Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning. In this ultimate team game, we finally get a matchup between the two most famous quarterbacks of the last fifteen years. We haven’t seen these two on the same field in the post season since January of 2007, when Marlin Jackson intercepted Tom Brady and reversed much of the talking points, at least temporarily. Prior to that instant, you know that most people believed that Brady was going to get a final comeback completed as the ball crossed into Colts’ territory. You might recall, if you try to take yourself back to that moment, that the Patriots with Brady were 12-1 in the postseason, and were just coming off a game where they tied the game after Tom Brady threw his third interception but Marlon McCree fumbled it right back. Anything seemed possible, so long as anything involved a Patriots playoff win. So much has changed since that last matchup. How much?
- Peyton Manning has won one Super Bowl, Tom Brady none (3 to 0 in favor of Tom Brady before);
- Tom Brady went from being the guy who won in the playoffs even though others put up better numbers in the regular season, to having some monster years, most notably 2007;
- Tom Brady has a higher yards per attempt since their last playoff meeting (7.83 to 7.69);
- The two have appeared in 20 other playoff games between matchups, going a combined 10-10;
- All but one of those playoff matchups was either at home or in the Super Bowl, with the only road game played by either being when Peyton Manning played at 8-8 San Diego with a 12-4 team, because of the division winner hosting rule;
- Manning’s last game against New England was his last playoff game with a sub-80 passer rating;
- Both have missed a season with an injury; and
- Peyton Manning has, of course, changed teams.
When these two have gotten together in the postseason, it hasn’t necessarily been pretty. Manning’s Colts struggled in the cold of New England twice. He threw 4 interceptions in one game, and the receivers could not catch the ball in another. Brady’s numbers (6.26 yards per attempt, 3 touchdown passes in 3 games) aren’t eye-popping.
If anything, these matchups provide some wackiness in terms of who has made a difference. Earlier this year, we saw a game decided by a punt being touched by Denver in overtime. Here are some notes that you might not remember about these previous playoff games:
- Offensive and Defensive linemen have scored as many touchdowns as wide receivers. Dan Klecko (pass from Manning), Logan Mankins (fumble recovery) and Jeff Saturday (fumble recovery) have accounted for scores;
- The only player to score more than once total in the previous Manning-Brady matchups is David Givens (2);
- Peyton Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver, something that will have to change if Denver is to win.
We just saw New England win a game with a dominating run game and making plays on defense, with Tom Brady only having to throw 25 passes and completing 13. That’s the fewest number of completions in a playoff game since the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh in January 2002, when Brady was injured. It’s probably only fitting that in a year when Brady had his lowest yards per attempt since 2006 and the Patriots are winning games like they did in the early part of last decade, we finally get the fourth showdown.
The past, though, is not predictive of the future. It should be fun, and likely decided by someone we aren’t talking about right now.
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