Brady-Manning Rivarly At Its End
The 13th iteration of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning was very similar to most of the others the past 12 seasons. It was no low-scoring affair – both future Hall of Famers were on point. Sure, the Patriots ran a whopping 54 times. But Brady toyed with the Denver defense as Manning did with New England’s. Though Manning was in unfamiliar colors, he looked like he was playing pitch-and-catch with his old Indianapolis receivers.
Denver almost came back after some big Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas plays but ultimately fell short because Willis McGahee forgot how to hold on to a football. And what’s lost in this game isn’t that the QBs played well. It’s, in the end, Brady and the Patriots have flat-out owned Manning’s teams.
Statistically, Manning has Brady beat in nearly every metric – touchdowns, yards, completion percentage. And we all know Brady has a two-ring advantage.
It’s easy to think of these showdowns as historically close. Seven of the 13 matches were settled by seven points or fewer. But Brady and Bill Belichick’s posse have conquered Manning nine times. Nine!
That’s obviously not exclusively Manning’s fault. Games are won in all three phases. But looking into the numbers of Manning and Brady in the 13 contests against each other is illuminating.
For instance, Manning has averaged 67.8-completion percentage against Brady’s Pats with 295 yards, 2.1 TDs and 1.5 interceptions. Alternatively, Brady has thrown up averages of 67-completion percentage, 235 yards, 1.8 TDs and .9 INTs.
The numbers slightly favor Manning in terms of accuracy and yards. And yet Brady ended games the winner more than twice the frequency Peyton did. But it boils down to something simple: Manning’s teams rely on him much more.
For one, Manning never played with a defense as talented top-to-bottom as Brady did in the early 2000s. Not to diminish Tom Terrific, Manning was far more valuable to his teams than Brady was. As a rookie, Brady won the Super Bowl. New England didn’t win all 15 games that season because of him. But it certainly didn’t win in spite of him either. More often than not, Manning carried the Colts. The offense jumped out to an early lead, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were green lit to terrorize opposing QBs.
But truth has a way of getting in the way of narratives. And where’s the fun in that? Jim Nantz didn’t let us down with narrative, though. He noted this could be the last time the two stars square off in regular season play. That’s depressing to think about – the two best quarterbacks of my generation may never face off again.
But that may be a good thing. Who wants to see these two gunslinger pull a 2010 Brett Favre and be completely washed up? While the thought of seeing the two duke it out four years from now, with another 50 games worth of miles on them, in a throwback performance would be breathtaking, having the two’s memory preserved in a classic showdown is what their rivalry and friendship will be about years from now.
Ultimately, it won’t matter how much the Patriots dominated Manning’s horses. The two titans will be forever remembered for their epic battles in a golden age of quarterbacking. In 20 years, they’ll be discussed with the same reverence and historic grandeur as Johnny Unitas, John Elway and Joe Montana are. And to be able to experience much of it is something special to never forget. Let’s not lose sight of that now.