The December 2015 PLAAY Games newsletter featured some gamer-inspired ideas, including an "end of game chaos play" submitted by BlueDocD. Watching a number of January 2016 playoff pro football games got me thinking about how this play might be sharpened a little bit, and made to reflect more of the unpredictability and craziness such plays usually evoke. I've been tinkering around with some ideas…
First, it seemed to me that these plays needed to be broken down into segments, with each segment representing a unique lateral or backwards pass. Every pass is an adventure in these plays, and I felt that, if possible, the play should unfold that way.
The second step was assessing how often such plays should be successful, or, more specifically, how often each PORTION of a play should be successful. Because typically, a crazy game-ending play is a string of gains of varying levels of success. For this, I drew on my own observations and experience.
Finally, I had to decide how many segments should be "typical." I settled on three, which seemed about right. Again, I don't have any empirical evidence, but am simply drawing from my own TV-watching experience.
In reality, the early segments of a game-ending play should be more likely to be successful than later segments. In other words, if a pass is completed over the middle to midfield, the receiver's initial lateral to a trailing teammate should probably have the highest level of success, with each succeeding lateral becoming more difficult to successfully execute. Here, though, I decided to side with simplicity and ease of play. Rather than craft a multi-tiered chart where you'd move from column to column as each lateral occurred, I chose a single-column base chart that feeds to other charts on certain dice rolls. It's much like one of the game's existing "X" charts in that the longer gains are generated from a separate "GO!" column, while fumbles, penalties and other results occur from an UNUSUAL RESULTS column.
The chart can be used as the exclamation point to any kind of game-ending play, whether a pass play from scrimmage or a kick return. It works pretty simply: once the initial gain is recorded, the pass-catcher or return man attempts to lateral the ball to a trailing teammate. For this, you roll the dice and read the result. As long as the "game over" (skull and crossbones) symbol doesn't occur, you may continue to execute laterals. Some of these will result in gains, some in losses. Once you get a result with the "game over" symbol, the play is ruled dead and the game is over. Sometimes this will be because the runner is tackled, sometimes beceause a lateral is recovered by a defender, and there are a number of other ways the play can be killed, each detailed on the chart.
One thing the chart does NOT do is identify the intended target of the lateral. I felt that could be confusing, given that this is a "multi-purpose" play that can be tacked on to passes or kick returns, with entirely different people on the field in either case. So, you can use your own judgement in determining who is lateraling to whom!
It was tempting to make the play potentially more successful that it should be, because let's face it, everyone hopes their team can pull it off. I've probably watched the end of the '82 Stanford-Cal game at least a dozen times, and it's exciting every time! But truthfully, the odds of scoring on a play like this are anemic. To my recollection, the last time a pro team scored on such a play was in 2004, the "River City Relay" successfully executed by New Orleans against Jacksonville. Then there was "The Music City Miracle" in 2000. Both were over a decade ago. Some rough calculations: I estimate perhaps one game every other week might include a game-ending chaos play. It might be even rarer than that. Think about it: there are three very specific conditions that have to be met. 1) There has to be a very late score that 2) puts one team ahead (not tied) and 3) leaves only a few seconds remaining, time for ONLY one play. That eliminates a LOT of game-endings. But assuming one such game-ending happened every other week, that would result in perhaps 10 such endings every NFL season. Thus, I feel like a 1% chance of success was not an unreasonable assumption.
After I created the first draft of the chart, I ran 100 game-ending plays, starting from the 20 yard line each time. Of the 100 plays, about half ended after the first lateral. Twenty plays resulted in three or more laterals, and four resulted in touchdowns. Given my earlier calculations, I felt that four per cent was just a little too generous, so I adjusted the chart down a bit and now expect about two per cent to result in touchdowns. (That might still be a tad too generous, but who wants to wait ten years for a touchdown, right?)
Incidentally, each of the four touchdowns included one gain of 50+ yards. Only one other non-scoring play included a gain of 50 or more yards. There were three other game-ending plays which cumulatively gained 50 yards or more, but did not score. 20 plays netted negative yards. To me, all this seems about right.
The scoring plays were pretty exciting!…
SCORING PLAY #1: A lateral for 8 yards, followed by a second lateral that resulted in a 72-yard scoring run.
SCORING PLAY #2: Gains of 5, 16, 51 and an 8-yard scoring run to cap it off.
SCORING PLAY #3: A total of six laterals, with gains of 11, 11, 5, 6, 12, and the final 35-yard dash into the end zone!
SCORING PLAY #4: There were SEVEN laterals on this play, gaining 7, 11, 6, 8, 2, 3 (seemed like it was over both those times!) then the last lateral which resulted in the touchdown from 43 yards out—similar in some ways to the "The Play!"
You can download the "End of Game Chaos Play" chart here, let me know how it works for you!