Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: A Deeper Look at the Best Rivalry in Football

Dan MatneyContributor IIINovember 19, 2013

Sports Illustrated

Week 12 of the NFL season brings fans a renewal of one of the best head-to-head rivalries in the sport’s history. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos travel into Foxboro to face off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday night at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.

The matchup marks the 14th time that the two have faced off. Brady currently holds the advantage over Manning in their head-to-head competition, boasting a 9-4 record, including 2-1 in the playoffs.

Manning and Brady have combined for over 110,000 career passing yards, 818 touchdowns, four Super Bowl titles in seven combined appearances, 20 Pro Bowls and six MVP awards, including three Super Bowl MVP awards.

Manning vs. Brady Head-to-Head

There have been many great quarterback rivalries since the NFL’s Super Bowl era began in 1966, including names such as Terry Bradshaw and Roger Stauback, who met in two Super Bowls with Bradshaw’s Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Stauback-led Dallas Cowboys in both meetings.

There was also a famous rivalry between Dan Marino and John Elway, who are also two Hall of Famers. Although the two only met a few times during their careers, this rivalry is considered a rivalry mainly because of the argument of who is the best quarterback of their era.

Those rivalries helped build the tradition of the NFL, but there has never been, and likely never will be, another rivalry like the one that exists between Manning and Brady.

Growing up a Colts fan, I have never experienced a rivalry like this one, especially being a fan of small market teams in the Midwest, where there are never many notable rivalries.

It all started on September 30, 2001, when the Colts traveled into Foxboro to take on Brady, who was in his second professional season at the time.

Brady got the best of Manning in their first matchup, as the Patriots won 44-13. Brady passed for 168 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, while Manning had 196 yards through the air, one touchdown and three interceptions. This game foreshadowed what Manning would do in his first two playoff games in Foxboro.

Both fan bases hated each other, and every meeting added to the ill feelings the opposing fan bases had for one another. Manning would always have phenomenal regular seasons but would fall short to Brady and the Patriots when it mattered, most notably in the 2004 and 2005 playoffs.

During the 2003 regular season, the two faced off in one of the most memorable games of the rivalry’s history.

With the Colts down four points at home with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, the Colts had the Patriots defense on the ropes.

On 4th-and-1 from the Patriots’ one-yard line, Manning handed the ball off to running back Edgerrin James. James looked to jump over the pile and score the game-winning touchdown when Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest came from behind and pulled him down, solidifying the Patriots victory.

Manning and the Colts looked to be a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl until they traveled into New England for their first playoff clash with the Patriots on January 18, 2004. At the time, the Colts had a 7-1 record on the road, while the Patriots were perfect at home, going 8-0 during the 2003 regular season.

Manning struggled throughout the entire game, throwing four interceptions, including three to Patriots cornerback Ty Law. The Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl after the 24-14 win. The Patriots would go on to win their second championship of the decade, which was also Brady’s second since becoming starter.

In the 2004-05 season, Manning threw for 49 touchdowns in a single season, which was considered to be nearly unbreakable at the time. That is until Tom Brady topped Manning’s record with 50 passing touchdowns in 2007.

Manning is currently on pace to break that record again in 2013.

Brady owned the rivalry in their first six meetings, including two playoff games in 2004 and 2005.

Manning began to even the score, winning three of the next four meetings between 2005 and 2007. That time period includes one of the best AFC Championship meetings in recent memory, which took place in the 2006 postseason.

The Colts faced a 21-6 deficit at halftime but quickly made a comeback on the shoulders of Manning, who threw for 349 yards and one touchdown.

After outscoring the Patriots 25-13 in the final two quarters, the AFC crown came down to the last minute of the game.

From three yards away, Colts running back Joseph Addai pounded the ball into the end zone, which gave the Colts a 38-34 victory. The noise level of the RCA Dome was the highest it had ever seemed to be.

In the most intense game that the two have ever played against each other, Manning finally received his first chance at a championship.

After that victory, the rest was NFL history. Manning and the Colts went on to secure their first and only championship during the Manning era, defeating the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI.

This rivalry, which is renewed Sunday night, will be something for all NFL fans to watch.

For the 2013 matchup, you couldn’t write better story lines than the ones that are already in place. Manning has led the Denver Broncos to a 9-1 record, including defeating the formerly undefeated Kansas City Chiefs last week. Brady has the Patriots at a 7-3 mark with a two-game lead in the division.

Sunday’s game is sure to be one of the best matchups of the NFL season, and if both teams continue to find success for the remainder of their regular seasons, they are set for another collision course in the playoffs.