full slate of football video games in 2022/2023!With EA Sports College Football in the mix, we'll have a full slate of football video games in 2022/2023!02/03/2021 Last year (around this same time, in fact), we football video game fans were given the bombshell news that EA's exclusive contract with the NFL wasn't quite as exclusive as we thought. That contract apparently only covered "simulation" football games (which makes me wonder how or why EA has the license to begin with, since they...

Random Post

The show I wish Star Trek: Enterprise had beenThe show I wish Star Trek: Enterprise had been06/16/2016 Star Trek: Enterprise is a very divisive topic among Trekkers / Trekkies. Personally, I'm not a big fan. It was a perfectly adequate space adventure TV show, but just never quite worked as hard science fiction for me, let alone as "Star Trek". There were certainly some stand-out good episodes. The haunted space station of "Dead...

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