There are many sports movies out there almost all of which are terrible. They can be classified in two major catergories; sentimentally heart warming or heavy handed comedies. The late 90’s and the early 2000’s saw a resurgence of sports movies, more specifically football comedies. Adam Sandler’s Waterboy was very successful at the box office with its release in the fall of 1998. The less successful sibling of that movie came out in the summer of 2000, The Replacements.

Staring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, The Replacements  explores the idea of an NFL strike in the middle of the season. Instead of canceling the season short, the NFL teams hired scabs, or replacements to play the remaining games.

This move isn’t good, but it has its funny moments.

I came home after a mentally destructive day at the office, plopped in my second hand recliner that my mom gave me for free, and booted up Netflix. There it was; The Replacements under the recently added section. As I watched it, I thought it would be fun to break down every game in the movie play by play. That proved to be more painful than anticipated, but I went through with it anyway.

Exposition

The Washington Sentinels football team went on strike with the rest of the NFL (or fake NFL). The players were striking to pressure the owners of the teams to agree to raise the salary cap restrictions which in return will lead to bigger contacts for the players. The owner of the Sentinels, Edward O’Neil (Jack Warden) approached his former coach that he fired years before, Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman). O’Neil wanted to hire replacement players for the final 4 games of the season and he wanted McGinty to coach them. Reluctenly McGinty agreed to do it under one condition, he had all of the personnel powers, he got to choose his players.

McGinty is a cross between Mike Ditka and Tom Landry. He wears sweater vests and a fedora and he has a well-manicured mustache. He is often described by John Madden and Pat Summeral (who commentate all 4 games) as unconventional.

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Jimmy McGinty
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Mike Ditka
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Tom Landry

 

The Team

The team consist of talented players, all of which have debilitating flaws. The movie revolves around 10 players (8 offensive, 2 defensive) and this unlikely group of guys working together breeds chaos and somehow success. Some of these characters are portrayed in a racially insensitive manner by today’s standards but the writers do an acceptable job of forming relationships between them, even if they are unrealistic.

Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) – Quarterback #16

Shane Falco was an All American quarterback at Ohio State University and is widely remembered for his play during the 1996 Sugar Bowl vs. Florida State University where his team lost by 45 points. It is later revealed that he still had an opportunity to play professional football in Seattle, but succumbed to the pressure of being the leader of the team and quickly fell out of the league. He is known as Shane “Footsteps” Falco due to his failure to play well under pressure and getting rid of the ball before he is hit. I found it interesting that Falco wore number 16, most famously represented by Joe Montana who is known to be cool under pressure and play well in big game situations. Falco lives on a house boat and cleans barnacles and crud off from yachts for a living.

Jumbo Fumiko (Ace Yonamine) – Offensive Tackle #68

Jumbo Fumiko is a Japanese sumo wrestler who is constantly eating. His size and sumo skills make him a good fit at offensive tackle, but he is not without his flaws, one of which is eating a dozen boiled eggs before a game.

Jamal Abdul Jackson (Faizon Love) – Guard #72

Andre Jackson (Michael Taliferro) – Guard #73

The Jackson brothers are big former pro offensive guards who play great together. They both played on the same team in the pros, but when they were traded to different teams they lost their desire to play. They both work as body guards for a famous rapper and always seem to be packing heat.

Walter Cochran (Troy Winbush) – Running Back #34

Walter Cochran is a skilled running back who takes his Christianity seriously. His experience in professional football is just one game. In that game he blew out his knee and as a result he never made another team. His goal is to score one touchdown playing professional football.

Clifford Franklin (Orlando Jones) – Wide Receiver #81

Clifford Franklin is really fast. He worked at a local store in Washington D.C. as a stock boy. He is always the fastest player on the field but he can’t catch anything.

Brian Murphy (David Denman) – Tight End #86

Brian Murphy is the most talented player on the team. He is big, fast, and has great hands, but he is deaf. If it weren’t for his disability he would have gone in the first round of the draft. He overcomes his lack of hearing by running perfect routes and catching almost everything thrown his way.

Nigel Gruff (Rhys Ifans) – Kicker #3

Nigel Gruff is a Welsh soccer player who enjoys smoking, drinking, and gambling. He is constantly paying off gambling debts and on the run from bookies and goons. Despite being extremely unhealthy and out of shape, he is appropriately nicknamed “The Leg” because he can kick the ball farther than anyone in soccer or football.

Danny Bateman (John Farveau) – Linebacker #56

Danny Bateman is a crazy person. He reminds me of former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski. He played football at Michigan State as a walk on but ended his football career to serve in the military where he saw action in the Gulf War. At the time of the strike he was a member of the Washington D.C. S.W.A.T. team. When Bateman is not playing football or breaking down doors during raids, he is actually quiet and acts normal. But in the heat of the moment he becomes a different person and looks to obliterate everything which leads to many great but also damaging plays on defense.

Earl Wilkinson (Michael Jace) – Safety #42

Earl Wilkinson, or more commonly known in the football world, Ray Smith, is a criminal serving a prison sentence. McGinty is somehow able to get him out of prison, change his name to Ray Smith, and play professional football. It is revealed that he was a former All-Pro safety in Minnesota, but got into a fight with cops, hence his prison sentence. Wilkinson is a typical hard hitting safety wearing an intimidating black visor and forces many turnovers with his speed and hard hitting play.

The Season

With only 4 games left in the season, coach McGinty and his handpicked team are tasked with winning 3 games to be eligible for the playoffs, something the Sentinels haven’t qualified for in 7 years. Here is the 4 game schedule:

Washington Sentinels vs. Detroit (played in Washington)

Washington Sentinels vs. San Diego (played in Washington)

Washington Sentinels vs. Phoenix (played in Phoenix)

Washington Sentinels vs. Dallas (played in Washington)

Game One – Washington Sentinels vs. Detroit

I do not think the Detroit team (or any of the teams the Sentinels play) have team names other than what city they play out of. As noted earlier in the movie, Detroit is known for having a good defense, especially its middle linebacker. The only real scouting on Detroit shown in the movie is by the teams main cheerleader, Annabelle Farrell (Brooke Langton) who Shane Falco has an attraction for. She explains to Shane as she gives him a ride home, that Detroit’s best linebacker crossed the picket line and will play on Sunday.

The game starts with Detroit kicking off to the Sentinels which is kneed down for a touch back. So its 1st and 10 from the 20 yard line.

The first huddle in the first game for the team does not go well. The Jackson brothers get in a fight with Fumiko over where each player is supposed to stand in the huddle. One of the Jackson brothers calls Fumiko Chinese to agitate him (he is Japanese) and punches start flying. Falco attempts to break up the fight but gets knocked to the ground after receiving a blow to the head from a Jackson. This wasting of time leads to a delay of game penalty, minus 5 yards.

1st and 15 on from the 15 yard line.

The second attempt at calling a play in the huddle doesn’t have a better result. Falco sets the rules for talking in the huddle (raise your hand if you have something to say) and Fumiko immediately raises his hand to explain he doesn’t feel good (he ate at lot of boiled eggs before the game). Falco brushes him off and calls the play, DC Right Switch 25 Blast. One of the Jackson brothers asks for clarification on which side that play call is for and it get shouted, “to the left!” by Falco, which is heard by the defense. All of this confusion takes too much time and another delay of game penalty is called.

1st and 20 from the 10 yard line.

The owner of the team expressed his displeasure by shouting “I’ve seen monkey shit fights at the zoo that were more organized than this!” The third huddle finally resulted in a play call, DC Right Pro 424 Tomahawk, before the play clock expired. As Falco makes is way to the line, the defense makes an adjustment and the linebacker shouts “I’m coming for you footsteps!” Falco is visibly distraught, snaps the ball and rolls to his left where he is crushed by two Detroit defenders, fumbles, and Detroit recovers with great field position. Not a good first possession.

The Sentinel defense runs out onto the field led by fired up linebacker Danny Bateman. The defensive call is Eagle Over Cover 4. I believe this play call means Bateman is supposed to rush the quarterback while the rest of the defense drops into a cover 4 zone. Bateman gives the call to his teammates and immediately starts shouting things to the Detroit quarterback, “all day blue eyes!”, “it’s Christmas and Santa’s coming down the chimney!”, and his last line which sends him over the edge of insanity “I’m gonna bury your family!” The Detroit quarterback calls a fake snap which Bateman falls for immediately. He jumps clear over the center and lands with full force on the quarterback. The offsides penalty was followed by a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Bateman punches an opposing player.

The next play Detroit scores easily on a toss sweep to the right. After this play we get a rare glimpse of the score board which reads Detroit 7, Washington 0 with 2:45 left in the 1st quarter. The time left in the quarter doesn’t make any sense because that implies over 12 minutes of game time passed during the one play each team ran on offense. With all of the penalties and clock stoppage, only a minute or two should have elapsed at the most. But whatever, we move on.

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Detroit kicks off to the Sentinels which they knee in the end zone for another touch back. 1st and 10 from the 20 yard line. Falco gets in the huddle and begins to call “Double Slot Zag…” but gets cut off by Fumiko puking up his recently eaten pregame meal. Falco tells him to suck it up and continues “Double Slot Zag 88…” which is cut off by more puking. The rest of the huddle expresses their displeasure and start to gag themselves.

To move away from the puke, the team decides to interlock at the shoulders in a circle and shuffle to a new location. I don’t know why they didn’t just quickly call the play and move to the line of scrimmage away from the puke. This leads to another delay of game penalty. 1st and 15.

The team completes its first big play from the 38 yard line. The running back, Cochran, shifts to the left, Falco snaps the ball and rolls out to the right where he gets a great block. To avoid the pressure Falco turns around and rolls back to the left and releases the ball as get hit. Cochran makes a juggling catching just over mid field.

McGinty calls in the next play, Blue Right 60 X Post. Falco snaps the ball, takes a 7 step drop back, launches a pass that was a little high to the tight end Murphy who catches it and hangs onto the ball after taking a big hit and falling out of bounds at the 28 yard line.

Murphy falling out of bounds stops the clock with 5 seconds left before half time. McGinty sends the kicker, Gruff out onto the field for a 40 yard field goal. I noticed Falco was the holder for the kick which makes me wonder if the team only has one quarterback.

Gruff kicks the ball perfectly and the team goes into half time down 14 – 3. Detroit must of scored again off screen.

The game is rejoined with Detroit passing the ball from the 27 yard line where Wilkinson intercepts it and returns for a touchdown. We get another look at the score board which shows the score being 14 – 10 with 1:15 left in the game and the Sentinels have the ball on the 21 yard line. Falco calls an audible at the line and drops into the shotgun formation. Two Detroit defense men rush Falco and recover the fumble after Falco drops the ball.

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The game appears to be over at this point. Knowing that they need a quick turnover, McGinty grabs the already deranged Bateman and screams in his face “Get me the ball!” This takes Bateman to another scary level of uncertainty but at this point in the game McGinty is throwing all morals out the window. He shows some remorse when Bateman rumbles onto the field and says “I hope he doesn’t kill anybody.”

Bateman does what was asked of him. Detroit calls a run play to run down the clock, but Bateman blows through the blocker, collides with the ball carrier upright and rips the ball from his arms. He holds the ball up proudly with blood running down his face and shouts “I got the ball!” McGinty and Bateman shout at each other in a congratulatory fashion about the great play.

This is intended to be one of the funnier scenes in the movie, but something I noticed took me out of the scene completely. During the game Bateman is suffering from an ailment common in hard hitting linebackers. The ridge between his forehead and nose is cut open from the top of his helmet getting lodged in that location. This happens a lot in real life, famously to J.J. Watt, and it makes the player look menacing with blood rolling down their face. As Bateman is listening to the detailed instructions from McGinty before the play on the sidelines you can see that he does have blood flowing from the ridge, but there is no scare or wound. Then on the field Bateman gets a close up on his face and you can clearly see an open wound. After the play on the sidelines you can again see there is no wound. It’s obvious that the sideline scenes were filmed at a different time than the actual game play scenes, but this was missed in editing and it took me out of the moment.

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Before the play
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On the field
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After the play

Now the Sentinels have the ball again with time for one more play. They need a touchdown to win the game so McGinty calls a pass play, DC Right Zig 90 Eagle, to the end zone. At the line of scrimmage, you can see Falco succumb to the pressure. He gets intimidated by the moment and doesn’t want the game to be decided by him. He calls an audible to a run play which all of the offense players are confused by. They do not line up in the way Falco instructed. Falco attempted to hand the ball off to the right but no one was there. He then turns to his left, gets hit and tosses the ball to Cochran. The camera cuts to the wide receiver, Franklin, wide open in the end zone, as Cochran makes his way up field. Cochran breaks a tackle at the 20 yard line, valiantly runs towards defenders waiting for him at the 5 yard line, leaps, and gets helicopter tackled by three Detroit players just short of the end zone. Game over. The “Footsteps” Falco name is strengthened.

Final Score: Detroit 14 Washington 10.

After Game One

Following the loss, the team went to a bar to drink away their sorrows. Shortly thereafter the real striking Washington Sentinels arrived to show how happy they were about the outcome of the game. A fight broke out, the replacements were all arrested and thrown into a strange large basement holding cell. This is where the team started to form some comradery through singing and dancing. McGinty bailed them out of jail and the group continued to prepare for the next game against San Diego. Oh and Falco continues building his romance with Annabelle the cheerleader.

Game 2 – Washington Sentinels vs. San Diego

The movie transitions into game 2 mid play with subtle generic metal riffs playing as background music. Falco throws a dart to the right side of the field and gets smashed by San Diego’s defensive linemen  Hank Morris. As Falco laid on the ground, Morris gave him a knee to the kidney which the referees did not see.

San Diego is winning 16 – 0 and it has been established that their defensive linemen is a good pass rusher. Falco stands up and staggers around as he pulls the comically large amount of grass from his face mask. Falco calls the same play they just ran but told his offensive line to let Morris through. The offensive line was confused but obliged and let Morris across the line of scrimmage unblocked. Falco cocked back and threw the ball as hard as he could into the face of Morris. The ball soars straight up into the air and Morris is crushed by Murphy after been surprised and knocked woozy by the pass to his head.

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Hank Morris getting wrecked

The ball lands in the hands of Fumiko, the biggest guy on the field. He shouts “Oh shit!” and starts waddling towards the end zone. Both Jackson brothers pull out in front of Fumiko making several heavy blocks to clear a running path. As Fumiko approaches the end zone, 3 San Diego defensive backs jump on his back in a desperate attempt to bring the giant man to the ground. Fumiko carries the men and the ball across the goal line for the Sentinels first score of the game.

The truest thing said in the movie was stated by John Madden when Fumiko scored the touchdown. Everyone loves to see a fat guy score because you then get to see a fat guy dance. Fumiko and other teammates slap their thighs and perform a sumo dance in celebration of the terrible idea by Falco that somehow resulted in a touchdown.

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Sumo Dance

I forgot to mention this earlier but the Sentinel cheerleaders also must have went on strike because Annabelle held tryouts for cheerleader vacancies and hired a bunch of strippers. This is an important fact that I failed to mention because in the next San Diego offensive drive, the team was distracted by the provocative dancing of the cheerleaders. The easily distracted San Diego team was called for a false start and the Washington owner creepily stared down at the cheerleaders from his luxury sweet.

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Creepy owner O’Neil

A score board shot reveals that the score is 16 – 7 and San Diego has the ball on the 25 yard line with 5:13 left in the 3rd quarter.

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On the next play, the San Diego quarterback drops back, fails to see Wilkinson in coverage and throws it right to him near the goal line. Wilkinson intercepts the ball and gets tackled after a 15 yard return at the 20 yard line.

The Sentinels must have progressed the ball down the field as the next play takes place on the opponents 15 yard line. Falco snaps the ball, rolls to his right to escape the blitz and throws across his body to the tight end Murphy who catches the ball on the 6 yard line and dives in the end zone for a touchdown.

San Diego 16 – Washington 14.

Another score board shot shows that there are only 55 seconds left in the game so the Sentinels need to recover an onside kick to have any chance to score again.

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The Sentinel onside kick team included Bateman and Falco (quarterbacks are never on special teams) which is a questionable decision since the onside kick team normally consist of guys who have good hands and can catch. The ball is kicked, a San Diego player catches it but is immediately wrecked by Wilkinson and drops the ball. Bateman is quick in recovering the ball and starts to run around the field. While he is running around like a mad man clotheslining opposing players, the clock is running down. In his unhuman angry fury, Bateman became oblivious to the clock and was looking to run people over. Falco chased Bateman down, tackled his own teammate and called timeout.

Because of Bateman’s tirade, there was not enough time to reach the end zone. So Gruff was called into action to attempt a record breaking 65 yard field goal to win the game. Gruff brings a cigarette onto the field with him and takes a few hits of it before signaling his readiness to snap the ball. Gruff reinforces “The Leg” mythology and makes the game winning field goal.

Final Score: San Diego 16 Washington 17.

Right before the kick was made I noticed something hilarious on the jumbo tron at the stadium. Most of the time when the game is going on, the jumbo tron plays a feed of the play so the fans far away in the stadium can see it unfold. At this game the jumbo tron just zoomed in on Bateman’s face as the record breaking kick was taking place.

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After Game 2

The only thing of significance that happened after game 2 was the continuation of the inevitable romance between Annabelle and Falco. Annabelle owns a bar in Washington and Falco meets her there and is where they share their first kiss.

Game 3 – Washington Sentinels vs. Phoenix

The movie cuts from Falco and Annabelle sharing a passionate kiss to Falco scoring a rushing touchdown in the next game. After the play John Madden graces the viewers with his breakdown of the terrible play. Falco tosses the ball to the left but it hits the back of a pulling guard and falls to the ground. The running back, Cochran kicks the ball, the wide receiver Franklin picks it up, gets hit, fumbles, and then Falco picks the ball up and scores.

The next play that is shown is a long incompletion to Franklin. Falco made a great throw but Franklin could not hold onto the ball. A frustrated McGinty grabs a jar of stick-em (which they acknowledge is illegal) and slathers it all over Franklins hands. A disgusted Franklin makes a great observation and states “it looks like I just jacked off an elephant.”

The same play is called again and Franklin catches the pass between two defenders in the end zone with the help of the illegal substance. The score is then revealed to be 21-20 and the Sentinels could tie the game with an all but guaranteed extra point. But being the unconventional ballsy coach that he is, McGinty decides to go for a 2 point conversion to prevent overtime.

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McGinty calls the play 422 Y Cross which resulted in a fake hand off to the right, Falco rolling to the left and making a bad throw that should have been intercepted but instead was tipped into the hands of Franklin to win the game. Falco didn’t back down from the high pressure moment like game one but he did make a bad throw that should have cost his team the game.

Final Score Phoenix 21 Washington 22.

After Game 3

After game 3, the owner of the Sentinels was excited that his team was only one game away from making the playoffs. He was also upset with Falco’s performance in late game situations so he convinced 2 time super bowl champion Eddie Martel (Brett Cullen) to cross the picket line and to resume his duties of quarterback.

Martel is a huge asshole. Look at this fucker.

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Eddie Martel

He is characterized to only caring about himself and how much money he makes. He terrorizes Falco through the whole strike and rejoins the team when the glory is to be had. Worse yet, Falco had a date planned with Annabelle but Martel destroyed his confidence so much, Falco didn’t show up to the date and went back to his pitiful house boat to resume his sad existence.

The last game of the season was played in Washington against Dallas. The entire Dallas team had crossed the picket line and were the incumbent champions, the best team in the league.

Game 4 – Washington Sentinels vs. Dallas

The final game of the season did not start off well for the Sentinels. The first play shows Martel take a snap from the 31 yard line, fake hand off, held the ball way to long and takes a sack. On the next play, Martel takes the snap from the 16 yard line, hands the ball off to Cochran who gets upended by two Dallas defenders and loses the ball. Dallas recovers the fumble with great field position. On the same play, Franklin gets body slammed and while on the ground gets stomped on the chest. Brutal.

The Sentinel defense runs onto the field to defend the couple of yards Dallas needed to cover to score. The defensive play call was Hawk Nine Stay, which I assume means Bateman does his patented move of flying over the line while nine defensive lineman push forward. Bateman does fly over the line and collides with the running back in midair and both fall into the end zone. Touchdown Dallas.

Dallas 7 – Washington 0.

The next play shows Martel taking a snap from the 35 yard line and throws an incompletion to Murphy. There was some obvious miscommunication on the route and Martel berates Murphy, taking none of the blame. The next play Martel throws a completion to Murphy across the middle, but the pass set Murphy up to get blindsided, which he did, and lost the ball to Dallas.

The next play Dallas completes a 40 yard touchdown pass.

Dallas 14 – Washington 0.

The next Sentinel drive shows Martel run a bootleg to the right on third down and throws the ball away to end the drive. Martel played it safe and exchanged insults with McGinty on the side line.

Halftime Dallas 17 – Washington 0.

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In the locker room at halftime, Martel acts like a cock bag to everyone explaining how is better than all of them and that he is the owners favorite player. That is when Falco enters the locker room. The team rallies around Falco and forces Martel to leave.

As the teams ran back onto the field the crowd cheers when they see Falco. The first play with Falco in the huddle was called Kick Ass. When I heard that I figured that the play call got cut off in editing and “kick ass on one, break!” was just a way for Falco to get the team fired up. I was wrong. The play was properly named.

Falco lines up in the shotgun, snaps the ball and then runs forward and drop kicks the rushing lineman. Wilkinson was playing offense for some reason and clotheslines a Dallas defensive back. All of the other Sentinel players attacked a Dallas player and started beating on them. This lead to many flags and an unspecified amount of penalty yardage. I assume the purpose of this play was to scare the Dallas players, but it is so unrealistic. A fucking dropkick? At least it was funny.

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The next play was a fake hand off up the middle and Falco barely gets the throw off as he is tackled in the end zone. Cochran catches the ball and sprints the entire length of the field with the help of some solid blocks. As he dives for the end zone he gets tackled low and blows out his knee, the same knee he blew out earlier in his career. Cochran sacrificed his knee to score a 95 plus yard touchdown pass but he achieved his goal, he scored a touchdown.

Dallas 17 – Washington 7.

From the 9 yard line, the next offensive possession shows Falco complete a pass to the right side of the field to Murphy who was tackled at the 19 yard line. The next play shows Falco roll out to the right and run down the field for a long gain to the 40 yard line. Continuing the drive, the next play is a connection between Falco and Franklin on a wheel route at the 50 yard line. Before the next play the team huddles up and for some reason Bateman and Wilkinson are playing offense. Maybe replacing Cochran? Does the team only have one running back? Bateman suggest giving the ball to Wilkinson and Bateman would be the lead blocker on the play. Falco agrees and the play was a sweep toss to the right to Wilkinson for a gain of 20 yards.

Now on the 30 yard line, Falco gives a corny speech, “pain heels, chicks dig scars, glory lives forever.” The play call was Shotgun DC Right Flip 90 Dig On The Center. Falco snaps the ball, gets crushed as he throws a bullet to the end zone where Franklin catches it and gets upended into the end zone for a touchdown.

Dallas 17 – Washington 14.

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Sentinel defense needed to make a stop on 3rd and 1. The defense play call was Odd Bullets Blitz Coverage (I have no idea what that means). The whole defensive line stops the Dallas running back with Bateman leading the charge. This resulted in a 4th down and punt for Dallas.

Wilkinson receives the punt and completes a return after reversing field. The ball is on the 38 yard line with only 12 seconds left. This is a cheap shot field goal for Gruff to tie the game. Unfortunately Gruff had made a deal with the goons he owes money too, to miss the field goal. Gruff is noticeably upset. As the ball is snapped, Falco grabs the ball and runs to the right. He knew that Gruff would not have made the kick so he runs and scores the game winning touchdown.

Holding call on Fumiko.

The penalty took the touchdown off the board and moved Washington back 10 yards. With only having time for one more play Falco calls DC Left Y Motion 88 Ward, a pass play intended for Murphy. Falco snaps the ball, drops back, Fumiko makes a good block making up for his penalty on the previous play. Falco throws a perfect pass and Murphy cuts his route just at the right time to make the game winning touchdown catch.

Final Score: Dallas 17- Washington 21.

Falco wins the game and wins the girl.

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