Together again: Manning vs. Brady show, take 16
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady says Peyton Manning “does everything right.”
Manning has read that Brady “wants to play until he’s into his mid-40s … and he could probably do it.”
As usual, the stars of the richest quarterback rivalry in NFL history are right on target.
The 16th chapter happens Sunday when Manning leads the Denver Broncos against the New England Patriots, two first-place teams on four-game winning streaks.
“You just know you’re going to get one of the best offenses in the league,” said Brady, 10-5 against Manning. “What that means for me is our offense has to be at our best.”
Just check out the numbers:
The Broncos (6-1) lead the NFL with 32 points per game. The Patriots (6-2) are third with 29.8.
Manning is the top-ranked quarterback, is tied for the league lead with 22 touchdown passes and has thrown just three interceptions. Brady is fifth in passer rating and has thrown for 18 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Each is on a roll with 14 touchdown passes in his past four games.
“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable,” Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said.
Both defenses face tough challenges, but have improved since last year.
The Broncos’ additions of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward have helped them become the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL and the best against the run.
The Patriots’ signings of free-agent cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner strengthened the secondary and cut down on long pass completions that hurt last season.
Manning vs. Brady may be on the marquee.
But there’s a lot more to the hit show.
“It’s never just one guy,” Denver coach John Fox said. “This is a team game. There are a lot of moving parts to offense, defense and the kicking game.”
The Broncos are 32-7 in three years with Manning and reached the Super Bowl last season. The Patriots have won 10 straight AFC East titles, excluding 2008 when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
New England’s Bill Belichick calls Manning the best quarterback he’s ever coached against.
Fox mentioned other greats he’s faced — Joe Montana, Dan Marino and John Elway.
“No two players (are) alike,” Fox said, “but I can tell you the two that will be playing this week are right up there.”
Some things to watch for in what could be a preview of the second straight AFC championship game between the teams:
SACK ATTACK: Brady will have to throw quickly against the pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Ware. Miller is tied for second in the NFL with nine sacks and Ware has seven. Miller has a six-game sack streak and is lighter and faster than last season when he missed six games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and one with a knee injury. Denver has 23 sacks in seven games after getting just 41 in 16 games last season.
“They’re phenomenal players,” Brady said. “Those two guys are factors on every play.”
RECEIVING ADVANTAGE: The Patriots’ passing game has improved in their four games since a 41-14 loss at Kansas City. In last Sunday’s 51-23 rout of Chicago, Brandon LaFell had career-highs of 11 catches for 124 yards and Gronkowski caught nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Manning has more dangerous options with tight end Julius Thomas, tied for the NFL lead with nine touchdowns, and wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker. Sanders had three touchdown receptions in the previous game, a 35-21 win over San Diego.
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: Denver has lost its past four games in Foxborough since winning in 2006. They led there 24-0 at halftime last November, but the Patriots staged their biggest comeback in history and won 34-31 in overtime.
“It’s Tom Brady,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “He turns the game up to a whole other notch in New England.”
At home, Brady is 87-13 in regular-season starts and the Patriots have won their past 13 games, the longest current streak in the NFL.
REPLACEMENT RUNNER: Denver’s Ronnie Hillman rushed for more than 100 yards in two of his past three games as a replacement for Montee Ball, out with a torn right groin.
New England’s Stevan Ridley is out after suffering a season-ending knee injury. In his place, Jonas Gray, more of a straight-ahead runner than Hillman, rushed for 89 yards against the Bears in his second NFL game after spending this season on the Patriots practice squad.
AFC TITLE GAME PREVIEW?: The Broncos beat the Patriots 26-16 last season in the AFC championship game in Denver. If there’s a rematch, the result of Sunday’s game would help determine home-field advantage.
“I think both teams understand how big this game is,” Sanders said, “and that’s the reason we want it.”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.