Peyton Manning and Tom Brady played twice before November 30, 2003, but on this day, their rivalry was born. With the Colts down 31-10 in the third quarter, Peyton Manning led his team back in the fourth quarter and had them only down by four and at the one-yard line going for the win, yet they were stopped on four consecutive plays and ultimately lost to Brady and New England.
This game showed everybody the beginning of the perfect rivalry; you had the chosen one Peyton Manning, a number one draft pick who had the fans in awe with his passing skills, going up against the underdog Tom Brady, who fought from being a sixth round draft pick to a Super Bowl champion.
Now if it wasn’t for Brady’s and Manning’s many accomplishments throughout their careers, like their combined six MVPs, four Super Bowls, and 22 Pro Bowls, while having both led their respective teams to the playoffs for 10 straight years (if you don’t count injured seasons), the build up to their matchups would have lost its luster by now. Instead, their rivalry will go down as one of the biggest ever as they have given us nine battles ending by less than a touchdown and now are about to play in a third showdown with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
The rivalry didn’t started out that competitive in the beginning, as Brady got the best of Manning in the first six contests, en-route to winning three Super Bowls from 2001-2004. Even so, in this time frame Manning still showed greatness, as he broke records and perfected the no-huddle offense like no other, although not winning big games did get brought up by the critics.
The big game haunted him since college, when his Volunteers could not beat their arch-rival the Gators in all four contests with Manning as the starter. Now with the playoffs losses piling up at the hands of the Titans, Dolphins, Jets, Steelers and of course the Patriots, it gave people good reason to wonder if Peyton could win the big one. He answered that question in 2006 when he led his Colts past Brady and the Patriots, for his third straight win against them, in an epic comeback in the AFC Championship game and then hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after beating the Bears in the Super Bowl.
Since then, Manning and Brady have not met besides their annual face-off during the regular season. Despite this, they have put on great games against each other, like 2007’s battle of the unbeaten game or 2010’s epic fourth and two game, it also adds fuel to the fire that each of them have taken down each other’s regular season passing record during this span. When Manning went through four different neck surgeries and was let go from the Colts, it almost seemed like this great rivalry might be ending, however this proved to be wrong after last November’s epic comeback by Brady and the Patriot’s. Still, with both players nearing 40, we all know there will not be too many more of these clashes in the future, and this quite possibly could be the last one in the playoffs.
Even with all their accolades, Sunday’s game means so much for both their respective legacies. Brady for instances, has been stuck at three Super Bowl victories since 2004, and is still vying to match his boy hood idol Joe Montana for a record four rings as a starting quarterback. Despite the fact that Manning still has fans in astonishment, he also still faces criticism for his shortcomings in big games, and defeating his nemesis Sunday would give him a .500 record in the playoffs, which would definitely give him ammunition against his critics.
This Sunday, chapter 15 commences as “The Sheriff” and “California Cool” go head-to-head once again. Remember despite what you think about Brady or Manning, they will both go down as two of the greatest in their time, and be mentioned every time somebody brings up the debate on who is the greatest quarterback of all-time. So sit back, and enjoy the show because you never know what can happen between these two foes and this could very well be the last time we get to see these two wage war against each other.