Heroes get remembered, but rivalries never die. That’s the saying, right? Ehhh, it’s something like that. Either way, rivalries certainly make for better television, especially when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and NFL great Peyton Manning are involved. A new wrinkle was added to the Brady and Manning rivalry as Brady passed Manning on NFL career passing yards list in last week’s win over the New York Giants.
The 1980s and 1990s were littered with Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins dynasties that captivated viewers with their consistent level of dominance.
The trend of dynasties started to fade following the changes to free agency in the mid-1990s. The new free agency rules drastically altered the way teams were built. Despite the change to free agency, one team managed to create an infrastructure that would collect six Super Bowl championships in the next eighteen seasons.
Under Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s leadership, future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have made teams rethink the approach to success over extended periods. Combine those six Super Bowl victories with a career 243-70 regular season and playoff record, and this Patriots dynasty is arguably the most unique and dominant in NFL history.
We have seen great teams come and go during this era dominated by the Patriots. The New York Giants won two Lombardis and settled abruptly into mediocrity. The Green Bay Packers have had many dominant seasons under Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens each had their moments in the sun. However, no organization can match the Patriots’ consistent success.
At the center of the Patriots’ success is, of course, the fourteen-time pro bowl quarterback Tom Brady. “TB12” is in every conversation about who is the G.O.A.T NFL quarterback. The former sixth-round pick out of the University of Michigan is a great story in his own right. Fortunately for the viewers during the era, Brady had the perfect adversary in Peyton Manning, forming one of the more interesting rivalries in recent sports history.
The era of Patriots dominance saw another all-time great at the quarterback position in former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Manning. Coming from a noted football family, Manning was the golden boy and set the standard at the quarterback position. Over his seventeen-year career, the five-time MVP would throw for 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns en route to two Super Bowl titles. The success of the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks created a rivalry that, in many ways, defined an era.
In all, the two played each other seventeen times during their careers. Of those seventeen games, Tom Brady edged Manning with an 11-6 record. Five of those matchups between the two legends took place during the most crucial time of the year, the playoffs. In playoff matchups, Manning topped Brady with three victories to Brady’s two. These fantastic matchups entrenched unforgettable memories in many fans’ brains.
Whether it was Teddy Bruschi ripping the ball out of Edgerrin James’ arms, Willie McGinest’s goal-line stand, or the post-game meeting at midfield, the Manning-Brady rivalry captivated this generation of football lovers.
This rivalry has long sparked the debate as to whether Manning or Brady is the superior player historically. While each signal-caller has a claim to that title, that debate is mostly dependent on the individual perspective.
This past week, in the Patriots 35-14 victory over the New York Giants, we saw Brady once again, and maybe for the last time, get the best of good ole’ Manning. The Patriots signal-caller surpassed Manning on the all-time passing yards list, moving into second place behind only New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The new passing yardage plateau is one of many recent accomplishments in the magnificent career of Brady.
When asked about the accomplishment, Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of his quarterback’s achievement.
“Tom breaks a record every week, so we could really probably give him the game ball after every game,” Belichick said. “But, I think this one’s – I mean, in terms of what he’s accomplished in terms of total career passing yards, it’s pretty noteworthy.”
Brady holds 54 NFL records and at this juncture in his career, any accomplishment for Brady should be no surprise. Still, one of this magnitude can cause the casual fan to stop and take notice. For all the NFL junkies out there, in their late 20s and up, this particular achievement provides a blast from the past. The Brady-Manning rivalry reminds everyone of the quality of the quarterback play during this era. The nostalgia kicks in. Memories are revisited, and the legacy of Brady is again put into context. We are all left to wonder just how this underdog story has come to fruition, and how Brady has continued to prove his doubters wrong.
“Tom’s got great poise on the field, and he’s been in a lot of critical situations with various elements: ahead, behind, weather, and so forth,” Belichick declared. “He’s on the road, at home, you name it. He’s been in pretty much every situation you could be in, so his experience and decision-making – we have total trust in him in all those situations, and he’s come through for us so many times before.”
For one last time, we had a Brady versus Manning battle. In this one, Brady was able to best Manning one last time, and again, for just a moment, football lovers everywhere are left in amazement.