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Green Zone League Articles

Madden's comeback AI
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com






In years past, some early versions of Madden had a code so vicious, that a back with Lendale White's athleticism and Reggie Bush's power would invariably break anywhere between 2-8 tackles on his way to a long LONG touchdown. The fact that the HB came from the losing team as well as the common practice of video game comeback or rubber-band codes made it pretty easy to see. When Madden moved on to the New-Gen, they declared that to be over.

The fact is that superfluous late turnovers and superhuman offensive abilities did disappear, but the legend of the comeback AI did not. Linebackers flying through the air like Superman to swat the ball is even mostly a thing of the past, but talk of the comeback AI is present to this day. Is it because people who play Madden care so much about winning and losing? I think it might be, but there are other factors contributing to the continued belief.

Playcalling
When a team is down by enough points at a late enough time in the game, the playbook opens up considerably. Instead of sending deep routes every once in a while and relying on a ball-control offense, the losing team has 3, 4, or 5 WRs, often in a shotgun or singleback formation. Not only do these formations tend to be super pass heavy, almost every pass play in a 4 or 5 WR set has at least one deep route, and often 2 or 3. There is a reason most teams in this(and any Madden League) league cannot consistently shut down this type of aerial attack, but I will get into that later.

Conversely, while the team losing opens up, the team who is ahead will start running, handing the ball off to the FB, lining up with two backs and a TE, or even heavier formations. The defense at that point will usually have a base defense AND pull their SS up(especially if they play a 46) and unless the team has a great set of blockers the drive will stall after a 1st down or 2, if they even get any.

These two contrasting styles begin sometimes halfway through the 4th quarter, or even earlier with a two-score difference and lend themselves to a closing of the gap if the teams are anywhere close to even in talent. Speaking of talent, it also plays a large part in this.

WRs vs CBs and Safeties
CBs and WRs are pretty equal in speed until you get above 94 speed. Rather than talk about that a lot, I'll throw up the amount of each.

:
SPD  WR  CB
97   20   8
96   26   10
95   48   27
94   66   52

The real difference between the two might be a little speed, but mostly it's size. The RZL has seen a size explosion in recent years, with increasing passing numbers every year. Despite the fact that CBs progress much quicker and easier than WRs, the fact remains that the WRs have the advantage, and that doesn't seem to be ending soon.

:
HT   WR  CB
6'4"   32   4
6'3"   57   5
6'2"   98   19
6'1"   133  51

There are 240 WRs and 224 CBs in the entire league. There happen to be 11 WRs at 6'5", and 2 at 6'6". That's 13 players who have a 3 inch advantage over the 14 CBs who are 6'2", and a 5-7 inch advantage over the average 5'10, 5'11", and 6'0" CBs.

What Happens
When a QB throws deep, usually one of two things make a successful pass happen. The WR outruns the CB. Not just based on speed obviously, but rather than bore you with stats, the league is only a little unbalanced speedwise between CBs and WRs. It still happens in every game, but most GMs can figure out a way to stop a pure speed WR if their team is any good.

The second way is if that WR can win the jump ball. The same reason most GMs in the league are waiting for the next 6'7" WR, is a huge factor in the success of downfield passing. During the fighting middle of games, a deep pass is thrown very little, just like in real life. And if there are 2 WRs, a TE and a couple backs chances are the deep pass is double-covered. But when the team starts sending 3-4 WRs at a time, the safeties are very well occupied, and SOMEONE is single-covered deep. Considering few teams have a 2nd CB they would not like to improve on, the nickle CB is a vet who has lost a step or a young guy they want to make into a starter someday. The 4th CB is a scrub. So if the defense goes into the dime and quarter defenses the offense's 3rd WR(usually a borderline starter) and 4th(many more talented 4th WRs than 4th CBs or 3rd Safeties) WR happen to make "big catches." Also, the simple presence of these WRs allows the single-covered starting WRs to pick apart the starting CBs.

Simply put, a tall WR vs an average height CB makes the catch in single coverage quite often. And that's might be the real "comeback AI."

Conclusion
If 6'6" Kobe Bryant, 6'8" LeBron James or any of the explosive fast guards in the NBA were to cross over, would it be easier to learn WR or CB? The answer is WR. Most of the freak talent ends up at WR long before they get to the NFL, and the talent difference between the two positions is huge. Good CBs are good CBs, and in Madden 2008 they do a good job on bigger WRs. But put in the crucible of repeated one-on-one coverage against a bigger stronger and just as fast opponant, a corner is going to allow at least some big plays at the end of a few games.
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