Just when you think that the endless comparisons never stop, another one such as this has to pop right up again. This comparison like so many others however, is a very legitimate way of judging these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks by how well they have played in the postseason as of late.
Two years ago, it seemed as if Peyton Manning had finally rid himself of the choking stigma that had followed him throughout his career when he won Super Bowl XLI.
Yet, that nasty choking stigma has appeared to rear it's ugly head again as of late.
Impossible to determine whether or not this stigma was reattached by the media or by the fans but this time we will get an opportunity to visit the issue directly.
By contrast, Tom Brady has managed to escape the same criticism that Peyton has received.
This is likely due to the fact that he managed to lead his New England Patriots into Super Bowl XLII which is further than we could say for Peyton Manning.
So since the choking stigma has been reattached after Peyton's two playoff defeats to San Diego, I will compare Peyton's performances in his last two playoff games to the performances of his archrival Tom Brady.
I will begin with the 2007 Divisional Playoff contest between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Diego Chargers.
The Colts lost this postseason game by the close score of 28-24.
The following week, Tom Brady got to face that same Chargers team in the AFC Championship game.
Unlike Manning's Colts, the Patriots defeated the Chargers by the score of 21-12.
Essentially, Manning's Colts lost where Brady's Patriots won.
This only helped to further the belief that Tom Brady could handle the pressure of postseason play more than his rival.
I respectfully disagree with that assumption.
Let's take a look at the performances of both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady against that same 2007 San Diego Chargers team.
Peyton Manning: 33 of 48 (68.7 percent) for 402 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 97.7
Tom Brady: 22 of 33 (66.6 percent) for 209 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 66.3
So by looking at the numbers, Peyton Manning had a higher completion percentage, threw for 193 more yards, one more touchdown, and one less interceptions to post a quarterback rating 31.4 points higher.
Without question, Peyton Manning played a much better game than Tom Brady against those same Chargers.
Yet, his Colts lose and Brady's Patriots win.
This brings me back to a concept that I'd like to refer to as "team-support."
Now what do I mean by that?
Tom Brady had the benefit of a defense that held the Chargers to only 12 points. The Colts defense allowed that same Chargers team to score 28 points.
When this happens, you cannot expect to win.
A Patriots fan recently told to me that "you can't choke if your team won."
Now, I would not go as far as to say that Tom Brady choked in the 2007 AFC Championship game but that does not mean he played well either.
The popular belief seems to be that as long as your team wins, your performance no matter how poor is not relevant (or so a Broncos fan told me in regards to John Elway's performance in Super Bowl XXXII).
So why is it that we turn a blind eye to Brady's poor performance against San Diego yet manage to find it a valid argument to criticize Peyton Manning's superior performance in defeat?
It appears to me as if Peyton Manning's long-time stigma of being a choker continues to follow him whenever he falls even the slightest bit short. Yet, Brady's clutch stigma seems to excuse him from poor performance due to prior heroics.
With that being said, lets take a look at the last playoff game played by each quarterback.
In the 2008 Wild Card Game, the Indianapolis Colts lost to the San Diego Chargers by the score of 23-17 in overtime.
Tom Brady experienced a similar close-defeat (yet on a grander stage) as his New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII by the score of 17-14.
Both quarterback had lost their last playoff games yet it is Manning who faced criticism for losing in the playoffs, not Brady.
Let's take a look at the performances of both quarterbacks in their last postseason games.
Peyton Manning: 25 of 42 (59.5 percent) for 310 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 94.3
Tom Brady: 29 of 48 (60.4 percent) for 266 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 82.4
Again after looking at the performances of the two, you can see that Peyton Manning actually performed better in his final playoff game than Tom Brady.
Yet, Peyton is again criticized for not winning in the postseason (not mentioning of course that he never had the opportunity to touch the football during overtime) and Tom Brady is given another free pass.
I know what your thinking, Peyton Manning's offensive line did not let him down like Tom Brady's did.
I believe that we can all concede that Tom Brady didn't get the proper blocking in Super Bowl XLII and you know what, that is a valid explanation.
Ironic however that we can excuse Tom Brady's sub par performance against the Giants due to the fact that he was sacked five times but we again turn a blind eye when the same thing happens to Peyton Manning.
Remember the 2005 Divisional Playoff game when the Colts faced the Steelers?
Peyton Manning was harassed by the Steelers defense all day and was sacked five times.
Yet, all most people remember were Peyton Manning supposedly unsportsmanlike comments after the game.
"I'm trying to be a good teammate here. Let's just say we had some problems in protection. I'll give Pittsburgh credit for their blitz's and their rush, but we did have some problems."
Those were the comments so horrible that people claimed that Manning threw his offensive line under the bus.
He didn't say they were bad, he didn't say they su*ked, he simply said that there were some problems.
I'd say so.
Despite having the Steelers defense (who I'd argue was much better in 2005 than the Giants were in 2007) after him all game, these are the numbers he put up.
Peyton Manning: 22 of 38 (57.8 percent) for 290 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 90.8
Basically, Peyton Manning played better against a tougher defense when faced with the same pressure that Tom Brady faced in Super Bowl XLII.
Still, everyone called Peyton Manning a choke-artist while we allowed Tom Brady to use the bad protection he received as a justification for a sub par performance.
As you can see, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are held to completely different standards.
What might be okay for Tom Brady is unacceptable for Peyton Manning.
I personally don't feel that either quarterback is a choke-artist.
Peyton Manning is not a choke-artist because his team lost two playoff games to San Diego and Tom Brady is not a choke-artist for throwing an interception in the final drive of the 2006 AFC Championship game.
The issue is that the public tends to treat both quarterbacks very differently.
I find it patently absurd that Peyton Manning is criticized when Tom Brady is excused.
I find it unacceptable for Peyton Manning to take the blame for losing games he performed well in.
I find it ridiculous that Tom Brady's teammates are the ones to let him down when he loses but it is Peyton Manning who blows should-be victories for the Colts.
It might not be fair, but it's the reality people have created.
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