My 20th birthday was a couple of weeks ago. What better way to celebrate than playing Backyard Football, a game that according to the box is “for kids 5-10”? I thought it might be fun to recap it, an idea inspired by a post by Joe Posnanski on Strat-O-Matic. Let’s do this.
Naturally, I’m the Redskins. My opponent is the Lions. I choose Leather, and get the first pick in the draft. No need to complicate things — I select Pablo Sanchez first overall. The kid is an absolute legend. Mention Pablo Sanchez around any male age 18-22 and a look of awe will creep into his eyes.
The Lions surprise with the second pick, going with Randall Cunningham. I snap up Jerry Rice. The Lions make another questionable pick, selecting Luanne Lui. They seem to be prioritizing speed over skill. With the fifth pick, I select Barry Sanders. These teams just aren’t fair.
The Lions go with Lisa Crockett. This isn’t a flashy pick, but Lisa is rated four footballs at blocking and creates havoc on defense with her power. I don’t have anybody that can match her strength, so I select Mikey Thomas. This kid’s nickname is “Nugget” for a reason. He’s your prototypical lineman.
The Lions go with Reese Worthington. Are you kidding me? He’s got great hands, but at two feet tall, I’m confident my corners can shut him down. I pick Kiesha Phillips to play linebacker. With her combination of speed and strength, she’s going to be plowing into the backfield all game long. The Lions pick Ernie Steele. He might not look athletic, but his legs are unbelievably long, and he knows how to catch the ball. He could be tough for my smaller corners to match up with. I’ll have to keep an eye on this.
I’ve been waiting to pick a quarterback. I figured with the Lions already having selected Randall Cunningham, I could take my time. I finally select Steve Young. He’s got a great arm, can scramble, and has wonderful chemistry with Jerry Rice. My last roster spot is filled by Ricky Johnson, a dependable kicker. The Lions use their last two picks on two backup QBs, Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre. Not sure what the logic behind having three QBs on a seven-man roster is, but I’m not complaining.
My final lineup:
QB – Steve Young
WR – Pablo Sanchez
WR – Jerry Rice
RB – Barry Sanders
OL – Mikey Thomas
LB – Kiesha Philips
DL – Mikey Thomas
CB – Barry Sanders
CB – Jerry Rice
S – Pablo Sanchez
K – Ricky Johnson
On the first play of the game, I run Noodle, and Steve takes a chance downfield to Jerry. Jerry snags the ball over Reese’s head and takes off downfield. No one’s catching him: touchdown Redskins. Steve hits Barry for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Lions first possession results in a three and out. Their attempts to run the ball are stuffed repeatedly by Kiesha and Mikey. This duo is an offensive line’s nightmare.
I start my next drive with great field position, on the Lions’ 36-yard line. The Lions blitz, and Lisa and Randall blow by Mikey. Steve attempts to get off a quick pass, but Lisa dives and knocks the ball out of his hand. Randall scoops up the football in perfect stride and takes it all the way down the field for a touchdown. Unbelievable. Randall hits Ernie for the two-point conversion. 8-8.
The Lions kick the ball off, and Jerry receives. He drifts toward the left, trusting his blockers to create a hole. Pablo, Kiesha and Mikey tie up the Lions’ best tacklers. Yet again, Reese finds himself in the impossible situation of having to take Jerry one-on-one. Jerry nimbly sidesteps the tackle and takes the ball down the field for his second touchdown. Another successful two-point conversion puts the Redskins up 16-8.
On the second play of the Lions’ next drive, Randall tosses it over Pablo’s outstretched hands and hits Ernie in stride. Pablo recovers and is able to chase Ernie down, but not before he gets to the Redskin’s 40-yard line. On the very next play, the Lions dump the ball to Luanne on a screen route. Other than Barry, my entire defense is on the other side of the field dealing with the freakishly tall Ernie. Reese makes a solid block on Barry, and Luanne sprints by for a touchdown. Mikey stops Luanne in the backfield on the two-point conversion attempt. 16-14 Redskins.
With only 28 seconds to go in the half, I decide to pull out the Hocus-Pocus. Jerry disappears and reappears 20 yards down the field. Somehow, Luanne is able to recover. Steve’s pass is short, and Luanne grabs it for the interception.
After struggling to get any separation on the scoreboard, I decide it’s time to take a risk. I bring everyone on a blitz, and Pablo slips through a crack in the offensive line into the backfield. Randall attempts to throw the ball away, but Pablo is having none of it and knocks the ball out of Randall’s hands. Randall dives onto the football, but the Lions lose 18 yards on the play. The Redskins force a three and out, and the Lions punt. The ball goes out of bounds at the one-yard line with just seven seconds left in the half.
On the next play, Steve drops back into the end zone looking for a Hail Mary to end the half. Brett Favre, who for some strange reason is playing defensive line, somehow finds the strength to flatten Mikey. He sprints into the end zone and wraps Steve up for the safety. 16-16.
I have to take the blame for this one. This is textbook bad coaching. All I had to do was avoid calling a risky play, and we would have gone into the half with the lead. Oh well, 0-0. Time to bring it in the second half.
On the first play of the second half, Randall is hurried and forces an awkward pass across his body to Ernie in double coverage. Jerry grabs the ball for the interception. Randall looks rattled as he walks off the field. This isn’t how he envisioned the second half starting.
On the next drive, Steve hits a wide-open Barry in the middle of the end zone to cap an efficient five-play drive. Steve is sacked by a visibly angry Randall on the two-point conversion attempt. 22-16 Redskins.
The Lions’ next possession ends in Randall attempting another pass across his body that again lands straight into Jerry’s arms. Randall is starting to look exhausted.
Steve hits a wide-open Jerry downfield on the very next play for a touchdown. Jerry follows it up with a diving catch for the two-point conversion to make the score 30-16. The kid is blacking out.
The Lions are unable to muster anything in the fourth quarter. Jerry records one more touchdown to pad his stats. Twice I force the ball to Pablo in double coverage in an effort to get him a reception. Both times it’s intercepted. Oh well, even Michael Jordan had his off nights.
The final score is 37-16. I’m proud of my team. After a tight first half, they came out and took control. Jerry was lights out, Kiesha and Mikey were an unstoppable force up front, Steve and Barry got the job done, and Pablo, despite struggling offensively, found ways to contribute on the defensive side of the ball. He reminded me of Earl Thomas, with his presence at safety allowing his teammates to take risks they otherwise couldn’t. Maybe one day some of these kids will even make it to the big leagues.