Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Through the Years
The appropriate stage is set for Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Part 15—the AFC Championship game.
Brady holds a 10-4 lead over his iconic contemporary, but the host Denver Broncos are the unquestioned favorites.
The New England Patriots beat Manning's Broncos in a classic comeback 34-31 in Week 12 of this season, a game in which Denver's quarterback threw for a mere 150 yards.
In advance of this showdown to determine the AFC's representative in the Super Bowl XLVIII, here's a look back every other matchup between these two first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Week 3, 2001: Patriots 44, Colts 13
For one year, back in 2001, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were division rivals in the old AFC East.
In fact, after starter Drew Bledsoe was injured in Week 2 that season, a fresh-faced Brady made his first career start against Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough.
Brady threw for only 168 yards, but the Patriots demolished the Colts, 44-13, on the heels of a defensive effort that included two touchdown returns of Manning interceptions.
Brady 1, Manning 0
Week 6, 2001: Patriots 38, Colts 17
A few weeks after their first meeting, Brady and Manning locked horns again.
This time the venue was different, but the result was the same. Brady and the Patriots cruised again, this time 38-17 on the shoulders of his first career three-touchdown game.
The real hero of that second meeting? New England wideout David Patten, who caught two touchdown passes, threw a touchdown pass and scored a rushing touchdown.
Brady 2, Manning 0
Week 13, 2003: Patriots 38, Colts 34
In 2002, the Colts moved to the newly formed AFC South, and it would be more than two years between the second and third time Brady and Manning met.
In their third matchup, Manning played very well at home against the Pats. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the game marked the first time a quarterback had ever thrown four touchdown passes against the Patriots while under Bill Belichick.
However, it was all for naught. The Colts couldn't convert a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line with less than a minute left. Brady and the Patriots left town with a 38-34 win, and Manning was left still searching for his first win over Brady.
Brady 3, Manning 0
2003 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 24, Colts 14
The 2003 AFC Championship Game was supposed to be Peyton Manning's coronation.
Manning led the NFL with 4,267 passing yards in 2003, tossing 29 touchdown passes en route to his first MVP award. It was his first shot at a trip to the Super Bowl.
The top-seeded Patriots weren't having any of that silliness.
Granted, Brady's 237 passing yards and a touchdown in the game are hardly eye-popping, but it was a much better performance than Manning's four-interception face-plant.
The Pats prevailed, 24-14, and Brady's dominance of Manning continued (with an assist from cornerback Ty Law, who picked Manning off three times).
Brady 4, Manning 0
Week 1, 2004: Patriots 27, Colts 24
After losing to Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, then watching those same Patriots down the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, Peyton Manning and the Colts didn't have to wait long for a rematch.
The two teams met again to kick off the following season, but the only thing that had changed was the date on the calendar.
Once again it was the Patriots who came up with the win, propelled to victory by 335 passing yards from Brady and another late goal-line stand from the New England defense.
Final: 27-24, Patriots. By now, Manning's forehead was slowly turning from red to purple.
Brady 5, Manning 0
2004 AFC Divisional Round: Patriots 20, Colts 3
At this point in their rivalry, Peyton Manning had become Charlie Brown, with Tom Brady's Lucy always pulling the ball away at the last second.
Brady's "dominance" of the matchup with Manning was the top storyline heading into their second playoff matchup, with more than one pundit wondering aloud whether the Patriots were in Manning's head.
The game did nothing to dispel those notions. The Colts failed to score a touchdown in a 20-3 rout, and while Brady failed to top 150 passing yards, he threw for one score and ran for another.
For Brady, it was back to the Super Bowl. For Manning, it was more disappointment and a growing reputation as a postseason choke artist.
Brady 6, Manning 0
Week 9, 2005: Colts 40, Patriots 21
By 2005, Brady had won three Super Bowls and was a perfect 6-0 against Manning's Colts. It was a rivalry that wasn't really a rivalry.
Sure, Manning was considered a great quarterback, but heading into a matchup with Brady's Pats, in Foxborough, folks just rolled their eyes and waited for the inevitable New England win.
That win didn't come.
For the first time, Manning got the better of the Golden Boy and New England, topping 300 yards through the air and throwing three touchdown passes in a 40-21 Colts win.
Charlie Brown finally kicked the ball.
Brady 6, Manning 1
Week 9, 2006: Colts 27, Patriots 20
2006 marked the second of three straight seasons in which Week 9's slate was headlined by a matchup between Brady's Patriots and Manning's Colts.
For once, it was the Colts riding a wave of momentum into the game. Not only had Manning and the Colts won the previous meeting between the two teams, but Indy rolled into New England that week undefeated. It left the same way.
Behind 326 passing yards and two scores from Manning, the Colts downed the Patriots, 27-20.
For Brady, his zero-touchdown, four-interception game (one of only two in his career, per ESPN) was among the worst performances of his 14 NFL seasons.
Brady 6, Manning 2
2006 AFC Championship Game: Colts 38, Patriots 34
Even though the Colts had won two straight against the Patriots and were the AFC's top seed in 2006, many people still quietly expected the New England Patriots to win that year's AFC title game.
After all, this wasn't some willy-nilly Week 9 game—this was the playoffs.
Sure enough, a pair of first-half turnovers (including a Manning pick-six) led to Patriots touchdowns, and just like that New England led 21-3.
At this point, most expected the Colts to crumble.
Manning engineered the greatest comeback in AFC Championship Game history, throwing for 349 yards while outdueling Brady in a 38-34 win.
That game marks the high point of Manning's NFL career. Two weeks later, Manning got his coronation, with the Colts downing the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Brady 6, Manning 3
Week 9, 2007: Patriots 24, Colts 20
If the 2006 AFC Championship Game is the high point of the rivalry between Manning and Brady from an excitement perspective, then their next meeting may have been the most anticipated—at least in the week leading up to the game.
The defending Super Bowl champion Colts were playing host to an undefeated Patriots team. With three straight wins over Brady and the Pats, Manning had a chance to really tip the scales of this rivalry in his favor.
Alas, it was not to be.
The Patriots notched a 24-20 win, en route to becoming the only team in NFL history to post a 16-0 record in the regular season.
Brady 7, Manning 3
Week 10, 2009: Colts 35, Patriots 34
The Colts and Patriots did play one another in 2008, but Matt Cassel played in place of Brady, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1.
It was that hypothetical tree in the forest. It fell. No one heard.
In 2009, however, Brady and Manning were back at it, combining for more than 700 passing yards and seven touchdowns in a good old-fashioned shootout.
Up six with little more than two minutes to go, the Patriots failed to convert on a fourth-down play from their own 28-yard line. That gave Manning a short field to deal with, and his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne completed a big fourth-quarter comeback to give the Colts a 35-34 win.
The game was Indy's 18th straight regular-season win and moved the Colts to 9-0 on the season.
Said Brady of the stunning loss, according to the Associated Press via ESPN: "It's a bummer."
That's deep, Tom. Deep.
Brady 7, Manning 4
Week 11, 2010: Patriots 31, Colts 28
The venue may have been different the next time Brady and Manning met in 2010, but just like the game in 2009, Manning had a huge performance.
He threw for 396 yards and four scores. And just like in the game in 2009, Manning and the Colts were left staring at a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
However, unlike the previous year, Manning's late-game heroics would come up short. He drove the Colts deep into Patriots territory, but his third interception of the day with less than a minute left was the last nail in a 31-28 Colts coffin.
Brady 8, Manning 4
Week 5, 2012: Patriots 31, Broncos 21
The first game between Brady and Manning since Manning joined the Denver Broncos wasn't exactly a game.
Last year's win by the Patriots was all New England, especially early on. Despite the fact that Brady threw for only 223 yards and a touchdown in the game, the Patriots raced out to a 31-7 lead and never looked back, winning 31-21.
Manning, who threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in defeat, has lost only twice in 22 games since that day.
Brady 9, Manning 4
Week 12, 2013: Patriots 34, Broncos 31
The fourteenth rendition of the Brady vs. Manning duel was an instant classic, although Manning wasn't involved with as much of what transpired as usual.
A Von Miller fumble return for a score followed by a Knowshon Moreno touchdown and Matt Prater field goal got the Broncos out to a stunning 17-0 lead in Foxborough.
After a 10-yard touchdown catch by Jacob Tamme, Denver took a 24-0 lead into halftime.
Gillette Stadium was rendered silent.
Manning completed 8 of 14 passes for 61 yards in the first half.
In the final two quarters, Brady led a vintage, ferocious rally which supercharged the home crowd.
After a quick touchdown, a Moreno fumble led to another quick score, and suddenly, it was a manageable 10-point deficit for the Patriots.
A Brady to Rob Gronkowski touchdown made it a 24-21 score at the end of the third quarter, and a Manning interception to start the fourth allowed New England to take the lead just a few plays later.
Demaryius Thomas caught an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game at 31 with just over three minutes remaining, and the compelling battle went to overtime.
In the extra session, after the team's traded a few unsuccessful possessions, a muffed punt by the Broncos' Tony Carter put pinpoint kicker Stephen Gostkowski in chip-shot range.
Manning ended the game with a season-low 150 yards through the air, and Brady completed 34 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the riveting comeback win.
Brady 10 Manning 4
2013 AFC Championship Game
Brady hasn't played a road playoff game since—ready?—the 2006-2007 AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis against the Colts, one of Manning's signature wins.
The Patriots will travel to Denver to take on the No. 1-seeded Broncos in a chalk showdown many of us wanted to see with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
It marks the third-straight AFC Championship Game appearance for Bill Belichick's amazingly steady squadron and the first AFC Championship Game in the Mile High City since the 2005 season.