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Messing With Madden: What if Lane Johnson was the Eagles QB?

“I’d much rather have fun”

Lane Johnson doesn’t mince his words. After beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, he wasn’t shy about critiquing the Patriots.

”Not to be reckless, but I’d much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls.”

Lane Johnson got his Super Bowl. From here on out it’s fun.

Having fun is the point of a video game. The creators of Madden, perhaps as an Easter egg, perhaps as a joke, perhaps as an oversight, give Lane Johnson great passing attributes for someone who never threw a pass, let alone played QB, in college. Johnson did play QB in high school, and in his one season in junior college he played QB and TE, completing 32 of 61 attempts for 510 yards and 3 TDs. He also had 17 carries for 24 yards. But at Oklahoma he was a TE, then an OT, he never attempted a pass or ran the ball.

There is no real life scenario where Lane Johnson would play QB. But Madden is not real life. Madden is fun. Lane Johnson must take the digital field as a quarterback and have a blast.

As a QB, Johnson is so bad that he single-handedly drops the Eagles team rating from 90 to 79. That seems unfair for a guy who is a good choice to clone for a team, but 22 Lane Johnsons is for another day. Johnson has a few things going for him though. His speed, 80, is 34th best for a QB, ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Alex Smith and other QBs who are comfortable on the run; and his 87 acceleration rating is equal with Carson Wentz. His awareness rating is 94, 7th best in the league. His 67 carrying rating is equal to Russell Wilson and, among starting QBs, second best to only Cam Newton. He might stand a chance escaping the pocket and getting past the line of scrimmage on designed runs, and, crucially, he should hold on to the ball.

Of course, there is only one team he could play. The no fun, miserable, and monotonous New England Patriots.

I changed Lane Johnson to QB and played only has him, letting the game take over when the ball was put into other Eagles hands. (On defense I just played as Brandon Graham.) Just as Doug Pederson adjusted his playbook to his QB change to win a Super Bowl, I adjusted the playbook to pack in QB runs, options, and a heavy dose of short passes and screens. Unusual formations such as the Emory and Henry were used. When there was space, I had Johnson scramble to take advantage of his mobility, size, and strength. In practices it became clear that linebackers are able to take down Johnson in the open field, but heaven help the defensive back trying to take him down in space.

Would this be pretty? No. Would it be fun? Eventually.

The Game

Early on, the game was close. The Eagles held the Patriots scoreless in the 1st quarter, while the Lane Johnson led offense got on the board with a 46 yard field goal to start the 2nd quarter, aided by a lucky bounce to Dallas Goedert.

The Patriots immediately replied with a 14 play drive to tie the game at 3-3. Late in the 2nd quarter, Johnson pressed his luck.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski punished the Eagles with a quick touchdown to give New England a 10-3 lead at the half.

To start the 2nd half, Johnson picked up where he left off and threw another pick. Again the Patriots immediately scored a touchdown. 17-3 New England.

Johnson began to rally the offense, using short passes to approach midfield, and then crossing it on his own.

And then that bit about Johnson being able to hold onto the ball made me look like a fool.

The Eagles defense held and forced a punt, and the score held 17-3 into the 4th quarter. With 3:26 left in the game, New England made it 20-3, and then with 1:50 remaining, Stephen Gostkowski missed a 57 yard attempt. There was just one final drive. There was no way Johnson would be able to pull out the win. But this game wasn’t about winning. It was about fun.

Johnson passed incomplete for Darren Sproles on 1st down. On 2nd down, he scrambled for 2 yards. On 3rd down, he lost 2 yards. 4th and 10, and the Eagles need a miracle.

They found it.

After a 1st down incompletion, Johnson passed to Zach Ertz for 14 yards. After another 1st down incompletion, the duo connected for 17 yards to bring the Eagles to New England’s 3 yard line.

Probably foolishly, I used my last time out.

1st and goal from the 3, I called the Shotgun Heavy Panther formation. Johnson ran QB Power to the right for two yards.

The clock was ticking.

Going no huddle, I ran QB Blast to the left.

Digital Lane Johnson had his fun.

And then he had some more.

Running the exact same play, he converted the 2 point attempt. Patriots 20, Eagles 11.

Winning isn’t everything.