By Rich Kurtzman
Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning XVI.
Whenever the two top quarterbacks of this generation get together, it’s must-see TV. The last match-up was won by Manning, though that was inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in the AFC Championship Game. This week’s contest takes place in New England’s Gillette Stadium, the same place the Broncos were beaten in overtime last season during the regular season.
Denver fans will recall the whirling wind which seemed to stifle both quarterbacks’ abilities to pass with precision, the same winds which caught the ball in the air on the overtime punt which bounced off Tony Carter and into a Patriots player’s hands.
Gillette has been razor sharp, cutting through the Broncos every time they come to town since 2006. Denver is 0-4 in New England since 2006, which is when they won their last game there. Jake Plummer was the quarterback and Mike Shanahan the head coach. It seems like a lifetime ago, now. It’s not just that the Broncos always get beat in New England, it’s usually not even close. Save last year’s three-point loss, Denver’s average loss when traveling to play the Patriots is by 30 points.
Of course, part of the reason the Pats are so dominant at home is Tom Brady’s brilliant play for 15 seasons. His .870 winning percentage at home is the best in the NFL during the Super Bowl Era, which dates back to 1966.
And while he started somewhat slowly this year, Brady has his offense performing phenomenally once again. New England’s on a four-game winning streak currently, and it’s no coincidence Brady’s thrown 14 touchdowns compared to zero interceptions over that span. He’s playing some of the best football of his life at the age of 37, which sounds eerily similar to the guy he’ll be lining up against, Peyton Manning.
Manning’s been magnificent again this season, and has clearly out-played his former four-MVP self the last three seasons in Denver. He set every passing record imaginable last season and has continued to play at a terrific pace this year. The Sheriff is already over 2,000 yards with an NFL-leading 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions tossed. His 119.0 passer rating is the best in the league, too.
But Manning has won only five of the previous 15 match-ups against Brady. And his Broncos struggle in Brady’s house. So, even at 38 and having accomplished everything possible as a professional quarterback, Manning will have to prove himself once again this week in Foxborough.
Something says he and his Broncos will be up to the task.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.