Brady vs Manning...the rubber match
Storylines are sometimes written themselves. Did anyone see the AFC title coming down to anything else? It was only destiny for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to meet for a 15th time, fourth time in the playoffs, and third time in an AFC title game. Can the NFL gods bestow anything better than this next weekend?
Sunday, Manning and the Broncos took care of business in Denver, beating the Chargers 24-17. The Broncos shutout the Chargers for three quarters before San Diego made things interesting in the fourth quarter. Manning would convert on a third and 17 on the Broncos final drive to seal the deal and send his team to the AFC Championship. The Broncos offense has set records all season long led by their future Hall of Fame quarterback. They averaged 38 PPG this season, which has never been done before in the Super Bowl era. The doubters will still doubt Manning and whether he can win in cold weather in the playoffs. This week was a step, but beating Brady and the Patriots in Denver will take him to the next level.
Saturday night, Andrew Luck was no match for Brady. The Patriots defense made the Colts sophomore quarterback’s life a nightmare. Brady played mistake free and his running game, led by LeGarrette Blount and his 166 yards and four touchdowns, could not be stopped in a 43-22 Patriots win. The New England defense was tremendous, despite battling several key injuries all season long. It’s miraculous that the Patriots are in this position with the adversity they have battled since before the season even began. It started with the Aaron Hernandez saga, then the Tim Tebow signing, and then the injuries. Playing without studs in Rob Gronkowski and Vince Wilfork, just to name a few, Bill Belichick has had to patch together a roster that has names many have never heard of. This might have been the best season yet in the Brady and Belichick era.
In AFC Championship games, Brady and Manning are 1-1 against each other, but it has been all Brady in the rivalry. The three-time Super Bowl Champ has gone 10-4 against the one-time champion. With each QB winning one against each other, this year’s AFC Championship becomes the ultimate rubber match. It also becomes what could be the final battle in the playoffs between them. This is what football fans live for. Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history will battle in Denver next Sunday for another Vince Lombardi Trophy to add to the plethora of hardware that rests in their trophy case.
You can call it Manning-Brady XV for Super Bowl XLVIII.