The score was out of reach. The fans had given up. The result would have no effect on the season. Nothing suggested Greg Jennings and the Green Bay Packers were about to execute the most famous come-from-ahead touchdown miracle in NFL history.
"Every play, I don't care if I'm up by 30 or down by 20, I will go for the score," Demetry James, who was calling the plays that day, told me later.
The Packers had the ball on their own one yard line with only enough time to run one last play, leading the New Orleans Saints by 22. So, clearly, this called for a pass out of the shotgun formation. James took the snap and immediately went right on a designed rollout, because, well, every pass is designed to roll out under this offensive scheme.
The cornerback came up, then stopped flatfooted, realizing only too late he'd left wide open the Packers' deadliest receiver. The one who went back into the game injured. The one with a broken leg. The one who would put the team on his back, and do this shit, for Madden.
"You know, I was surprised he even caught the ball," said James, the gamer at the controls and the creator of probably the most-viewed Madden highlight ever. "All I was doing was looking for the open man. I saw he was open and threw it, and then I saw him limping and realized, that's Greg Jennings, the guy got a broken leg!
"There were four or five of us friends playing Madden that day, all of us watching, and then all of a sudden we're all dying laughing. Oh my God."
Demetry James, creator of two NFL videos that have done a combined 7 million views on YouTube, and counting.
After five million YouTube views, what happened next is as clear in the mind's eye as Montana to Clark, Kellen Winslow being helped off the field, or Namath running up the tunnel with his finger in the air. Playing Madden NFL 10 in his Miami home that night, James took Jennings 99 yards for the score, then replayed it with commentary as quotable as anything John Facenda ever uttered for NFL Films.
In the video, Jennings ridiculously limps 85 of the yards clutching his femur, having been reinserted into the game despite suffering an injury-James says it was a broken leg-earlier. It exploited Madden's old injury system, which allowed for the reinsertion of players after their injury had been diagnosed, albeit with the risk of reinjury depending on the severity. As this was a one-off multiplayer game, such risk was inconsequential.
At the end, with the Saints' notorious hitter Darren Sharper in desperate pursuit, Jennings manages to cross the goal line for the final, if gratuitous, score. James captured it in a multiple-angle, shaky cell phone camera highlight as his friend and defeated opponent, "Gumby," stewed and then finally quit the session. James bid him farewell with "Fuck you, Gumby!" And an Internet meme was born.
"It just became huge. It was really flattering to see all of the reaction, all of the comments. Some were positive, some were negative," James said. "I think Bartstool Sports was the first to notice it, and then Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it, and then it really was huge."
Filmed in April 2010, the video lingered on James' YouTube account for a few months until October, when everyone, including Kotaku sister site Deadspin, noticed and picked it up. In the NFL playoffs, Jennings himself would hear trash talk from opposing defensive backs challenging him to "put da team on your back, doe." (That last word, by the way, is pronounced "doo.")
"I'm like, seriously, we're beating you guys really bad. Put the team on your back," he said.
When the Packers made the Super Bowl in January, Jennings was asked about the highlight at media day. He didn't need it explained to him. "Darren Sharper!" he said, in James' voice, later reprising the highlights (sans profanity) in an appearance on The George Lopez Show and at Disney World.