Throughout the history of sports, we've seen great rivalries. Red Sox vs. Yankees, Celtics vs. Lakers, Ali vs. Frazier. The next two goliaths to be added to that list of fierce rivals might just be the New England Patriots vs. the Indianapolis Colts . One of the most debated topics throughout the country when it comes to the NFL is: Who is the best quarterback in this day and age? Some say Tom Brady, who has lead his Patriots team to 3 Super Bowl wins and 7 straight winning seasons. Others argue that Colts QB Peyton Manning, who has only one Super Bowl win, but is favored to break every career passing by the time he retires. The two have met on numerous occasions, with different stakes.
The first time the two met with these quarterbacks was Tom Brady's first career start. A seemingly collapsing Patriots team that was 0-2 had a matchup against a high powered 2-0 Indianapolis Colts, lead by none other than Manning. Despite not scoring a TD, Brady helped his offense get the win 44-13. Later in that same 2001 season, the Patriots got the best of the Colts again 38-17.
In 2003, the they met again, after a forgettable 2002 season for both teams. This time, Brady and his Patriots had the edge over Manning's Colts since they had done the impossible by winning the Super Bowl in 2001. Despite Peyton's 4 touchdown passes, the Patriots won 38-34.
Later that season, our titanic teams met again, only this time with the stakes much higher. In the AFC Championship Game, the Colts and Co-MVP Manning were searching for their first Super Bowl appearance in over 30 years, while New England was still yearning for the sweet smell Super Bowl victory. Manning served up 4 interceptions, and the Patriots returned the the grandest stage in football with the 24-21 win.
It wouldn't be long before another heated Patriots-Colts collision. On the opening day of the 2004 season, the 2 time Super Bowl Champion Pats hosted a hungry Colts team. The Patriots Super Bowl banner was dropped that night, and New England coach Bill Belichick told his team that "The circus was in town". As always, this Colts/Patriots meeting provided a nail-biting finish. The Patriots defense was able to stop a late Indianapolis charge to preserve the 27-24 win. In the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs that season, the teams met again. MVP Peyton Manning could not buy a TD as his Colts fell once again to the Patriots, who went on to win their 3rd Super Bowl title.
Questions were flying about whether or not Manning could beat the Patriots. It came the following year, on a Monday Night Football matchup. For the first time ever, Peyton had beaten the Patriots with Tom Brady as their starting QB. Manning's winning streak against the Pats didn't stop there. In the 2006 season, Manning put together a 2 game win streak as he lead his team over the Patriots on a Sunday night battle. Although Manning had achieved what he could not do in previous years, most of the nation still was not impressed by the Colts. John Madden even said this quote after the two met on that Sunday Night matchup. "Yeah but, Manning hasn't won when it counts."
Manning and Brady both lead their teams to another AFC Championship showdown. In this record breaking game, the Patriots had a 21-6 lead over Indy at halftime. Manning would not let history repeat itself. In the biggest comeback in AFC Championship history, Peyton and the Colts won their first ever AFC Championship as a team and went on to become Super Bowl Champions.
The final showdown we've seen from these two championship-caliber teams was a battle of the unbeatens in Indy's RCA Dome. In the 4th quarter, the 9-0 Colts were leading the the 9-0 Patriots 20-10. But a late effort from the Pats was enough to pull themselves above the Colts.
Many said this rivalry was over once Peyton defeated the Patriots in that 2006 AFC Championship game. Others will say that things have only just begun, and we're in for more close-call nail biting performances. Time will tell, and as long as Brady and Manning are both breathing, you can tell each wants to top the other.