For the 17th (and possibly final) time, two of the greatest quarterbacks in National Football League history will take center stage and face off for a trip to Super Bowl 50. They are Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.
It’s safe to say this has been the worst season of Manning’s future Hall of Fame career. In fact, it’s been so bad, Brady has thrown more touchdown passes in Denver (where the AFC Championship game is) than Manning has (he’s only thrown one touchdown at home, while Brady threw three in an overtime loss to Denver earlier in the year).
And another Broncos legend understands the impact this rivalry has had on the game of football.
“It’s been a great rivalry. I don’t know that there’s been another one like it when you think of the number of times they have played. You know the history with it, they are both first-ballot Hall of Famers,” said John Elway, the Broncos general manager.
Some notable stats between the two quarterbacks, courtesy of The Denver Post:
- 17 — the most meetings ever between two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, breaking the mark of Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr
- 5 — Times meeting in the playoffs, most by any two quarterbacks in NFL history
- 5 — Consecutive AFC championship game appearances for Brady, 10th overall.
- 2-2 — Record between the two in the postseason.
- 2-1 — Manning’s record against Brady in AFC championship games.
- 2-6 — Brady’s record in Denver.
- 3 — TD passes for Brady in Denver this season.
- 1 — TD pass for Manning in Denver this season.
- 0 — The number of times either quarterback has won on the road in this matchup.
But this game also features two of the best defenses in football, especially on the Broncos side. Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Manning was struggling, players such as Bradley Roby, DeMarcus Ware, among others, took advantage of a battered and bruised Ben Roethlisberger.
Meanwhile, for the Patriots, Brady flourished as his top outside wide receiver, Julian Edelman, returned from being injured, and immediately made an impact. If Denver wants to win this game, defensively, they have to do three main things:
- Cut off all outside receiver’s paths. Eliminate the chances of Edelman and Danny Amendola going deep and allowing lots of open space.
- Stop Rob Gronkowski. As simple as it sounds, it’s possibly one of the hardest things to do for a defense. Putting a corner and a linebacker on the veteran tight end has the makings of a good shot to stop the powerful “Gronk”.
- But by far, the most important key: Stop. Tom. Brady. He is known to work great under pressure, and with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the stakes are high. Placing as much pressure on their weak offensive line is the key to getting to Brady.
As for the Patriots defense, players such as linebacker Dont’a Hightower have to force the 39-year old Manning to make throws he normally wouldn’t, as father time is arguably catching up with him faster than it is with Brady. Add on to that by stopping running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, and New England could make the game out of reach quick.
Bottom-line, it is a highly anticipated match-up between two legends who have a huge supporting cast of star athletes around them, both on offense and defense. Now it’s time to see if the game lives up to all of the hype…