In the real world, NFL action is close to returning as we’re only a week away from the first game of the season. For fun, I’m simulating the Atlanta Falcons’ 2020 season on Madden 21 to see what fun statistics and outcomes are made within the virtual world. If you missed the first part of this potential four part series, be sure to click here and review the rules of the simulation as well as Weeks 1-6.
Without further ado, let’s get to Weeks 7-12.
Just to briefly recap the first six games of the season, the Falcons currently have a (3-3) record and have only played one divisional game, a narrow victory against the Carolina Panthers. One thing to keep an eye on is Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, who currently leads the NFL with 1,924 passing yards and is tied for second with 17 passing touchdowns. He’s on track to throw for 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns.
Week 7 — (1-4) Lions vs. (3-3) Falcons
The Detroit Lions would receive the ball first and go three-and-out thanks to a key tackle by linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons came out wearing their gradient alternates for the first time ever, ready to make a splash on their opening drive. Unfortunately, wide receiver Julio Jones dropped a wide-open third down throw from Ryan, resulting in a punt. The Lions would capitalize on their next drive, as quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with wide receiver Danny Amendola on a 36-yard touchdown, giving them the early 0-7 lead. The Falcons though would answer back with a long drive resulting in a 3-yard touchdown by running back Todd Gurley to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lions stalled on what would be a long field goal for most kickers, but not for Matt Prater, who gave the Lions a 7-10 lead. After a long drive, the Falcons would again turn to Gurley who punched it in from the 1-yard line. The Lions offense however wanted to get six more on the board, and they did, via another Amendola receiving touchdown from six yards out. With :02 remaining in the half, Falcons’ kicker Younghoe Koo made a 31-yarder to tie the game at 17-17 entering halftime.
Naturally, things began to get out of hand for the Falcons following halftime. Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson scored on a 3-yard pass from Stafford, and then after a Falcons punt, running back Ty Johnson had a 3-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Lions lead to 17-31. Entering the fourth quarter, the Falcons needed to bounce back so they did... not. Gurley scored his third rushing touchdown of the day, but it wasn’t enough as the Lions’ Kerryon Johnson sealed it with a rushing touchdown of his own. This game would’ve been viewed as a game they should win, but unfortunately the Falcons did not, and their record now sits at (3-4).
FINAL: Lions 38, Falcons 24
QB Ryan: 25/47 att, 306 yards
RB Gurley: 12 carries, 35 yards, 3 TDs
WR Jones: 8 receptions, 84 yards
Injuries: LG James Carpenter (DNP/Torn Labrum - 3 weeks), DT Tyeler Davison (DNP/Hamstring - 1 week)
Week 8 — (3-4) Falcons vs. (2-4-1) Panthers — TNF
The Week 8 matchup with the Panthers is the second time the Falcons have faced them in 2020. The first time, the Falcons got the better of Carolina, winning on a last second field goal by Koo. This game marks the return of Davison, who had been out with a hamstring injury. The Thursday Night Football divisional battle began with a 56-yard field goal by Panthers’ kicker Joey Slye, Early on the Falcons drive, quarterback Matt Ryan tried to force the ball to wide receiver Calvin Ridley but it was picked off.
The unfortunate turnover turned into a touchdown, following a 8-yard run by Christian McCaffrey to give the Panthers an early 0-10 lead. The Falcons would do nothing but punt the ball in the second quarter, while the Panthers extended their lead to 0-17 via a touchdown reception by D.J. Moore.
In the second half, the Falcons would need to turn things around quickly. They started out showing some fight, thanks to a series of touchdown receptions by Julio Jones, Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley. It wouldn’t be enough however, as the Panthers continued to put points on the board and the game spiraled out of control resulting in the Falcons’ third consecutive loss.
FINAL: Panthers 35, Falcons 21
QB Ryan: 26/45 att, 338 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
RB Gurley: 8 carries, 33 yards, 7 receptions, 112 yards, TD
WR Jones: 7 receptions, 88 yards, TD
Injuries: LG James Carpenter (DNP/Torn Labrum - 2 weeks)
Week 9 — (1-6) Broncos vs. (3-5) Falcons
It’s time to win. This simulation is going south quickly, and the team MUST win against an apparently bad Denver Broncos team that has only one victory in 2020. Well, it started poorly. Ryan threw an interception that Broncos cornerback Trumaine Johnson took to the house. On the next Falcons drive, Ryan came out slinging it, connecting with tight end Hayden Hurst on a 20-yard play. It would lead to a 44-yard field goal by Koo, shortening the Broncos lead to 3-7. Prior to halftime, the Broncos would get to field goals of their own and a touchdown thanks to wide receiver K.J. Hamler. The Falcons (thankfully) did answer back with a 35-yard touchdown by Julio Jones and 8-yard touchdown by Russell Gage Jr. The Falcons would enter halftime down 17-20.
For the sake of my sanity, I was REALLY hoping the Falcons would come back and win this one. Ryan kept them alive, throwing two more touchdowns, this time to Hurst and Treadwell, while Koo connected on two more field goals. This was only enough though to tie the Broncos at the end of the fourth quarter, taking us into the first Falcons’ overtime of the 2020 season.
Buckle up folks! The Falcons won the coin toss and ultimately punted. The Broncos’ kicker Brandon McManus made a 38-yard field goal, game over. To make things worse, Hurst left the game due to injury in overtime. Thankfully the Falcons have a Bye next week.
FINAL: Broncos 40, Falcons 37
QB Ryan: 33/59 att, 460 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
RB Gurley: 13 carries, 57 yards
TE Hurst: 7 receptions, 99 yards, TD
Injuries: LG James Carpenter (DNP/Torn Labrum - 1 week), TE Hayden Hurst (Torn Labrum - 4 weeks)
Week 10 — (3-6) Falcons — BYE
Not going to lie, when I start this I was hoping for better results. This is fun but I really, really hope it’s just Madden 21 and the real-life Falcons do better. I’m committed to this though, so let’s see what happens. Although Hurst will be out for the next few games, the team gets their starting left guard back from injury, James Carpenter. How much of a difference that’ll make is beyond me.
At this point looking within the division, the New Orleans Saints are (5-3), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are (5-3-1) and the Carolina Panthers are (4-4-1). Even with the expanded playoffs in 2020, the Falcons need to turn things around fast.
Week 11 — (3-6) Falcons vs. (5-4) Saints
It’s here. For me, this is the game I look for when the NFL schedule’s release in April. Falcons traveling to face the Saints is always a tough game. In this simulation, the Falcons really can’t afford to lose this one. The Saints are sitting in a current Wild Card spot while the Falcons are just hoping to show up in the Wild Card chase. On the Falcons opening drive, quarterback Matt Ryan threw deep to Julio Jones who was (naturally) held by Janoris Jenkins, and the refs caught it for once. On the next play, Ryan hit Jones for a 4-yard touchdown putting the Falcons up 7-0. On the Saints first drive, Drew Brees would hit wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a 27-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, the Falcons would put some distance between them and the Saints. Julio Jones, Laquon Treadwell and Todd Gurley would all record receiving touchdowns while the Saints would score from two field goals. Heading into halftime, the Falcons were up 28-13.
Naturally, the Falcons would let the Saints comeback in the third quarter. Saints would score two-consecutive touchdowns, thanks to a 75-yard run by running back Alvin Kamara and a reception by tight end Jared Cook. The two rivals would head into the fourth quarter tied 28-28. Of course, this game would have everyone on the edge of their seats. Both teams would score two touchdowns and a field goal, leading us into overtime. That’s right, the Falcons’ last two games have gone into overtime... although let’s hope this one has a different outcome.
The Falcons would win the coin toss and receive. Ito Smith would kick things off with a solid 19-yard run. Ryan would hit Ridley twice to get them into field goal range, but the Falcons wanted to go for the win. Gurley would score on an 11-yard run and in dramatic fashion, the Falcons would win in overtime! To make it even sweeter, Julio Jones scored three times, further proving that he’s the best wide receiver in the NFL. Also, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett who had five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
FINAL: Falcons 51, Saints 45
QB Ryan: 36/59 att, 398 yards, 5 TDs
RB Gurley: 28 carries, 139 yards, 2 TDs, 12 receptions, 128 yards, TD
WR Jones: 7 receptions, 59 yards, 3 TDs
Injuries: TE Hayden Hurst (Torn Labrum - 2 weeks)
Week 12 — (4-6) Raiders vs. (4-6) Falcons
The Falcons would have some added help, as tight end Hayden Hurst returned early from injury. The Raiders would receive the ball first, easily moving downfield and scoring from a Josh Jacobs 29-yard reception. A quick punt by the Falcons allowed the Raiders to score again via a Darren Waller catch, putting them up early 0-14. The Falcons offense would wake up finally, scoring three consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter. The Falcons would enter halftime with a 21-17 lead.
Nobody score in the third quarter, just a bunch of punting. The fourth quarter however was great for Atlanta. The Falcons would add a Todd Gurley touchdown and Younghoe Koo field goal to the mix, running away with the much-needed victory.
FINAL: Falcons 31, Raiders 24
QB Ryan: 26/37 att, 303 yards, 3 TDs
RB Gurley: 14 carries, 64 yards, TD
WR Jones: 4 receptions, 40 yards, TD
End of Part II (Weeks 7-12)
That concludes Part II of this series. The Falcons now sit at (5-6) which still puts them in the playoff hunt. They still have to face Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4-1) twice and the Saints (5-5) again. By no means do they have an easy path to the playoffs, but it’s still in reach.
Interestingly, Matt Ryan is at the top of the MVP conversation, even with the team’s mediocre record. He’s currently leading the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, something that is entirely possible in real life. Linebacker Deion Jones is also leading the NFL in tackles.
We’ll see how this ends though, as Monday, Sept. 7 will be Part III of this series covering Weeks 13-17. If the Falcons make the playoffs, which can still happen, a Part IV will post on Wednesday, Sept. 9 to conclude the series.
Team Leaders (Weeks 1-12)
QB Ryan: 290/471 att, 32 TDs, 12 INTs, 3729 yards
RB Gurley: 175 carries, 789 yards, 9 TDs, 40 receptions, 530 yards, 4 TDs
WR Treadwell: 54 receptions, 860 yards, 12 TDs
WR Jones: 57 receptions, 741 yards, 7 TDs
WR Ridley: 57 receptions, 636 yards, 2 TDs
DE Fowler, DT Jarrett: 6.0 sacks
MLB Jones: 89 tackles, 3 INTs
K Koo: 11/12 att, 55 long, 35/36 PAT
*If you have any specific questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. Madden 21 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. Click here to get your own copy!