We got what we wanted, right football fans? I mean, really — the New England Patriots versus the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game — what more could you ask for next week? Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady — yet again.
God bless Manning. Really, he does what he can to downplay these games each and every time. Prior to getting to work this week on the Patriots, Manning told the media that this is “the Broncos versus the Patriots.”
“I know there will be some individual match ups that get headlined. But, it will be a matchup between two good teams — teams that have overcome a lot to get to this point. That’s where my focus will be,” he said.
But, as we all know, this is much more than just two good teams. This is another battle between two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play in the National Football League. The quarterbacks in this one have to downplay the drama all week long — they have no choice. The way an NFL team prepares is as a team. They are doing the correct thing by preparing and speaking in such a way.
However, like I said, to the fans, media and critics this is about the quarterbacks. The two of them have met three times in the playoffs previously, with Brady beating Manning and the Indianapolis Colts twice. To recap, here is a bit of background on the postseason history between Brady and Manning:
Stage: 2003 AFC Championship
Manning: Four interceptions
Brady: 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Outcome: Patriots win 24-14
Stage: 2004 Divisional Round
Manning: 238 yards, no touchdowns and an interception
Brady: 144 yards and a touchdown
Outcome: Patriots win 20-3
Stage: 2006 AFC Championship Game
Manning: 349 yards one touchdown
Brady: 232 yards, one touchdown and an interception
Outcome: Colts win 38-34 (Colts were down 18 points — 4th largest comeback in postseason history)
In this fourth postseason meeting, it will be a much different game. This time, Manning is wearing blue and orange. This time, it will be played at Mile High Stadium. This time, Manning has three Pro Bowl caliber wide receivers rather than just two. This time, Manning and his offense boast a particular playmaker that they took from the Patriots last offseason.
This time, there is no Ty Law — who grabbed three interceptions in their first postseason meeting. This time, there is no Adam Vinatieri — who kicked five field goals for New England in their second meeting. This time, I have a hard time believing any linemen will be scoring touchdowns — three linemen scored in the 2006 Championship Game.
It is safe to say that their fourth matchup in the playoffs could be the best one yet, for many reasons. Manning comes in boasting a historically good offense that has broken record after record all year long. Brady comes in with an offense that continues to be as unpredictable as it ever has been. This time, we will enjoy yet another fantastic matchup between two of the all time greats yet again.
But, this time folks, it will be different.