Today’s the start of the best four-day sports stretch of the year: the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In honor of such a momentous occasion, we’re going to write absolutely nothing about the tournament today and instead pay attention to a fictional season of a sport that is out of season played through a simulation engine that thinks the ’72 Dolphins were a 3-win quality team. That’s right – it’s time for Week 7 of the Greatest of All Time season through WhatIfSports’s sim engine! The bye teams for this week are the ’62 Packers, ’76 Raiders, ’02 Buccaneers, and ’81 Bengals. In today’s batch of games, we’ve got the Purple People Eaters traveling to Texas Stadium, the No-Name Defense trying to eke out a win against Broadway Joe and Jake Delhomme trying to avoid a disastrous mistake of the brain-dead variety against the ’52 Lions. EASIER SAID THAN DONE. To the games!
Drew Brees went 24-of-34 for 327 yards and a touchdown and the Saints racked up 590 yards of offense on their way to a laugher at home. New Orleans added 263 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as well – Pierre Thomas rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on only ten carries and Reggie Bush added a couple rushing touchdowns of his own. Matt Ryan actually played very well himself, going 16-of-28 for 330 yards and three touchdowns in a hopeless cause. Somehow, though…Julio Jones was named player of the game. Really? Really? I mean, four catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns is pretty good…but they lost by 26. I’m perplexed. Oh well.
Turns out when the opposition is only picking up a robust 13 yards through the air…for the entire game…you don’t have to worry about Jake Delhomme choking as much. Jake went 16-for-26 for 226 yards and two touchdowns and the Panthers effectively put the game away in the first quarter on a blocked punt return for a touchdown. Bob Hoernschemeyer rushed for 118 yards on 12 carries but Bobby Layne went just 4-of-14 for 31 yards and was also sacked three times.
Emmitt Smith rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns, Troy Aikman added 163 passing yards on only 21 attempts and the Cowboys cruised to a 16-point win to raise their record to 5-2. Alvin Harper added 67 receiving yards on three catches for Dallas, who jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead behind a Lin Elliott field goal, an Aikman touchdown throw to Jay Novacek and Smith’ s first touchdown and never looked back. Fran Tarkenton ended up with 178 passing yards on 25 attempts.
Fred Taylor scored on a 33-yard run with 9:37 remaining in the overtime period to cap a 256-yard rushing day for the Jaguars and send the Colts to 2-4. Indianapolis had a 24-20 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Mark Brunell capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown throw to Jimmy Smith to give Jacksonville a 27-24 lead with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter. Peyton Manning (25-of-38 for 321 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception) converted a 23-yard pass to Reggie Wayne on a 4th-and-18 on the ensuing possession, however, leading to an Adam Vinatieri field goal as time expired. The Colts won the toss in overtime but went three-and-out, leading the way for Jacksonville’s game-ending seven-play, 83-yard drive – all but nine of which came on the ground. Taylor finished with 137 yards on 15 carries and James Stewart added 93 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
A week after losing 57-3 to the ’62 Packers and allowing Jim Taylor to set a new single-game rushing record, the Eagles earned their first victory of the year behind an 18-of-25 for 276 yards and one touchdown performance from Norm Van Brocklin. Kurt Warner was an efficient 11-of-16 for 142 yards and a touchdown for Arizona, but the Cardinals only ran 39 plays from scrimmage as the Eagles gained 15 more first downs and possessed the ball for nearly seventeen more minutes. Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff each had over 80 yards receiving for Philadelphia.
Jim Kiick scored the Dolphins’ lone touchdown of the game on a three-yard run with 42 seconds remaining in overtime and Miami sent the Jets’ losing streak to five games. Mercury Morris rushed for 142 yards on 20 carries and Garo Yepremian’s five field goals had the Dolphins ahead 15-7 late in the fourth quarter. However, after a short punt gave the Jets the ball at the Dolphin 33, Joe Namath hit Don Maynard with a touchdown pass on the very next play to bring the Jets within two and then subsequently found George Sauer for the tying two-point conversion with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. Miami had an opportunity to end the game on their first possession in overtime, but Yepremian missed his first field goal attempt of the game. After the Jets were forced to punt, the Dolphins then went on an 11-play, 85-yard drive that took Yepremian out of the equation and punched the ball into the end zone for the first time all day.
The Giants’ nightmare start continued as Bobby Engram caught a go-ahead 71-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter and the Seahawks kept New York winless at Giants Stadium. Engram ended up with 145 yards receiving on four catches and Shaun Alexander added 147 yards and a touchdown on 19 rushing attempts. A Phil Simms-to-Stacy Robinson touchdown and a Raul Allegre field goal staked the Giants to an early 10-0 lead, but the defense couldn’t hold it and New York’s final opportunity was thrown away when Simms ran out of bounds after gaining only a yard on a 4th-and-10 play.
Tomorrow: The ’75 Steelers play the ’90 Bills; Tom Brady goes up against Johnny Unitas; and the ’85 Bears and ’91 Redskins meet in a battle of two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Oh and the 4-1 ’91 Oilers meet the 4-1 ’00 Titans in a hugely important AFC South game. Who saw that coming?