(The following is a recap of a simulation we performed in advance of Sunday's AFC Championship game. With permission from EA Sports, Boston.com utilized Madden NFL 08 for the xBox 360 console to predict the New England Patriots would defeat the San Diego Chargers, 38-35, in overtime. To view highlights from the simulation, watch the video above. And just so theres no mistaking it, well repeat it: The recap below is based on the simulation -- except the quotes; those we just made up.)
MY LIVING ROOM -- Jarvis Green is a liar. In fact, his actions border on consumer fraud.
Earlier this season, New England's burly defensive linemen printed up T-shirts adorned with the words, "60-minute men," a slogan these perfect Pats adopted while rewriting the NFL record book. But during our simulated AFC Championship game, being a "60-minute" man wasn't enough. And the Patriots Pro Shop might be selling an updated version of Green's T-shirts this week, which they can hang next to the latest batch of AFC Championship apparel.
"I guess we're 65-minute men now," the simulated Green said with a simulated smile after Stephen Gostkowski booted a 44-yard field goal with 4:26 remaining in overtime to lift the Patriots past the San Diego Chargers, 38-35, in our simulated Madden NFL 08 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium.
"Actually, we're 65 1/2-minute men or whatever it was. We could play football for 100 minutes and every guy in this locker room would be ready for that."
Those that came expecting a coronation found a competition. These wounded Chargers landed an early haymaker (two Antonio Gates touchdown receptions put San Diego out front, 14-3, in the first half) and a late uppercut (Antonio Cromartie's 46-yard interception return with 2:17 remaining in regulation put the Chargers on top in our simulation, 35-28).
But the Patriots responded on the arm of quarterback Tom Brady, who added another stellar postseason performance to his resume by completing 37 of 47 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns.
None of the NFL-record 50 TD passes Brady delivered during the regular season, nor any of the NFL-record 23 TD receptions hauled in by wide receiver Randy Moss, were as valuable as the one the pair hooked up on during a season-saving two-minute drill.
Catching Cromartie on a corner blitz with little more than a minute to play, Brady threw a fastball to Moss a few steps from the right pylon at the front of the end zone. It caught San Diego's Clinton Hart looking as Moss pulled in the 16-yard touchdown pass in front of the fifth-year strong safety to tie the game at 35 and ultimately forced the extra session.
The real drama unfolded two plays earlier. Moss caught a Brady offering on a comeback route that Cromartie again tried to jump. Turning upfield and looking for first-down yardage, Moss was swarmed under by a trio of defenders and appeared to fumble along the sideline.
The only fans not holding their breath in the crowd were likely Wareham natives, who had come to cheer on hometown boy Stephen Cooper. The Chargers' linebacker -- a tackling machine on a day when Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips were otherwise quiet -- scooped up the loose ball before it could trickle out of bounds and, in the process, appeared to have punched the Chargers' pass to Tempe.
With under two minutes to play, the Patriots couldn't challenge. But referee Ed Hochuli, summoning his inner Walt Coleman, reviewed the play and determined that Moss had been on the ground before coughing up the ball. No fumble.
The overturned call gave the Patriots another chance. Thirty-four seconds later Moss was standing in the end zone and after the extra point the game was tied.
"I told you guys all year this season has been like a dream to me and I honestly didn't know what happened on the play because I was just sitting there wondering if the dream was over," said the simulated Moss. "After they overturned that play, we weren't leaving anything to chance."
Like Green, Moss wasn't being entirely truthful. The Chargers -- choosing heads -- lost the coin flip before the overtime session -- giving the Patriots first crack. Philip Rivers never got a chance to buckle his chin strap again.
But he nearly did. Special teamer Mel Mitchell rescued the Patriots by recovering Chad Jackson's fumble on the kickoff to start the extra session. Despite the heart-stopping miscue that nearly cost the Patriots their season, Brady and Co. operated with an eerie calm during overtime.
Laurence Maroney -- penned in for much of the first 60 minutes -- shook free on an 11-yard jaunt to ignite the drive. Backfield mate Heath Evans reeled in his sixth pass of the game (Brady again taking the underneath routes the defense gave him, much like he did against Jacksonville) to move the Pats near midfield and Benjamin Watson added a clutch third-down grab right at the sticks to prolong the drive in San Diego territory.
Moss made another grab -- his game-high 11th reception -- to move the Pats within field goal range and a bevy of short runs helped the Patriots move the ball to the center of the field.
Gostkowski, who had missed a 44-yard attempt from the right hash marks in the second quarter, didn't miss this 44-yarder. His boot traveled right down Main St. and with enough leg to have been good from 54 yards.
The Patriots' new Mr. Clutch seemed unflappable in his most pressure situation of the season.
"I'd much rather be kicking those easy little 20-yarders after all those touchdowns the offense puts up," said the simulated Gostkowski. "But, hey, I'm a 60-minute man like the rest of these guys."
Or, as Green can confirm, a 65 1/2-minute man.