Sports

We Ran 50 4th Down Draws Against The Rams In ‘Madden’ To See How Often It Can Work

The Browns’ performance against the Rams on Sunday Night Football in a 20-13 loss, particularly the job of the coaching staff led by new head coach Freddie Kitchens, was a hot topic of conversation on Monday.

Cleveland had ample chances at home to take down the reigning NFC champs, but a few questionable calls and a lack of execution saw them fall by a touchdown and slip to 1-2 on the year. The final sequence in which they failed to punch it in from a goal-to-go situation on four tries from inside the five, ending with a Baker Mayfield pick, wasn’t great, but the most egregious decision was a draw play call on 4th & 9 earlier in the fourth quarter.

If you haven’t seen it yet, well, here it is.

It is an indefensible play call for most, but I wanted to see if there is any redeeming quality to a draw play on fourth down, because, while it appears mind-numbingly stupid, maybe there’s something to it. Probably not! But maybe. So, in the effort of doing some research I fired up Madden 20 and played five straight games against the Rams on All-Pro (seemed like a happy medium) with the Browns and purposefully put myself in as many fourth down situations as possible.

Sometimes, this would result in what I’m dubbing “The Freddie Zone,” a fourth down between 6-12 yards, +/- three yards from his fateful draw play choice. Others were short yardage situations, and others still, came from way longer than anyone should want, usually as a result of me being terrorized by Aaron Donald. In total, I ran 50 fourth down draw plays, most all of which were with Nick Chubb (a few were with Hilliard if Chubb was too tired). Here is the running diary of those plays as well as my descent into madness chronicled by some footage of said attempts.

Attempt 1, 4th & 10: 0 yards, Fail
Attempt 2, 4th & 6: 5 yards, Fail
Attempt 3, 4th & 8: 9 yards, Success
Attempt 4, 4th & 9: 2 yards, Fail
Attempt 5, 4th & 10: 4 yards, Fail

Attempt 6, 4th & 16: 2 yards, Fail
Attempt 7, 4th & 6: 0 yards, Fail
Attempt 8, 4th & 14: 44 yards, Success

Attempt 9, 4th & 4: 3 yards, Fail
Attempt 10, 4th & 19: 0 yards, Fail
Attempt 11, 4th & 4: 14 yards, Success
Attempt 12, 4th & 1: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 13, 4th & 8: 1 yard, Fail
Attempt 14, 4th & 17: 11 yards, Fail
Attempt 15, 4th & 11: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 16, 4th & 8: 11 yards, Success
Attempt 17, 4th & 12: 7 yards, Fail
Attempt 18, 4th & 9: 50 yards, Success

Attempt 19, 4th & 15: 3 yards, Fail
Attempt 20, 4th & 12: 13 yards, Success
Attempt 21, 4th & 18: 12 yards, Fail
Attempt 22, 4th & 17: -3 yards, Fail

Attempt 23, 4th & 2: 7 yards, Success
Attempt 24, 4th & 10: 5 yards, Fail
Attempt 25, 4th & 20: 35 yards, Success
Attempt 26, 4th & 11: -1 yard, Fail

Attempt 27, 4th & 2: 1 yard, Fail
Attempt 28, 4th & 12: 11 yards, Fail
Attempt 29, 4th & 8: 10 yards, Success
Attempt 30, 4th & 10: 9 yards, Fail
Attempt 31, 4th & 6: 15 yards, Success
Attempt 32, 4th & 9: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 33, 4th & 8: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 34, 4th & 5: 6 yards, Success
Attempt 35, 4th & 16: 10 yards, Fail
Attempt 36, 4th & 2: 12 yards, Success
Attempt 37, 4th & 12: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 38, 4th & 8: 9 yards, Success
Attempt 39, 4th & 11: -1 yard, Fail

Attempt 40, 4th & 1: 1 yard, Success
Attempt 41, 4th & 2: -2 yards, Fail
Attempt 42, 4th & 7: 4 yards, Fail
Attempt 43, 4th & 10: 11 yards, Success
Attempt 44, 4th & inches: 8 yards, Success
Attempt 45, 4th & 10: 25 yards, Success
Attempt 46, 4th & 8: 10 yards, Success
Attempt 47, 4th & 8: 9 yards, Success
Attempt 48, 4th & 10: 11 yards, Success
Attempt 49, 4th & 6: 5 yards, Fail
Attempt 50, 4th & 3: -2 yards, Fail

FINAL RESULTS

Overall Conversion Rate: 20/50 (40%)
Short yardage (5 or fewer yards): 6/11 (54.5%)
Freddie Zone (6-12 yards): 12/28 (42.8%)
Long yardage (13 or more yards): 2/9 (22.2%)

Now, the run at the end was truly incredible. I just caught fire, but for the most part, I would not suggest running draws on fourth down, especially in mid-to-long distance when real life defenses are almost always going to run a zone, as the Rams did in Cleveland. Video game defenses would run lots of man against me and that was often when I had success — that and if my guard didn’t get mauled by Aaron Donald — because the DBs and linebackers turn their backs to the play. Real defenses aren’t going to often do that, and the result is safeties and backers flying at the ball carrier to make the play before they can get there.

I converted more than I expected, but my 42.8% rate in the Freddie Zone would’ve put me tied for third worst in the league a year ago on fourth down, although, ironically, that’s the exact conversion rate for the Browns on fourth down last season. Even my short yardage percentage would’ve only been about league average.

It’s important to note that going for it on fourth down is good and more teams should do it even when it’s not absolutely necessary at the end of games. Running a goddamn draw play is not good, however, even in video game land where defenses do weird things on fourth down. Also, please don’t play five straight games of offense against virtual Aaron Donald, it is a truly miserable experience.

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