The Clayton Chronicles, pt. II

We’re back. It’s part two of our quest for glory with Clayton Thorson in Madden 19 on the 2019-20 Eagles. If you somehow missed part one, I would probably not read part two first.

We last left off with our hero leading the Eagles to a 4-6 record through 11 weeks of the season, with the Eagles’ backs against the wall with six games left to play.

It’s time to either run the table, or crash and burn.

Week 12: Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

Well, not an ideal game to start the table-running. The Cowboys waxed us earlier this season, have a high OVR rating, and are at home. Their defense was the toughest I faced so far.

It was not pretty to start. We had an interception in the first quarter, but our defense was balling out. Clayton really could not get anything going so we turned this game into a Big Ten battle for field position.

It was 0-0 after the first quarter, and 0-0 after halftime. And then after the third quarter, it was 0-0. Scintillating!

Things started to pick up, and early in the fourth, Dallas kicked a field goal. Clayton responded with a methodical, but quick drive down the field to take a 7-3 lead.

Then apparently, our defense gave up an 75-yard bomb to Amari Cooper and we were down 10-7.

Clayton moved the sticks a few times on the next drive, but things stalled out around midfield with a fourth and eight. I really didn’t want to give the Cowboys the ball back, so…

It’s a fake! Cameron Johnston delivering the goods! Clayton kept the drive alive and finished it off with this sick juke:

See you later, Anthony Brown. Clayton pulled out the most important scramble of his career to keep the Eagles alive, and then the defense held on for the stop. What a thrilling fourth quarter.

Nothing spectacular here, but just enough.

Those two touchdowns were huge. The Eagles clawed their way to within one game of .500 after a gutsy performance in a rivalry game. South Philly fans have mostly already given up on the season, but hope lingers.

Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-5)

Can the Eagles turn their big divisional win into that silly thing called momentum? Another tough matchup loomed in the 6-5 Vikings as the Eagles returned home to the Linc.

The defense kept its hot streak going and shut the Vikings out in the first quarter. Clayton waltzed down the field and punched in a sneak to take a 7-0 lead.

With the defense forcing stops on two more series, Clayton ripped off a huge play on the next drive:

I mostly included this play because of Corey Clement’s incredible block. On the very next play, Clayton rolled right and found the open man:

Things were going smoothly. And our defense kept shutting down Kirk Cousins, who clearly can’t handle playing in Philadelphia. Clayton got the ball back for a two minute drill at the end of the half, and did well enough to work into field goal range. Except, …

What is dead may never die. Yes, this play burned us against the Cowboys. The Vikings were even ready for it this time. Too bad Jake Elliott can make the throw to the outside shoulder. 20-0 at the half.

The defense kept pitching a perfect game and in the third, Clayton just blew it open. Sure, we faced a fourth and goal, but Clayton is now the most efficient goal line guy in the league.

I should say, Clayton has upgraded from a 61 OVR to a 65, with a boost of two in actual ratings and boost of two in confidence. He’s still the same player, but he actually feels faster and more accurate.

*Queues up Gonna Fly Now from Rocky*

It’s like Clayton has acquired the infinity stone for red zone efficiency. The Vikings were bad, but Clayton was not going to be stopped today. Just an incredible performance.

Mistake free quarterbacking! Kirk, wyd?

Again. 37 yards, three rushing touchdowns. Efficiency.

The Eagles are .500 at 6-6! Clayton is improving. Should the league take notice? With four games left, the Eagles sit a game out of the last playoff spot. People are starting to dream in South Philly.

Week 14: Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at New York Giants (4-8)

Somehow, the uber-talented Giants have not been able to put it together. While they don’t have anything to play for, Kyler Murray would love for a season sweep over his fellow rookie, and Giants fans don’t want to let Clayton steal a win on the north end of the Jersey Turnpike.

Bad news Giants fans. You ran into a buzzsaw at the wrong time. The Eagles defense clamped down on Kyler, OBJ and Saquon in the first quarter. Clayton settled in slowly, and put up a field goal.

In the second quarter, Clayton kept his hot hand going. Raced down the field, got to the goal line, and used his roll-right scramble.

Who is stopping this man?

Red zone god. Richard Rodgers looking like Gronk out here.

The Eagles bulldozed the Giants through the first half, and it didn’t stop there.

Just perfect timing. Clayton hit the wall this season. And then he smashed right through it. Giants’ defense looking like cones. Credit to the Eagles defense for making this easy, but Clayton is more than doing his share.

If No. 18 is gonna play this well, you have to get pressure on him. We still take a ton of sacks, but if Clayton has time for that slant to outrun the zone without even having to scramble…look out.

Wire-to-wire from the Birds. Giants fans are stunned. Murmurs of drafting the wrong quarterback are creeping into Metlife.

More mistake-free play. 165 yards from a first round pick? Couldn’t be my QB1.

Clayton and the Eagles are ROLLING. They’ve won three-straight and are above .500 for the first time since week three. NFL pundits wrote them off, but Clayton has led the Eagles into a tie for the last playoff spot. With three games left against the Dolphins, Bears and Redskins, can Clayton do the unthinkable?

Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles (7-6) vs. Miami Dolphins (3-9-1)

Oh boy. Carson Wentz revenge game. Can you imagine being picked second overall, playing at an MVP level, getting hurt, watching Nick Foles win a Super Bowl, not be 100% in your return, geting hurt again, watching Nick Foles lead a playoff run again, and then be traded to a Dolphins team and going 3-9-1 while a fifth round pick took your job?

Friends, this is why we thank Madden for letting us do dumb things.

In any case, Carson Wentz arrived in Philly playing for a lot more pride than his awful record would suggest.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of this game, there were no clips. Not because I forgot to make any. Clayton started out hot and drove down the field for an opening touchdown, punctuated by a QB sneak. He tacked on a field goal and the Eagles looked good with a 10-0 lead.

Carson, however, chipped away on a cold December afternoon, and put two field goals on the board to make it just 10-6 at halftime.

The Dolphins got the ball first after the break, and Wentz marched down to put seven on the board, taking a 13-10 lead. The doubt began to creep in at the Linc, but Clayton settled down after an erratic second quarter when he threw an interception and led a field goal drive at the end of the quarter to the tie game at 13-13.

Carson struck first in the fourth and the Dolphins led 16-13. Needing a win, Clayton drove 75 yards in an excruciatingly long six minute possession, and punched in his second sneak of the day for the win!.

It was an ugly game, but Clayton stayed hot.

Not great from either QB, but Clayton did enough.

Again, just an ugly day. Clayton’s goal-line effiency was key again.

The Eagles ground out a huge win to move to 8-6. They moved into fifth place in the playoff seeding! They can clinch a spot next week with a win over the Bears. Philadelphia is in awe. This Clayton kid has captured the city.

Week 16: Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) at Chicago Bears (7-7)

It’s crunch time. The Bears are tied with a host of teams one spot back of the playoffs. The Redskins occupy the sixth seed with a 7-6-1 record. Clayton will make his homecoming to Chicago with a chance to lock up a playoff spot against Mitch Trubisky and a rabid fan base still angry about the double-doink.

The #narrative couldn’t be better. The Bears are an 86 OVR and despite the record, are a tough matchup. Thankfully, a weak NFC means Clayton has a little bit of breathing room. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want this one.

What transpired was the stuff of legends.

The Bears scored first on a field goal and then Clayton threw interceptions on his first two drives. Yes, legendary. But you know what they say about the Bears going up 17-0 in a night game against a hot quarterback.

With his back against the wall, Clayton flipped the switch. The Bears defense is formidable because their pass rush is so good, creating long yardage on second and third down which forces Clayton to make bad throws. Third and 24, but if the pressure doesn’t get there…

Booyah. Clayton is right back in it.

The Bears kept their foot on the gas and put three more points on the board. Clayton, staring a massive deficit, found his way back to the red zone and used his patented play.

Roll right, and find the crossers. Unfortunately, in the three minutes that followed, Mitch threw a dime and made it 27-14. Not ideal at halftime.

Both teams took a break from the fireworks in the third, as the Eagles defense found its form, but Clayton couldn’t connect.

Mitch got the ball at the end of the third and led a drive that extended early into the fourth, where he punched in another touchdown. Matt Nagy decided to go for two to try to have 35 points, but couldn’t succeed. In any case, however, the odds started to look slim for the Eagles. They trailed 33-14 with under nine minute to play.

Clayton, as we know, never gives up. First play with the ball back? Boom.

You can’t put a linebacker on Alshon in the slot! The Eagles still needed help, but their defense delivered with a stop.

Clayton got the ball back with seven minutes to go, and down 12. He needed a quick score, and he did just that. Got to the red zone, and went right to the sweet spot for this slant.

On the money to Alshon in a big revenge game for him. The Soldier field crowd was starting to worry. Clayton had come all the way back to 33-28. Would that missed two-point conversion haunt the Bears?

Mitch managed to run the clock down a bit and come away with a field goal. Clayton got the ball down eight with three timeouts, and 1:45 on the clock. Could he do it?

Clayton is becoming a folk hero as we speak. He diced up the Bears defense and got all the way down to the one. QB draw instead of a QB sneak this time. Money.

Clayton had done the impossible, and pulled the team all the way back! Except, on the two-point conversion, Zach Ertz dropped a catch after he got hit and the Eagles lost.

Heartbreak. What an insane game, and the Eagles nearly pulled off a win for the ages. I couldn’t believe it.

Those two picks were bad, but Clayton responded to absolutely torch the Bears defense.

Man, that one stung. The Bears prevailed in an absolute classic, and jumped the Eagles into the five spot at 8-7. The Eagles are now 8-7, but we heard good news from Washington, who dropped their Week 16 matchup. That set up a huge play-in game for Week 17.

Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) vs. Washington Redskins (7-7-1)

Aren’t ties the best? The Eagles remained in the playoff spots at the No. 6 seed, and the Redskins were half a game back with one week to go. And the best part is that the two teams faced each other with a playoff berth on the line.

You can’t make it up. After everything Clayton went through this season to drop to a 4-6 record, he won four of his next five to bring the Eagles to the doorstep. And they hosted the team they need to beat in Week 17

Of course, in early January, we got a blizzard at the Linc. Who would wilt in the conditions? Both teams traded field goals early, but then Alex Smith made the first mistake, and gave the Eagles the ball right outside of the red zone after a fumble. The very next play:

Stand and deliver. Clayton’s pocket presence has improved so much. And the Alshon grit is awesome. The Redskins scored a touchdown later in the quarter before Clayton led a great two minute drill to come away with a field goal. Up 13-10 at the half.

On the first drive in the third quarter, Clayton looked like he was taking control. He threw for some big chunks and then converted in the red zone once more with a big dive.

Up two scores, gotta be feeling good about yourself? Wrong. Alex Smith and the Redskins would not go down easy and reeled off a touchdown. Then Clayton threw a pick and they scored another touchdown. And then after a three-and-out, Smith led another touchdown drive. He was up to four on the day, and things got worrisome quickly.

The Eagles trailed 31-20 entering the fourth with the season on the line. Could Clayton deliver one last time? He started the quarter like a man on a mission, and in just four plays, found himself at the 10-yard line. Then red zone Clayton showed up with a huge play on third and seven:

Back in it. We went for two to try to get within three, but Clayton got sacked on a blitz. Down 31-26, I decided to take over on defense (yes I know, a cop out!) to try and keep the Redskins from making it a two possession game. Instead, on maybe my fourth defensive series of the year, the Eagles D-line came up huge:

Derek Barnett is a bad man. Fletcher Cox with the big scoop. And of course, that opened the door up for an easy run the next play:

And just like that, the comeback was complete. We went for two this time to try to go up three and Clayton dove in on a scramble. Up 34-31, Smith couldn’t produce a big drive when it mattered most and the Eagles took over on their 40, marched down the field and put the game away with a QB sneak. Despite a garbage time touchdown, the Eagles came away with the win!

What a season. From 4-6, Clayton basically ran the table with the Eagles to sneak into the playoffs as a six seed.

It wasn’t the smoothest of performances, but when Clayton did complete passes, they were for big gains. Take that Alex Smith. Waiting for us in the playoffs as the No. 3 seed? The Dallas Cowboys. Rubber match. #narrative.

And we found a pleasant surprise for us after week 17.

Ross, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

That’s right. Clayton Thorson, fifth round pick, out of Northwestern, is your 2019-20 NFL MVP. What a sentence.

Does this make any sense? Clayton seemed to be pretty brutal all season long. The turnovers were atrocious. But if you somehow ignore those numbers…

So not the best completion percentage. And an absurd number of sacks, 30+ more than DeShaun Watson took in 2018. And the 22 interceptions, which would have been six more than the highest total in 2018.

But an extremely high YPA, and of course, 5,182 yards! Clayton casually ripped off the second-most passing yards in a season in NFL history. Only 7 QBs have ever previously thrown for 5,000 yards (Drew Brees did it five times) Here’s where Clayton may have earned the award..

So only five players designated as a ‘quarterback’ have ever rushed for more than 800 yards in a season including Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Only seven QBs have ever scored 10 rushing touchdowns or more in the season, and the previous record was 14, set by Cam Newton in 2011.

In fact, Cam Newton’s 2011 season was the closest we can come to what Clayton did here. Cam threw for 4,000 yards, rushed for 700, threw for 21 TDs and 17 INTs, and as mentioned, rushed for 14 more TDs.

So basically 2019 Clayton was like the ideal version of Cam Newton. Or if you combined peak-Matt Stafford with 2017 LeGarrette Blount. Because most of Clayton’s touchdowns came at the goal-line.

Did Clayton deserve his MVP award? Probably not for the 9-7 Eagles. Was his statistical profile unheard of in any NFL context ever? Yes. It’s almost like he put up video game numbers.

Well, what a crazy season. If I said at the start of this Clayton would win MVP you would have thought I was crazy, especially after part one. You know what they say. Don’t let the ‘Cats get hot.

Can Clayton continue his magic against the best teams in the NFC? Tune in for the finale of the Clayton Chronicles to found out.

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