Two gunslingers set to square of one more time as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady battle one more time. But do they ever really battle each other?
The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are set to square off in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady will lead his offense into Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. That certainly is the popular narrative. Although, unless there is some kind of rule change, the only time Manning and Brady will be on the field at the same time there will be to shake each other’s hand.
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Football has a way of creating this narrative of the two gunslingers meeting at the middle of town and squaring off in a win or die scenario. It makes for a great read, and some of the best rivalries in NFL history are born out of quarterback “battles.” Elway versus Marino, or Montana, or Favre. We have witnessed one of the greatest quarterback rivalries in the history of the NFL, but the truth is, those rivalries mean nothing.
Quarterbacks take the field opposite a defense, not an offense. Tom Brady will not be blitzing Peyton Manning. Manning will not be barking out defensive plays before every snap. We love the narrative, but the narrative is just a story. We like to think of tumbleweeds blowing across an empty square while two old cowboys stare at one another just before the big showdown. Its a nice fantasy.
Manning will face his greatest foe for a shot at the Super Bowl, but it is not Tom Brady.
And that is all it is. Manning and Brady have never tackled each other, and they never will. Manning will be up against Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and the defense of the Patriots. It has always been the defense. All those years in Indianapolis, Manning struggled to beat guys like Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi. Vince Wilfork was plugging up the middle, and Belichick was the mastermind behind it all.
Manning will face his greatest foe for a shot at the Super Bowl, but it is not Tom Brady. Manning will have to look down the barrel of a defense that has stolen his glory numerous times in his career. They have changed the trajectory of his legacy. The Patriots defense is why you will always say, “but…” when talking about Manning’s legendary career.
Manning has one more chance to change that. He has the opportunity to complete the legacy. Defeating the Patriots is one more step toward the ultimate prize for the Broncos, and one step closer to NFL immortality for Manning.