WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 3 (Part 2)

Week 3 of the Greatest of All Time season began yesterday with, as Jesse Jackson might say, “some UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS…in the FOOTBALL SIMULATION COMMUNITY.” For the second half of Week 3’s action (which includes five matchups between past NFL champions), tune back in…right about now.

1998 Denver Broncos (2-1) 24, 1973 Minnesota Vikings (1-2) 10

John Elway went 16-of-22 for 205 yards and two touchdowns and the Broncos used four sacks of Fran Tarkenton to fuel a victory in their home opener. Both of Elway’s touchdown passes came outside the red zone. The first came on a 36-yard throw to Ed McCaffrey with 24 seconds left in the first half and gave the Broncos a 14-3 lead heading into halftime. The second, caught by Rod Smith in the third quarter, went for 62 yards and once again gave the Broncos a two-score advantage after the Vikings had scored on the opening possession of the second half. Chuck Foreman rushed for 144 yards on only 17 carries for the Vikings, but Tarkenton was limited to 184 yards passing on 34 attempts.

1979 San Diego Chargers (2-1) 29, 1981 Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) 24

In possibly the best quarterback duel of the season so far, Dan Fouts was a hair better than Ken Anderson and the Chargers avenged their loss in the Freezer Bowl (but not really, since this is all fake and in no way is based in any semblance of reality) with a come-from-behind 29-24 victory at Jack Murphy Stadium. Fouts went 17-of-25 for 303 yards, an interception and two touchdowns – the second of which (a 46-yard strike to Clarence Williams) put the Chargers back in the lead with 4:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Chargers had marched out to a 20-10 lead early in the second half, but two touchdown passes from Ken Anderson (15-of-25 for 257 yards and three touchdowns overall) gave the Bengals a 24-23 lead heading into the final quarter. Cris Collinsworth had 151 yards and two touchdowns receiving on five catches, but the Bengals couldn’t muster anything on either of their two possessions after Fouts’ late touchdown throw to Williams.

2000 Tennessee Titans (3-0) 38, 1969 Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) 7

The Titans continued their surprising run as perhaps the most impressive team in the league thus far and held the Chiefs scoreless until the final minute of the game at Municipal Stadium. Steve McNair threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns on 32 attempts and the Titans picked up a whopping 26 first downs, thanks to their remarkable 10-for-17 efficiency on third down. Before Otis Taylor caught a 77-yard touchdown from Len Dawson with less than a minute remaining, the Chiefs had only gained 126 total yards offensively. Time to call these Titans serious contenders!

1999 St. Louis Rams (2-1) 30, 1958 Baltimore Colts (1-2) 17

Kurt Warner threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns on 33 attempts, Marshall Faulk added 161 combined yards on 26 touches from scrimmage and the Rams improved to 2-0 on their home turf. The first half featured wide-open play and a bunch of points scored by both sides. Lenny Moore had a 66-yard run in the first quarter that set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry and Unitas also hit Alan Ameche (166 combined yards) with a 69-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Warner had already thrown for two touchdowns by that point, however, and Robert Holcombe had also run for a 11-yard touchdown, so the Rams took a 24-17 lead into halftime. From there, both defenses buckled down and the Colts couldn’t muster any offense in their comeback attempt.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-0) 50, 2012 Atlanta Falcons (0-3) 10

Remember what I said about the ’00 Titans possibly being the most impressive team so far? Well…I hadn’t run this simulation yet. Playing as the offensive juggernauts we all knew them to be in their time, the Buccaneers gained 578 yards offensively and embarrassed the Falcons in their home opener. The score was just 16-10 after Matt Bryant hit a 39-yard field goal with 34 second left in the first half, but Brad Johnson then hit Rickey Dudley – RICKEY DUDLEY, of all people – for a back-breaking 80-yard touchdown pass right before halftime and the Falcons never recovered. Johnson would go on to throw another 80+ yard touchdown in the third quarter (this time to Michael Pittman, who wound up with 230 combined yards on 19 touches) and wound up with 395 yards passing and two touchdowns on 30 attempts. Mike Alstott added two rushing touchdowns and Warren Sapp even had an interception! Bet he didn’t rub that in Matt Ryan’s face afterwards.

1986 New York Giants (1-2) 27, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles (0-3) 10

Joe Morris ran for 204 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and the Giants won the battle of previously winless NFC East rivals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Phil Simms was mediocre at best again, only throwing for 98 yards on 20 attempts but did add two touchdown passes and avoided throwing an interception for the first time all year. Norm Van Brocklin went 18-of-31 for 218 yards for the Eagles, who trailed the entire way and, we can only assume, were booed mercilessly throughout the second half.

1992 Dallas Cowboys (2-1) 23, 1985 Chicago Bears (1-2) 17 (OT)

A blase first three quarters gave way to a fast and furious final period and a third and Emmitt Smith gave the Cowboys a road victory with a 38-yard touchdown catch a little over four minutes into the overtime period. Entering the fourth quarter, the only scoring had been a 38-yard field goal by Lin Elliott to close out the first half. But the Bears offense came alive with a 33-yard touchdown run by Dennis Gentry and then, after a Troy Aikman touchdown throw to Jay Novacek, a 14-yard touchdown throw from Jim McMahon to Matt Suhey that gave the Bears a 14-10 lead with a little over three minutes to play. Then the Cowboys committed a major error in running the ball with Curvin Richards on a 4th-and-8 play from their own 27-yard line with a little over two minutes left and all three timeouts remaining. Richards was stopped for no gain and the Bears took over with an opportunity to salt the game away. But the Cowboys held Chicago to a three-and-out and a Kevin Butler field goal and with fourteen seconds left, Aikman hit Michael Irvin with a 24-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up and set up Smith’s heroics in overtime.

2009 New Orleans Saints (1-2) 48, 2006 Indianapolis Colts (0-3) 16

One of the prevailing themes from the first three weeks of simulations is that WhatIfSports doesn’t think the 2006 Colts defense could stop anybody. That trend continued in the Superdome, where the Saints jumped on the Colts for 548 yards offensively and sent Indianapolis to an 0-3 start. Drew Brees was excellent, going 21-of-35 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and Pierre Thomas added 101 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on only 12 attempts. Even Mark Brunell got in on the action, completing his only pass for a 44-yard gain. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning continued his slow start, going only 17-of-34 for 180 yards, a touchdown and an interception. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE COLTS???

Next week: The first wave of bye weeks begin, but there’s still plenty of enticing matchups, including a battle of unbeatens between ’07 New England and ’90 Buffalo, the first game in the Redskins-Giants rivalry this season, the ’72 Dolphins trying to get their first win of the season in Baltimore against the ’58 Colts, and Joe Montana leading the ’89 49ers into Irving to take on the ’92 Cowboys. Not bad.

The WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season Standings

AFC East

  1. ’07 New England: 3-0
  2. ’90 Buffalo: 3-0
  3. ’68 NY Jets: 2-1
  4. ’72 Miami: 0-3

AFC North

  1. ’75 Pittsburgh: 2-1
  2. ’58 Baltimore: 1-2
  3. ’81 Cincinnati: 1-2
  4. ’64 Cleveland: 0-3

AFC South

  1. ’00 Tennessee: 3-0
  2. ’99 Jacksonville: 2-1
  3. ’91 Houston: 2-1
  4. ’06 Indianapolis: 0-3

AFC West

  1. ’79 San Diego: 2-1
  2. ’98 Denver: 2-1
  3. ’69 Kansas City: 1-2
  4. ’76 Oakland: 1-2

NFC East

  1. ’92 Dallas: 2-1
  2. ’91 Washington: 2-1
  3. ’86 NY Giants: 1-2
  4. ’60 Philadelphia: 0-3

NFC North

  1. ’62 Green Bay: 3-0
  2. ’52 Detroit: 1-2
  3. ’85 Chicago: 1-2
  4. ’73 Minnesota: 1-2

NFC South

  1. ’02 Tampa Bay: 3-0
  2. ’05 Carolina: 1-2
  3. ’09 New Orleans: 1-2
  4. ’12 Atlanta: 0-3

NFC West

  1. ’08 Arizona: 2-1
  2. ’99 St. Louis: 2-1
  3. ’89 San Francisco: 1-1-1
  4. ’05 Seattle: 1-1-1
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