Manning vs. brady
Sunday marks the 17th— and possibly final— meeting between these iconic quarterbacks.
As he lay in his bed in New Orleans, the kid had a dream. Peyton Manning listened to cassette tapes of his famous father Archie’s games at the University of Mississippi. He memorized the players, their hometowns. In his dream, Peyton wanted to play quarterback like his dad.
Now a lot of kids have a dream. They want to be like Peyton Manning, many of whom are named after him in Indiana and Colorado. He makes the imagination run wild. For 17 years, Manning has broken every meaningful NFL passing record. He threw for 55 touchdowns in 2013.
His legacy of greatness remains breathtaking — except by comparison to one man. For the past 15 years, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have intersected in arguably the NFL’s most meaningful moments. They have played 16 times. Manning owns five victories, Brady 11.
In the past, when both were at their zenith, Sunday would be billed as the War of 1812. This AFC championship game has taken on a different narrative, a nod to Denver’s top-ranked defense and suddenly prolific running game.
It is the AFC championship with a Super Bowl berth at stake. But when it comes to Manning and Brady, it feels like a last dance.
“All I can say about Tom Brady is he plays the position theway it’s supposed to be played,” Manning said. “He’s extremely talented. He’s a very hard worker, very competitive guy and he just plays the position the right way. When you do that, there’s a reason you play for a long time and play well for a long time. There have been a lot of different players that have played in 16 of those games, but as the quarterback, it’s always been a great honor and privilege to have competed against him that many times over the course of the past 16, 17 years.”
Brady views Manning with mutual respect, reflecting how they are more alike than different. First man at practice, last to leave. High football IQ.
“Just his consistency, the durability, his ability to always seem to come through,” Brady said on what he admires about Manning. “He’s just been an incredible player, and incredible leader for his team.”
Five playoff meetings
It helps the rivalry that they have made a habit of meeting when it matters most, five times in the playoffs, more than any two quarterbacks in NFL history. Sunday marks the fourth time in the conference title game. Manning is 2-1. Consider that John Elway and Dan Marino, whose careers paralleled, played only three times and once in the postseason.
It strains the imagination to believe Manning will be in this position again. He is 39 with an uncertain future in Denver given the expected transition to Brock Osweiler. Manning has admitted in recentweeks that the torn plantar fascia in his left foot caused him to reflect. He has made a point to enjoy this week, to soak up the moments on the advice of coach Gary Kubiak.
Manning vs. Brady one more time, probably for the last time.
“It’s been a great rivalry. I don’t know that there’s been another one like it when you think of the number of times they have played. You knowthe history with it, they are both first-ballot Hall of Famers,” said Elway, the Broncos gen- eral manager. “I don’t know that there’s another one like it. I think it’s nice to have it here at home. It’s what you work for all year to get to this point.”
For Brady, this has become a regular subway stop in the New England express. This is Brady’s 10th AFC championship game, and his fifth consecutive. The last team to pull this off was the Oakland Raiders, whose streak of dominance ended at the hands of the Broncos’ Orange crush in 1977. Brady is 38 and aging like Benjamin Button. He looks as comfortable in the pocket now as he does in a pair of Uggs.
“Few have his makeup,” said Tom House, a former pitching coach and rotational mechanics guru who has worked with Brady and believes he can excel into his 40s. “Few have that dominating belief and ability to focus and concentrate on the process like Brady.”
The idea that Manning and Brady would intersect in the record books, in pop culture and on any list of great rivalries is hard to fathom. They grewup in opposite ends of the country. Manning spent his childhood in New Orleans. He starred at Isidore Newman School. He morphed into the nation’s top recruit, bucking convention and attending the University of Tennessee rather than Ole Miss. The Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 1 pick in 1998.
Brady was a late bloomer. According to “Brady vs. Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry that Changed the NFL,” Brady’s freshman team at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., went 0-8 and didn’t score a touchdown. And Brady wasn’t good enough to start. Lightly recruited, Brady went to Michigan, going 20-5 as a starter while constantly looking over his shoulder. The Patriots drafted him with the 199th pick in 2000.
All he has done since is win four Super Bowl rings and create a compelling case that he’s the greatest quarterback of all time.
“Tom Brady and (coach) Bill Belichick,” said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib when asked to explain the Patriots’ success, while noting there’s no one tougher to face in the playoffs than Brady. “That’s the common denominator, the two things that have been there the whole time. It’s a great show when Manning and Brady play. It’s extra cameras, extra media. Of course everybody wants to see them compete against each other.”
Comparisons surfaced lastweek between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The commonthread is excellence and contests deciding championships. Bird and Magic, in the eyes of many, saved the NBA. Manning and Brady elevated the NFL as leading characters in the sport’smushrooming popularity.
Time is short for Manning. He has not decided whether he will play next season. If he walks off into an orange sunset as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, breaking Elway’s record, why would he continue? His legacy is safe. And it will always be one of preparation. Manning revolutionized the quarterback position, turning it into “a science,” as former NFL MVP Rich Gannon put it. Manning’s brain is the “All-22” film, calculating where everyone should be on every play, creating breathtaking accuracy on welltimed passes.
Brady, too, rolls up his sleeves. His study is slightly different. He seems to understand his own offense better than any player in the league. He excels at winning oneon-one matchups, and no one functions as independently as him. Brady wins when he throws 50 times, he wins without a running attack, he wins with receivers known only by close friends and relatives.
“As far as Tom Brady is concerned, I don’t think he’s a crybaby, I don’t think he’s a whiner. I think he’s a great competitor,” Broncos defensive coordinatorWade Phillips said. “They say you can’t pass every down and win. He can.”
Their path to this meeting was unique, if not painful. Manning missed six games with his foot injury and led the league in interceptions until the final week of the season. Brady played with the specter of Deflategate hanging over him, his four-game ban lifted just days before opening day. He turned this season into a middlefinger redemption tour.
In the end, the two aren’t known for injuries or controversies. They are knownfor their gamestogether. Manning vs. Brady. One last dance?
“I thinkplayingsomeone17 times is pretty cool; especially someone as great as him,” Brady said. “To play against those Peyton Manning-led teams, you know you’ve got to play 60 minutes and you’re going to be in for a tough game.”
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, 39, hasn’t said whether he will play beyond this season.
NewEngland Patriots’TomBrady winswhen he throws 50 times a game, and he wins without a running attack.