As an unexpected snow storm swept through North Texas, Madden Bowl XVII kicked off a wet and wild Super Bowl week in style with an exciting four-team tournament that featured upsets, last-minute victories, and the first female champion in Madden Bowl history.
Held at the Glass Cactus outside of Dallas, Texas and broadcasted live on ESPN3, the trio of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, and Access Hollywood correspondent Maria Menounos partnered up to capture the Madden Bowl championship in the first-ever tournament to be played using Online Team Play.
“What an unbelievable experience,” said an excited and admittedly nervous Menounos, who became the first female player to win a Madden Bowl. “It was an honor to be here tonight and perhaps pave the way for other females to participate in the event in years to come.”
For Willis, Ochocinco, and Menounos, the championship didn’t come easy.
Leading for most of the surprisingly low-scoring finale, Menounos, Willis, and Ochocinco, playing as the Indianapolis Colts, held off a late rally by a New Orleans Saints team that featured quarterback Drew Brees, running back Reggie Bush, and quarterback Chase Daniel.
The Saints had a chance to tie the game with 0:37 left in the fourth quarter after scoring what seemed to be a game-tying touchdown. However, opting to go for the win instead of overtime, the Saints failed to convert the two-point conversion, thus sealing their fate.
“After we scored that last touchdown I thought we had it,” said Madden NFL 11 cover athlete Drew Brees. “Our secret weapon of Chase Daniel helped get us back into the game, but we fell just short. Still, it was a hard-fought game and lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it again.”
Two former Madden Bowl winners were unexpectedly eliminated from the tournament in the semi-finals when running back Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars and running back Willis McGahee of the Baltimore Ravens failed to advance in their respective games.
In the tournament opener between the Jaguars, featuring Jones-Drew, tight end Marcedes Lewis, and linebacker Kirk Morrison, and the Saints, Brees returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to put his team on top early. Jacksonville quickly answered, and the two teams traded points for the next three quarters.
Similar to the conclusion of the championship game, Jacksonville had a chance to tie the contest late in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert a two-point try. The Saints went on to advance 28-27.
“It stung a bit to lose that game tonight,” said Jones-Drew. “But I’ll be back. I still feel that I’m one of the best players out there, and look forward to playing in the Madden Bowl again. I love being a part of the experience.”
McGahee, who partnered with Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, had similar sentiments.
“Online Team Play was a cool twist,” said McGahee, whose team also suffered a heartbreaking last-second defeat, a 17-14 loss against Ochocinco and company. “It gave me a chance to play with some of the players around the league I don’t normally get to spend a lot of time with. Still, I was disappointed to lose so early. But I’ll be alright.”
For the 49ers’ Willis, the Madden Bowl crown comes one year after falling short in Madden Bowl XVI.
“It feels real good, not only to win, but it feels good to be a champion and to win it as a team,” said Willis. “Chad captained a good ship by calling the right sets, keeping everybody on the same page, then Maria did her thing by scoring a couple of touchdowns for us when it counted most. It was a true team effort and a ton of fun.”
After the hoisting of the trophy, the Madden Bowl festivities continued deep into the night as Grammy nominees and hip-hop superstars Big Boi, Cee Lo Green, and Biz Markie entertained the capacity crowd.