Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes share ‘Madden NFL 22’ cover

Tom Brady didn’t quite pass the torch to Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV, but he did face off against a future fellow cover star.

Brady and Mahomes will share the cover of Madden NFL 22, EA Sports announced Thursday, less than a year after the two squared off on the game’s biggest stage.

EA Sports teased the pairing with a video posted Monday featuring former Browns running back and Madden NFL cover athlete Peyton Hillis and two goats. In the clip, Hillis is shown taking a knee alongside the goats while talking on the phone, telling the unidentified individual on the call “they did it again.”

Exactly what “they” (meaning those at EA Sports) did was something that hasn’t been done in two console generations. It’s been a decade since Hillis graced the cover of the Madden NFL series’ annual entry, and it’s been even longer since the game featured a dual-athlete cover.

Madden hasn’t seen two athletes split the precious real estate that is the cover of the game since Madden NFL 10, when Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Steelers safety Troy Polumalu appeared on the front, posing as if they were about to collide. The choice was a perfect fit for the game that year, which was built around a new mechanic that allowed players to fight for a loose ball and battle for extra yardage — the inches we speak of that so often determine the outcome of a game.

Two years later, Hillis made the cover of Madden NFL 12 in the most stunning of fan vote upsets. EA chose him as the perfect pitch man in its teaser video released Monday, and the thinly veiled messaging became clear Thursday: Hillis’ goats were merely stand-ins for two G.O.A.T.s.

The pairing of Brady and Mahomes is natural, as it follows in the footsteps of Super Bowl LV’s matchup that saw Brady’s Buccaneers dominate Mahomes’ Chiefs, and it is arguably the most prestigious in Madden history. Brady is undoubtedly headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame whenever he finally decides to hang up his otherworldly cleats, and with a Super Bowl triumph and Super Bowl MVP under his belt at this still-early stage of his career, Mahomes very well could be headed for Canton someday, too.

Madden might also be headed for a banner year. The franchise has taken a page out of EA Sports’ decorated history with this new game, while also carrying over the improvements it made with its first next-generation release and building upon it to create what the development team touted as Dynamic Gameday. The new focus features three main branches: Gameday atmosphere, gameday momentum and star-driven artificial intelligence.

Madden fans will power up and dive into a game to see brand-new presentation packages that include Next Gen Stats elements and effectively capture the pageantry and excitement of an NFL contest better than ever before. The folks at EA turned to the past to pull a key detail out of its since-retired NCAA Football games, adding crowd noise as a legitimate factor on the game, making for less effective pre-snap hot routes, scrambled pre-snap play art, and further immersing the player in the experience with every rise and fall of the on-field action.

It didn’t stop there with the importance of the setting. EA Sports has introduced a new feature — gameday momentum — that can shut down the special abilities of opposing star players. With a big play comes an M-Factor, which builds the home team’s momentum toward tilting the environment in its favor (i.e., kickers will have a harder time making their attempts due to being in a constantly iced state). Players will know when the momentum is in their favor or working against them with an in-game meter, and if they don’t look toward the meter, they won’t be able to ignore it based on what they’re hearing from the raucous virtual fans.