Grid-iron duel

Spot­light aimed at Su­per Bowl quar­ter­backs.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - BY HOWARD FEN­DRICH THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pey­ton Man­ning is the only five-time MVP in NFL his­tory, one of the faces of the league and, at 39, the old­est start­ing quar­ter­back to lead a team to the Su­per Bowl.

Slowed by age and in­jury, he is no longer the record-break­ing passer he once was. Most folks fig­ure Man­ning’s fourth Su­per Sun­day ap­pear­ance will be his last game as a pro.

Cam New­ton is at the op­po­site end of his ca­reer, just 26, mak­ing his de­but in the big game. He also is ex­pected to earn MVP hon­ours for the first time, part of a new breed of dual-threat QBs as good at run­ning as they are at throw­ing.

For the next two weeks, un­til Man­ning’s AFC cham­pion Den­ver Bron­cos (14-4) play New­ton’s NFC cham­pion Carolina Pan­thers (17-1) for the Lom­bardi Tro­phy in Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia, on Feb. 7, most of the fo­cus will be on the two quar­ter­backs who were No. 1 over­all draft picks 13 years apart.

“Oh, wow,” said New­ton, whose Pan­thers opened as 4point favourites with most book­mak­ers. “Play­ing ‘The Sher­iff.”‘

That is a ref­er­ence to Man­ning, who is 1-2 in past Su­per Bowls. He won a cham­pi­onship with the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in 2007, lost with the Colts in 2010, and lost again with the Bron­cos in 2014.

But this is a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of Man­ning.

Yes, he’s still as good as any­one at di­ag­nos­ing de­fences and chang­ing things up - or ap­pear­ing to, any­way - at the line of scrim­mage.

Yes, he’s still out there yelling “Omaha!”

“He most cer­tainly is a Hall of Famer,” Pan­thers coach Ron Rivera said.

But Man­ning is not quite as ca­pa­ble as he was, once upon a time, when it comes to putting the foot­ball ex­actly where he wants it, es­pe­cially on deep routes.

This has hardly been a record­set­ting sea­son for Man­ning - or, un­til now, one worth re­mem­ber­ing. Over­all, the bad far out­weighed the good, in­clud­ing one game with a passer rat­ing of 0.0, 17 in­ter­cep­tions to only nine touch­down passes in the reg­u­lar sea­son, be­ing side­lined for six weeks with a se­ries of in­juries, get­ting rel­e­gated to backup duty in the NFL for the first time, and ve­he­mently deny­ing a re­port link­ing Man­ning’s wife to the banned drug HGH.

“My role has been dif­fer­ent and my con­tri­bu­tions are dif­fer­ent,” Man­ning said. “But I’m for­tu­nate and grate­ful that I have the op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute still, in some way. And it’s a great hon­our to be go­ing back to the Su­per Bowl.”

AP PHOTO

Carolina Pan­thers’ Cam New­ton cel­e­brates a touch­down pass dur­ing the se­cond half of the NFC Cham­pi­onship game against the Ari­zona Car­di­nals in Char­lotte, N.C., on Sun­day.

AP PHOTO

Den­ver Bron­cos quar­ter­back Pey­ton Man­ning gets ready to make a pass dur­ing the AFC Cham­pi­onship game against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in Den­ver on Sun­day.

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