Brady vs. Manning: One More Time

Sunday’s AFC Championship game was a show that NFL fans have now been treated to 17 times. The head-to-head matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady has always drawn a crowd and inspired countless debates over which all-time great reigns supreme. One of the reasons the rivalry has grown so powerful between the two is the different archetypes that clash when Brady and Manning faceoff. Manning is the No. 1 overall pick, a genius with an unparalleled understanding of the game, who in the past has had shortcomings in the postseason despite dominant showings in the regular season. Brady, however, is the game’s fiercest competitor. Overlooked in the NFL draft, Tom has carried a chip on his shoulder since the moment he was a New England Patriot. Stopping the four-time Super Bowl champion has always proved a daunting task for any team.

Both Peyton’s Broncos and Brady’s Patriots are coming off seasons that have been nothing short of roller coaster rides. Coming into the year, everyone had Manning tagged as washed up, and throughout most of the season, he did very little to change opinions. The Broncos won most of their games by small margins, relying on their staunch defense and a solid run game. Perhaps one of the season’s biggest surprises was Peyton Manning being replaced by backup Brock Osweiler midway through the season, only to return in Week 17 with the AFC’s No. 1 seed on the line. 

The Patriots season was nothing short of fascinating as well. Starting red hot at the beginning of the season, the New England offense was unstoppable. Many were even predicting an undefeated season, a so-called “revenge tour” against the NFL for the infamous Deflategate scandal. Despite the hot start, the Patriots cooled down the stretch by a myriad of injuries among the receiving corps and offensive line. The depleted team suffered a few regrettable losses at the end of the season, giving the Patriots the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Coming into Sunday’s game, the Patriots were the overwhelming favorite. Getting top receiving threat Julian Edelman back into the lineup seemed to be the factor most Patriots supporters thought would give their team the edge. However, those who looked into the past for answers realized that the game was anything but a lock. The Patriots have not won a road playoff game since 2006, a fact that was suspiciously overlooked. In addition, the Denver Broncos are the only team in the NFL that Brady has a losing record against. Sports Authority Field has been anything but kind to the New England Patriots of the past. 

Fans who decided to tune into the game were able to watch one of the best playoff games in recent memory. The Manning-led Broncos outlasted the Patriots after building an eight-point first half lead and surviving a late scare. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point chance in 523 attempts, forcing the Patriots to attempt a two-point conversion with the game on the line. During the attempt, Brady was pressured hard and threw an interception to seal a Denver hard fought victory.

With Peyton Manning heading to his fourth Super Bowl, his record against Brady in the postseason was raised to 3-2. Considering Manning’s age, this was likely the last showdown between the two legends, capping off one of the best eras in sports history. Another pair of quarterbacks can only hope to be such prolific and competitive rivals that control the outcome of almost every NFL season.