The Tecmo Bo-wl Challenge

The Challenge

Prove virtual Bo Jackson is the greatest video game athlete of all-time. This is to be achieved through winning a Tecmo Bowl Championship by running Bo Jackson on every single play. It’s Bo versus 1989 A.I. for all the glory in the gaming world.

The Rules

run1

  • Since there is only one run to Bo, Run 1, every offensive play must be this. Any offensive play accidentally selected that is not Run 1 will result in immediately resetting the game.
  • Important note: punts will not be allowed, but an accidental punt will not result in a reset as it is not a different offensive play that could throw the computer off.
  • Tecmo Bowl does not operate like a normal football season. If you lose a game, you hit “continue” and replay it. For the purposes of this challenge, regular season continues are allowed, but post-season losses will result in failure.

Random Notes

  • While Tecmo Bowl would ideally be played on an original Nintendo or the NES Classic, I have chosen to play it on the recently released Nintendo Switch Online. The main reason for this is because of the Switch’s native video capture system.
  • As soon as I began this, I instantly regretted not having the much easier to rapidly click NES controller at my disposal.
  • There is no native stat-tracking system in Tecmo Bowl, so all stats were kept on a spreadsheet where I tracked field position at the beginning and end of each play.
  • TOs (turnovers) are any drive that does not end in a TD. This can include the half or game ending as even time should not be able to stop Bo.

Game 1: Dallas

dallasscore

Final Score: (W) 42-26

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 20 433 21.7 6 2 68 -1

Bo Game 1 vs. Dallas

The challenge got off to a solid start, as a mere 20 carries took me to a 400+ yard, 6 TD game. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t bust anything over 70 yards in true Bo-style, but I’ll take the easy win.

Play of the Game:

Game 2: Miami

miamiscore

Final Score: (W) 49-34

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
7 20 485 24.3 7 0 80 0

Bo Game 2 vs. Miami

Bo was clearly starting to feel it in game 2, gobbling up 50 more yards and an additional touchdown on the same number of carries as his previous outing. I finally hit a home run with an 80 yard scamper, and not a single drive was blemished with a turnover.

Play of the Game:

Game 3: Minnesota

minnnews

Final Score: (W) 49-34

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 28 472 16.9 7 1 83 -2

Bo Game 3 vs. Minnesota

The Vikings made me work for this a little bit harder as my average dropped to an almost lower-tier god-like 16.9 YPC despite my best run of the entire season at 83 yards. Bo proved to be up to the extra workload, and the Vikings fell easily like the others.

Play of the Game:

Game 4: Seattle

seattlescore

Final Score: (W) 49-35

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
7 20 584 29.2 7 0 76 0

Bo Game 4 vs. Seattle

It turns out the 1989 Seattle Seahawks defense was nothing close to the Legion of Boom of recent years. Bo sliced them up for almost 600 yards and a perfect 7 for 7 TD drives. This game featured my highest average at 29.2 YPC.

Play of the Game:

Game 5: Denver

denvernews

Final Score: (W) 56-33

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 26 631 24.3 8 0 83 -1

Bo Game 5 vs. Denver

Bo demolished the Broncos with over a third of a mile in the Mile High city. This game proved to be the apex my endeavor as Bo set highs in yards and touchdowns against an overmatched D.

Play of the Game:

Game 6: San Francisco

sfscore

Final Score: (W) 42-34

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 40 484 12.1 6 2 52 -4

Bo Game 6 vs. San Francisco

Thanks to their fast linebackers and Ronnie Lott roaming the field, San Francisco was the toughest adversary yet. I would have thought that rushing 40 times with Bo would’ve easily led to over 1,000 yards, but, alas, I “only” managed 484 and 6 TDs against what might have been the most complete team in the game. Several mental mistakes occurred including an accidental punt (since the button combo of  “up + A” will select punt on 4th down if not timed correctly), and a frantic fourth quarter comeback against the high-octane Joe Montana/Jerry Rice combo was required to pull out my 6th straight W. After this close call, I decided to call it a night and resume my quest in the morning.

Play of the Game:

Game 7: Indianapolis

indylossnews

Final Score: (L) 35-49

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 24 438 18.3 5 3 80 -3

Bo Game 7 vs. Indianapolis

How did it all go so wrong? My first game of the morning proved I was not yet awake as I was forced to reset after accidentally using Run 2 to Marcus Allen, which squandered an early 14-0 lead. This surprising Indy team was too much as they forced 3 drives to end without points leading to an embarrassing 14-point loss. Just look at carries 15-23 that truly sealed my fate and made my 80 yard touchdown final play merely garbage time stat-padding.

Play of the Game:

Game 7-1: Indianapolis

indywinscore

Final Score: (W) 35-24

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
7 35 415 11.9 5 2 49 -2

Bo Game 7-1 vs. Indianapolis

I never trailed in my rematch, but I also never felt comfortable as 35 carries were required to produce nearly identical results to my prior losing effort. The game may have called me a Division Champion afterwards, but I definitely didn’t feel like one. I was finally starting to worry that I might not achieve my goal and forever let down the legacy of the Boar Hog.

Play of the Game:

I was so focused on not losing to Indy a second time, that I forgot to capture any highlights.

Game 8: Chicago (Divisional Playoffs)

chiscore

Final Score: (W) 49-41

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
7 32 475 14.8 7 0 58 -3

Bo Game 8 vs. Chicago

In my first playoff matchup, Bo could do no wrong, which was extremely fortunate since I couldn’t stop Walter Payton and the rest of Da Bear’s offense. Mike Singletary made me work for it more than I would’ve liked, but Bo found a way to end every drive in the touchdown and keep my hopes alive.

Play of the Game:

Game 9: Cleveland (Divisional Playoffs)

clenews

Final Score: (W) 49-17

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 28 508 18.4 7 1 46 -1

Bo Game 9 vs. Cleveland

What else can I say about this other than Cleveland gonna Cleveland. For the first time in 5 games, Bo crossed the mythical half-millenium mark and gave me enough points before half-time to put these Browns to bed.

Play of the Game:

Game 10: Washington (League Championship)

washscore

Final Score: (W) 42-38

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
7 38 427 11.2 6 1 73 -2

Bo Game 10 vs. Washington

Thank god for missed extra points. Washington was a force to reckon with, but the freak of nature that is Bo Jackson was up to the task. I started to wonder if virtual Bo knew how high the stakes were as he ran in a 3 yard score with 6 seconds left to secure a spot in the Tecmo Bowl.

Plays of the Game:

Game 11: New York (Tecmo Bowl)

nyscore

Final Score: (W) 34-27

Drives Carries Yards Average TDs TOs Long Short
8 38 395 10.4 5 3 80 -3

Bo Game 11 vs. New York

There could not have been a more fitting final hurdle to face than Lawrence Taylor, the greatest linebacker of all time. Bo was held to his worst average, lowest yardage total, and tied his high for turnovers in this back and forth matchup. With just 20 seconds left in the third quarter and a 14-27 deficit, the end seemed near. But Bo knows better than to give-up. He closed out the third quarter with an 80 yard score. Two 4th quarter interceptions later, Bo completed the comeback by barreling into the end-zone with 22 seconds left and sealed his spot atop the pantheon of video game gods.

Plays of the Game:

worldchamps

Season Breakdown

Wins Losses Drives Carries Yards Avg. TDs TOs Long
11 1 91 349 5747 16.5 76 15 83
Yds/game Max Yds Min Yds % Drives w/TD % Drives w/TO Carries/TD Carries/TO TDs/game TOs/game
479.4 631 395 84 16 4.6 23.3 6.3 1.3

Bo Knows Running

Through 12 games, Bo amassed 5747 yards and 76 TDs. To put that in perspective, the yardage would place him 99th all time for a CAREER just ahead of Fred Taylor and the 76 TDs would be tied for 72nd with O.J. Simpson. I was surprised by my average being only 16.5 YPC, but that is somewhat skewed by bigs runs stopping short of the end-zone being followed up by relatively short follow-up touchdowns. Also, there were numerous occasions that the A.I. realized I was picking the same play every time and adjusted.  Perhaps my favorite stat of all, was that Bo found the end-zone every 4.6 carries. While that 5-19 yard range was clearly his sweet-spot, a whopping 20% of his runs totaled 30 yards or more. Despite the computer knowing what I was going to run, Bo had over 50% more plays of 30+ yards than stops for a loss.

Bo Knows TD Distribution (1)

Bo and the end-zone were best friends by the conclusion of our journey together. Approximately 36% of those scores were from 30 or more out and an astonishing 13% were from an other-worldly 70+. I can only imagine what sort of astronomical numbers Bo would have put up with the proper NES controller guiding the way.

Wrap-up

Somehow, this absurd quest managed to exceed even my wildest expectations. After pretty much sleepwalking to easy victories through the first 5 games, I was worried I would get bored of my Bo domination, but the computer had other ideas. Figuring out ways to still get positive yards despite the A.I. singling in on my lone play or facing equally fast linebackers proved to be incredibly rewarding and demanding (hint: if they fully have the play diagnosed go the opposite way, or if they only have it partially read let the linebacker over-pursue) and kept things fresh throughout. I don’t know that I’ve ever stood up and cheered or cursed as much as I did during the approximately 5 hours of gaming in my life before, but I’m so glad that I took this on. Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson is simply the best that there ever was, and I’ll never forget my time spent trying to prove it.

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