“Too old” and “too weak” were the words revolving around  an aging Peyton Manning.  Leading up to the 17th installment of Brady vs. Manning last Sunday night, these were the only thoughts on the minds of sports fans.  Compared to his slightly younger counterpart, Manning and the Denver Broncos were not given much of a chance to win the AFC championship and to dethrone the defending champions, the New England Patriots.

Potentially playing the last game of his future Hall of Fame Career, Manning did just enough to push for a 20-18 victory. Brady forced a long late scoring drive in the dying seconds, but it was too little, too late as cornerback Bradley Roby picked off Brady’s attempt at the two-point conversion.

A pinpoint play that lifted the broncos, dubbed “the run,” saw Manning scramble for a 12-yard gain in the third quarter, flipping the field in the second half and spurring the Broncos on to a 14–4 lead. Coupled with the stonewall defense that the Broncos have had all season, it was just enough to secure Manning and the Broncos a spot in Super Bowl 50.

The rivalry between Brady and Manning has always been a subject of huge excitement. Since 2000, NFL fans have been enthralled by this battle of the QB gods, and last weekend could be the last we’ll see of the over-15-year saga.

Statistically speaking, Brady is far and away the winner of this contest. He has bested Manning 11 times, while Manning has only won six. Even though Manning now has three in a row to brag about, with a combined score of 479-412 in favor of Brady, it’s hard to deny New England’s consistent run of good form. This rule over the numbers stretches into Super Bowl wins and appearances as well, Brady with four rings to Manning’s one.

Sticking with statistics, one or the other has represented the AFC in nine of the last 14 Super Bowls, earning four MVP titles. As Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware put it, “you’re getting that roar from the crowd or you’re getting that feeling from the next teammate beside you. That next teammate, for me, is Peyton.”

Mutual respect has always been a part of the friendly rivalry between Manning and Brady.  Despite what the most radical of fans would have you think, they’ve set an example on avoiding bickering through the media or fighting on the field. The Internet is just a sea of handshakes and smiles between the two.

Last Wednesday in an interview Manning said, “I have felt very fortunate to play 18 years like I have, and I know how hard I’ve worked to play this long. When I look across at the New England Patriots and see Tom Brady is their quarterback, I just know how hard he’s worked, as well.”

Looking forward to Super Bowl 50, thoughts of a man in the twilight of his career have faded. Although the future may be uncertain for Manning, it doesn’t look like he’ll finish without a fight.

Tagged: NFL

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