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Manning vs. Brady

Peyton vs. Brady – Round 17/Round 5 (Playoffs)

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Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off Sunday in the AFC Championship with an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl on the line. This is the 17th time Manning and Brady have faced off and the fifth time in the playoffs. Brady has owned the matchup with an 11-5 record over the last 15 years. However, the four playoff meetings between the two quarterbacks is split 2-2, with Manning winning the last two. In the most recent meeting, Manning was with the Broncos and the other three he was still a member of the Colts. So let’s take a look at the previous four meetings before jumping into Round 5 of Manning vs Brady.

2004 AFC Championship Game

New England 24 – Indianapolis 14

The game was at New England with a light snow throughout the game. The Patriots wasted no time jumping out to a 15-point halftime lead. The New England defense forced four interceptions by Manning, a fumble from Marvin Harrison and a safety on a bad snap on a punt attempt. The Colts finally got on the board with an Edgerrin James touchdown, but the Patriots added two more field goals in the third quarter to take a 21-7 lead. Manning attempted a fourth quarter comeback. He and the Colts got to within seven late in the fourth quarter, but failed to move the ball to tie the game in the final minutes.

2005 Divisional Round

New England 20 – Indianapolis 3

Once again, the Colts and Patriots faced off in snowy Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The Patriots defense completely shut down the NFL’s highest scoring offense and forced three turnovers, but this time it was just one interception from Manning. The Patriots took a 6-3 lead at halftime In the second half, the Patriots controlled the ball on offense with seven and eight minute touchdown drives that pushed the game out of reach for a stagnant Colts offense.

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2007 AFC Championship Game

Indianapolis 38 – New England 34

The 2007 AFC Championship Game was played at the RCA Dome, the Colts former home stadium. The Patriots jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the first half thanks to recovered fumble for a touchdown by an offensive lineman and a pick-six for the Patriots defense. But the Colts came out in the second half and scored 15 straight points to tie the game after a two-point conversion to Harrison. However, the Patriots took a 7 point lead into the fourth quarter. But just like the Patriots in the first half, the Colts had an offensive lineman recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, tying the game at 28. The teams exchanged field goals until the Patriots took a 34-31 lead, but Manning orchestrated a touchdown drive with only a minute remaining. The Colts came back from 18-points down, which is the largest ever in a conference championship game and tied for fourth largest in postseason history.

2014 AFC Championship Game

Denver 26 – New England 16

The game was played in Denver at Mile High Stadium and was the first time the Patriots had played on the road in the playoffs since losing to Manning and the Colts. Denver jumped out to a 3-0 lead halfway through the first quarter, and later scored a touchdown after using up more than half of the second quarter on a 15-play, 93 yard drive. The two teams exchanged field goals before the half with Denver taking a 13-3 lead into the break. The Broncos opened the second half with a touchdown drive capped off by a Manning to Demaryius Thomas three yard pass. It was the only score of the third quarter for both teams. Down 23-3 in the fourth quarter, Brady made a final push at a comeback, but eventually fell short.

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In reality though, this isn’t a game of Brady vs. Manning. It’s a game of Brady vs. the Broncos defense and Manning vs. the Patriots defense.

Brady will be facing the number one defense in yards-allowed per game and passing-yards per game, third in rushing-yards per game, and fourth in points-allowed per game. On top of that, he has a 2-6 record in Denver, but those games have stayed competitive.

Brady and the New England Patriots have already traveled to Denver once this year, which saw the Manning-less Broncos beat the Patriots in overtime 30-24.

Peyton will have his own problems to face against a strong Patriots defense that finished in the top 10 in total defense this season and points-allowed per game. Manning has also been battling a tear in his plantar fascia that sidelined him from mid-November until the final regular season game.

Besides the defense, Denver has a huge home-field advantage over the Patriots. Every time these two have met in the playoffs, the quarterback playing at home has won. Plus, Manning has a 97.9 passer rating when playing at home in the playoffs, compared to his 51.5 rating on the road.

Also, between the two quarterbacks, the team that has possessed the ball longer has come out on top in the four previous matchups. The last time the two teams met in the playoffs, Manning and the Broncos controlled the ball for 35 minutes.

The 2016 AFC Championship game is being played again at Mile High Stadium on Sunday afternoon. And here is what both teams need to do to win.

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For New England to go on the road and beat the Denver Broncos, Tom Brady has got to get the ball out quick, and his receivers have to make plays downfield. Everyone knows that Rob Gronkowski is going to put up his usual numbers and maybe even a touchdown or two. But, Julian Edelman, who came back from a broken bone in his foot last week, has to escape tacklers to turn his 3, 4 and 5 yard receptions into big gains.

Another key for the Patriots passing game is to protect Tom Brady. The Broncos led the league in sacks and passing yards-allowed per game. That’s why defensive coordinator Wade Phillips isn’t afraid to dial up a blitz on any down.

On defense, the Patriots have to tackle the ball carriers. In their previous matchup, Denver rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. This was a Broncos’ rushing attack that had been and still continues to be non-existent at times. So tackling from the defensive line to the defensive backs is a must do.

For Denver to take down the defending Super Bowl champs, Manning has to protect the ball. Peyton has a tendency to throw interception after interception against the Patriots. And before his injury this year, he had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns on the season, including a four interception game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The running game is key for the Broncos, too. The team is 7-0 when they have combined for over 130 yards rushing. Running the ball also helps freeze the defensive backs on passing plays. So look for Denver to try and establish the run early on in the game.

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And lastly, the Denver defense must keep track of where Gronkowski and Edelman are at all times. Denver’s linebackers are all quick enough to stay with Gronkowski on passing plays, but don’t be surprised to see a nickel corner or safety on him the majority of the time. The Broncos should play an extra defensive back until the Patriots can prove they can run the ball, which like I stated above, they haven’t been able to do the last few weeks, and couldn’t do in the two teams’ first meeting.

With the game being in Denver and Peyton wanting to pull a John Elway and go out on top, I am leaning towards the Broncos pulling the game out with a late 4th quarter drive capped off with a field goal to send Peyton and the Broncos to a 27-24 victory.

But, Tom Brady is capable of late game heroics, too. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brady leading a 4th quarter drive to win the game either, which is why we sit at home, and watch while they play the game.