Vikings vs. Chiefs: Madden simulation predicts close game at Arrowhead

Matt Moore, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Matt Moore, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The expert above all other experts, Madden 20, weighs in on the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 9 matchup against the Vikings.

With the season halfway done, one thing is starting to come to everybody’s mind: playoffs. No team has been fully eliminated, so every fan base still has a shot of playing in January. The question is, how many wins does it take to get there, thus prompting the attention of projections and analysis from experts and analyst alike.

Expert projections for the second half of the seasons have the Chiefs turning around this current rut they have found themselves in and winning 6 of their last 8 games, dropping games to the Patriots and, most likely, their Week 9 opponent, the Vikings.

So we asked the true expert what they thought about this matchup, who would win, who would stand out, and how the Chiefs should adjust in order to win. By running a full Madden 20 simulation, all those questions and more were answered, with clear, and in some cases, heartbreaking answers.

The Setup

Before the sim even started, a few questions had to be answered about injuries and game status. Thankfully, the injury report is already out, so most of the players game day status was clear and easy to plug in—for all but four players.

Four players are on the injury report, labeled as questionable for gameday: Kendall Fuller, Frank Clark, Chris Jones, and Patrick Mahomes (technically Chad Henne is also listed as questionable, but during the writing of this piece, he was promoted to the active roster). So a gameday decision had to be made for these players based on their injuries.

Jones seems very likely to overcome his injury, with this being his second week of practice, so he was active. Clark has a neck injury, one that popped up suddenly and has kept him out of practice for two straight weeks. Between the injury and his contract, Clark will probably keep off the field for at least a couple more weeks. Fuller returned to practice last week after having hand surgery, so a return to the field is highly likely, even if a cast has to be used.

Finally, the big one: Mahomes. This one can go either way, with Mahomes now having two full weeks of practice without further injury, which looks great for his knee and gives optimism for his ankle. On the other hand, Mahomes has been taking exclusively second team reps in the open portions of practice, which potentially speaks to the team’s plans for Sunday.

For the sake of safety, Matt Moore was made the starting QB for the main simulation, in order to preserve Patrick Mahomes for the divisional matchup next week against the Chargers.

[However, an additional simulation was run with Mahomes at starting QB, just for comparison’s sake. The Chiefs won that game 27-17, with Patrick Mahomes going 26/34 for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns.]

The Game

Quarter One

Finally, it is time for the game.

One of the most important plays of the game opens the matchup when the Vikings won the opening coin toss and chose to kick to start the game.

Sadly, the Chiefs start the game off slowly, with KC going 3-and-out for the first three drives of the game. The run game fell extremely flat, and Moore could not hit the broad side of a barn, missing his first seven passing attempts despite having great blocking up front. If it were not for great punts by Dustin Colquitt and great punt coverage, the Vikings may have run away with this one early.

That is not to say that the Vikings were not able to run with this one a bit early. Despite the destructive pass rush of Chris Jones and Reggie Ragland, Kirk Cousins lit up the Chiefs secondary in the first. With the run game only being allowed 2 yards a carry this quarter, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs attacked the weak secondary of the Chiefs, primarily Morris Claiborne, with Olabsi Johnson attacking the middle of the field where the linebackers were missing due to their abundance of blitzes.

The first quarter ended with Minnesota up 14-0 after Cousins put up 1 touchdown pass to Diggs and Thielen a piece. Neither team has been able to get the run game going, but Minnesota has been able to convert on third down, going 4/5 to KC 2/5. K.C. finally got some offense on the field during the last two minutes of the quarter, driving the field as the quarter ended and building up to a whopping 58 yards of total offense, compared to Minnesota’s 167.

Quarter Two

The Chiefs finally decided to put some things together this quarter, starting the quarter with a 20 yard run by McCoy, and then followed with a quick TD pass to Damien Williams. Moore finally started to heat up at this point in the game, much like his week 8 performance against Green Bay. Despite that, Andy Reid tried to lean heavily on Lesean McCoy and Damien Williams, who had an atrocious performance in this game.

The Chiefs defense continued to struggle on third down this quarter, having great showings on first and second down but letting the Vikings grab 7 or 8 yards consistently on third down. Thankfully for the Chiefs, the Vikings offensive line continued to struggle and the Chiefs were able to get to Kirk Cousins twice during this quarter and stuff most of Dalvin Cook‘s carries.

K.C. was not able to punch the ball into the end zone again this quarter after that initial drive, but was able to put up a pair of FGs. Thanks to a long drive by the Vikings towards the end of the quarter, capped off with a Dalvin Cook TD run, the score at halftime is 21 to 13, Vikings on top.

Kirk Cousins still looked good, having completed 21/28 passes for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Moore did not look terrible, sitting at 20/31 for 174 yards and 1 TD. Despite having 22 carries, Cook only had 64 yards rushing (3.4 yards per attempt), compared to McCoy’s 4 carries for 22 yards (5.5 ypa).

Both teams have heated up offensively, with K.C. having 197 yards of total offense to Minnesota’s 302. The Vikings’ 3rd down conversion rates continue to build, going 8/11 while KC is 2/8. Minnesota however has given up 2 sacks to K.C.’s 0 and K.C. has kept Minnesota to only 5 kick and punt return yards.

Third Quarter

It was at this point that the game went from a game, to absolutely exhilarating until the final whistle.

K.C. came into the second half with all of the momentum, despite Minnesota starting the half with the ball. Forcing a quick punt after a penalty led to a 3rd-and-16 situation for the Vikings juiced the Chiefs’ defense for the rest of the game. A great punt by the Vikings forced the Chiefs to start the game from the 4 yard line.

Then Damien Williams happened.

Runs on first and second down by Williams for 0 yards, and then a 3rd down drop by Hill due to Wiliams running full speed into him forced a 3 and out when the Chiefs needed the drive. Thankfully, Colquitt was able to boot a punt all the way to the Min 20 yard line, with a return taking it to the Min 35.

The Vikings seemed unable to get things going after Cook lost one yard to Chris Jones on a run on first, and then Reggie Ragland strip sacked Cousins (recovered by Vikings) on second down forcing a 3rd and 17. But sadly, the Chiefs continued to perform poorly on 3rd down, as Cousins launches one down field to Stefon Diggs for a 47-yard one handed grab, putting the ball on the KC 25. Despite the momentum, Minnesota faltered here. The Vikings were forced to put up a FG, making the score 13-24.

But the Chiefs were not finished. The Vikings kicked the ball back to the Chiefs after only getting 3 points, but Mecole Hardman caught the ball five yards deep in the end zone and decided it was go time. 95 yards—all the way down to the Minnesota 5. Moore capitalized on the next play with a five yard pass to Sammy Watkins. Not only did the touchdown alone bring this game within one score, but after a successful two point conversion (Moore to Watkins again), the Chiefs were within a field goal of the Vikings.

But the Vikings were not taking that hands down.

Despite the run game looking deflated and exhausted, the Vikings started to drive the field, capitalizing on KC’s bad defense on 3rd down. Lose a yard on first, incomplete pass on second, 27 yard pass on third. Sack by Chris Jones on first, 7 yard run on second, 15 yard pass to Diggs on third. Dropped interception on first, sack by Derrick Nnadi on second, 20 yard pass to Thielen on third down. The Vikings were able to drive the field almost exclusively on third down, and capped off an exhausting drive with a touchdown pass to Treadwell to make the game 31-21.

Sadly the Chiefs lost their momentum during that long drive, as they went three and out (three 0 yard rushes by Damien Williams) to end the quarter. With one more quarter left, this game could only get more exciting.

Fourth Quarter

After getting the ball back after that 3 and out, the Vikings could not get the offense going. A 7-yard run by Cook followed by a 3-yard pass to Cook gave this the look of another long scoring drive. Then an incomplete pass up the middle on first, a stuffed run by Tyrann Mathieu by second, and another stuffed run on third by Damien Wilson forced the Vikings to cut it short and punt the ball to the Chiefs.

The Chiefs needed this drive, and it was obvious in their play. No player gave less then 100%, with Matt Moore throwing quick, accurate passes to Kelce and Hill on the outside with precision on level with Tom Brady. The quick and aggressive passes got the Chiefs all the way to the Minnesota 20 yard line, where Andy Reid decided to make some of the worst play calls of the game. 3 plays, 3 rushes, 0 yards for Williams and 6 yards for McCoy. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Chiefs found it best to kick the FG here and make it a 24-31 game.

The defense decided to pick up the slack that Reid left.

Getting the ball back at the 25, the Vikings should be looking to run out as much clock as possible and play keep away with the Chiefs. Instead, they decided they needed to run up the score and chose to pass the ball four times in a row. The first one was dropped by Tyrann Mathieu. The second caught by Cook for 4. The third caught by Diggs for 7. The fourth one was caught by Kendall Fuller. Despite having the slim lead, the Vikings decided to keep punching the ball down the field, giving the dominant defensive line the chance to get to Cousins, and Cousins the chance to make a mistake, which resulted in an interception when the Chiefs needed it most.

Then came the Travis Kelce show: 7 yards here, then 8 yards there, then a dropped TD, followed by a 17-yard catch. Matt Moore and Travis Kelce were operating on a completely new level. Then a one yard catch by Kelce sets up a second and 9 on the Vikings 17, where Minnesota took a timeout. With 5 and a half minutes left in the game, the Vikings were making sure they would have a chance to win the game before halftime, especially with the Chiefs operating like they were.

On a 2nd and 9, Lesean McCoy fought through three would be tacklers for a 9 yard gain. However, the refs decided it was inches short of the first down, which brought up 3rd and inches. As if to add drama, Watkins drops an aggressive touchdown pass to set up a 4th and inches with 4:40 left on the clock.

With the game potentially on the line, the Chiefs lined up in the I formation and attacked the line with Shady McCoy, who made it all the way to the line to gain. Despite appearing to have gotten the first down and statistically gaining a yard, the refs called McCoy short of the yard to gain and gave the ball back to the Vikings. Reid should have challenged this, because it was clearly a first down, but with the clock where it was (4:33 left in the game) the Chiefs needed to preserve their timeouts.

So the Vikings took over on their own 9-yard line and came out running on first down. Of course they are going to run the clock as much as possible, with the game so close and the results of the last drive. Then, on second down, the Vikings toss the ball down the field to Kyle Rudolph, who caught it along the sideline for 47 yards. This should have been the end of the game: the ball in enemy territory, the Chiefs defense getting tired, and Dalvin Cook continuing to fight for yards, despite what has been a tough and physical game for him.

But then Andy Reid threw the red flag.

Kyle Rudolph had caught the ball along the sideline, yes, but after a second look, it  appears as if Rudolph is coming back in bounds after being pushed out by Rashad Fenton. After slowing down the footage, it is clear that his back foot is still out of bounds when he catches the ball, meaning the pass is incomplete, and after a referee review, the refs overturn the call and set up a Vikings 3rd and 9.

Cousins tries to throw again on third, only to be hit hard by Chris Jones as he threw the ball, which thankfully for the Vikings, fell innocently to the field. Meaning with 3:52 left on the clock, the Chiefs would have another shot at tying the game.

Starting the game on the Chiefs own 44, Moore took his first sack, with Alexander finding Moore for a five yard loss. Then Kelce picked right back up where he dropped off last drive with a 13 yard catch and run, followed by a 9 yard catch along the sideline for a first down. Moore started heating up, throwing for 8 to Kelce on the following first down and 1 to Watkins on second down, bringing up 3rd and 1 on the Minnesota 29 when the 2 minute warning strikes.

Moore then threw a pass to the back corner of the end zone, an absolute dime put where only Demarcus Robinson could grab it—then proceed to drop it. An absolute perfect opportunity for the Chiefs to tie a game they have been out of all day dropped by Robinson when it mattered most.

But the Chiefs had another shot, with 4th and 1. Moore took the snap, tossed a quick pass to Kelce on the stick route and missed—partially because of the pressure, partially because Travis Kelce was running the flat route.

With 1:50 left on the clock, Minnesota took over on their own 29, hoping they are holding the ball for the last time this game. Cook punched the offensive line with a one yard run, followed by a Chiefs’ timeout. Next play, the Vikings try to catch the Chiefs off guard with a pass, Cousins rolling right on a play action bootleg. The Chiefs were not fooled, as they had perfect pass coverage, and the defensive line destroyed the offensive line. Chris Jones found his way Kirk Cousins after Cousins bailed out of the pocket, hitting him hard for a 14-yard sack. It forced the ball out (recovered by Minnesota). The Chiefs call another timeout with 1:30 left on the clock, but the Chiefs defense was trying to win the game, whether the offense wants to or not. With 3rd and 23, the Vikings safely ran the ball, gaining 7 yards, prompting another timeout from the Chiefs with 1:23 left on the clock.

With 1:19 left on the clock after the fumble, the ball on the KC 26, and another shot at a miracle, Moore took the snap, as the receivers ran a smash concept as to be close to the sideline and stop the clock. Unfortunately Moore took his second sack of the game, except this time, he coughed up the football. Everson Griffin stripped the ball out of Moore’s hands, which Danielle Hunter picked up off the field and took 20 yards to the end zone for a heartbreaking defensive touchdown.

In an absolute heartbreaking ending to an amazing fourth quarter, the Vikings took all the air out of Arrowhead and secured the win. Despite having 3 shots at a miracle, the Chiefs failed to capitalize, and when it mattered most, the Vikings’ defense finally stepped up and made their presence known. The Chiefs would receive the kick off and run the ball to run the clock and end the game.

As the final whistle blew, the Vikings took the 38-24 win on the road. The Vikings led the Chiefs in total offense with 500 yards to the Chiefs 330 despite the game being so close. The Vikings were carried by Kirk Cousins, who went 34/51 for 426 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception, but just barely outperformed Matt Moore, who went 37/56 for 302 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

A major difference in the game was the performance by the running backs. Dalvin Cook ran the ball 32 times for 116 yards (3.6 ypc) and the Chiefs main back, Damien Williams, ran the ball 19 times for 17 yards (less then 1 ypc). The defense of the Chiefs team really kept them in the game however, with Chris Jones leading the charge with four sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.

[for a quick comparison, Mahomes in his sim went 26/34 for 310 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 55 yards rushing.]