Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: 5 Top NFL Matchups

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In this weekend’s National Football League AFC Championship game, two of the conference’s best teams this season will meet: the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Coincidentally, this will also mark the 15th time since 2001 that a Peyton Manning-led team will face off against Tom Brady and the Patriots. The two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who have always played in the AFC together since Brady’s arrival to the league in 2000, have a rivalry that is second to none in professional football. While this weekend’s game is expected to be a close one — the Broncos opened the spread as a 6.5-point favorite — it’s almost a sure thing that both quarterbacks will perform at the highest level.

If history has shown us anything, though, it’s that Brady typically has Manning’s number, both when Manning played for the Colts in his first 14 seasons or with the Broncos in the past two. And the evidence speaks for itself: Brady comes into Sunday’s game with a 10-4 all-time record and a 2-1 playoff record against Manning. There’s no doubt that over the past decade they have been two of the best and most consistent quarterbacks (though Drew Brees also has a case) in the NFL. In honor of their storied careers, here are the top five games that Brady and Manning have played against each other in this 12-year rivalry.

[Note: Photos do not match games described.]

Source: Jack Newton / Flickr

5. September 30, 2001: Patriots 44, Colts 13

What better way to kick off a countdown of the Manning-Brady rivalry than with the first time the two ever met? The Patriots, reeling from starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s injury a week earlier, turned to the lesser-known Brady to take the reins of the offense. And in just his first career start, Brady did what he’s done his entire career: He found a way to win. While the Patriots weren’t the best offensive team, they had a stifling defense that resulted in Manning throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Early in his career, before he gained the confidence to become the gunslinger that he is today, Brady always managed the game well. In his first professional victory, he threw for just 168 yards and no touchdowns, but he also didn’t have any interceptions. The Patriots used a strong running attack to rush for more yards (177) than they threw for and three touchdowns. Combine that with the impressive defensive effort, and all Brady had to do was not lose the game.

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