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The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos are set to square off this Sunday night in Denver for the AFC Championship. This will mark the 15th time that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have gone head to head. To date, Brady has gotten the better of Manning, winning 10 out of the 14 games against Manning. Tom Brady also owns a better playoff record and three Super Bowl rings, while Manning has one ring and a playoff record that is below .500. Today’s head-to-head matchup will mark another chapter in the legacy of these two Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
The two quarterbacks have been in the league now for well over a decade but were drafted in polar opposite styles; Brady, who is now in his 14th season, was drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots in 2000, while Manning, now in his 16th season, was drafted first overall in the 1998 NFL draft.
In regards to statistics, both Brady and Manning own some very impressive stats. According to NFL.com, Brady has passed for 49,149 yds with 359 touchdowns and 134 interceptions. Manning, on the other hand, has 64,964 passing yards with 491 touchdowns, but has thrown 219 picks, 85 more than his counterpart Brady. Brady and Manning almost have identical quarterback ratings at 96 and 97 overall, respectively, and the their completion percentages are almost identical, both in the mid sixties.
Over the years, many have argued that Brady has had better defenses and that this is main reason he has more rings than Manning. This argument is very easy to solve, the answer is yes, Brady has had better defenses in his career, but with this argument comes an undeniable fact that many people seem to forget: Brady won those three Super Bowls with a no name offense, no star power and no Hall of Famers. In Indy, Manning had perhaps the best offense in football with Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and even Marshall Faulk. People seem to forget that Faulk is in the Hall of Fame and Harrison and Wayne will be joining Faulk very soon. Now the question must be asked, how could Manning only win one Super Bowl with a team of players like that? The Colts also had some solid players on defense with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, decent linebackers, and a tremendous safety in Bob Sanders.
So who needs to win Sunday’s AFC Championship to earn a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII?
Truth is, Brady and Manning both need this game desperately and another Super Bowl win. In recent memory, Brady has not gotten the job done when it matters most. Just this season, if Brady has beaten the lowly Miami Dolphins late in the regular season, then Sunday’s game would have been in New England. Brady could not find the end zone late in the final seconds, though, and the game was lost, giving Denver home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Brady has also lost his last two Super Bowls, something that the “clutch” Brady needs to change if he wants to be considered “clutch” again and the best of all time.
Manning also needs a another Super Bowl ring as desperately as Brady. If Manning does find a way to lose this game, then he will be considered just another Dan Marino, someone who can own every possible record in the books, but can’t cash in when it matters most. Manning and Marino have combined for over 40 years of NFL experience but only one Super Bowl; Tom Brady has three himself and could own his fourth this year, which would tie Joe Montana for the most of all time.
Sunday’s game will be a heavyweight fight of epic proportions. The Patriots are hoping that the game plan they have devised against Denver will attack Denver’s weaknesses on defense and attempt to slow down their playmakers on offense. For the Patriots to win, they will need to run the ball effectively, pass efficiently and play bend but do not break defense. This was their recipe for success during their early Super Bowl years and it seems that the Patriots have returned to it. This season Brady does not have the likes of a Randy Moss, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd, Corey Dillon or any of the other great players that he had played with in the past, but he is still knocking on the door to his 6th Superbowl appearance with the likes of Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola and LeGarrette Blount. On defense the Patriots are missing two defensive captains and standouts, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, both out for the year with devastating injuries sustained early in the season.
The New England Patriots have guts, heart, determination and the ability to focus and play error free football like no other team in the NFL can, and this is the reason why I believe the Patriots will beat the Broncos Sunday night in Denver. There is a great quote which can define all of sports: “Hustle always beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.” The Denver Broncos on paper are the better team, but I do not believe they want it as bad as the New England Patriots and that is sole reason the Patriots will be playing in Superbowl XLVIII and Brady’s legacy will come out better than Manning’s.
Enjoy the game everyone, it will be one for the ages.