By Nick Shepkowski-
(CBS) — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet on Sunday for the 15th time in their NFL careers. Brady’s first start after replacing the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 came against Manning’s Colts, a game New England won 44-13 before eventually going on to win that year’s Super Bowl.
The two have combined for a 343-136 record as starting quarterbacks, thrown for over 126,000 yards and 850 touchdowns while racking up six regular season MVP awards and three more in Super Bowl play. We’ll see them meet in the postseason for the fourth time on Sunday and it’s safe to say it’ll be a long while before we see an NFL quarterback rivalry quite like this one.
The two will end up in Canton shortly after their careers are over and we’ll hear praise about both likely for days after Sunday’s AFC Championship. But let’s think beyond them for just a minute. With them having played 14 games against each other, that’s just shy of a full regular season worth of games. Who were the other stars and who else had memorable performances in these 14 games?
Funny you ask, as I have compiled all the stats from the 14 career meetings (download a PDF of the stats here or click on the images below to enlarge):
There have been 997 passes attempted in games Brady and Manning squared off in with the superstar quarterbacks combining to throw 980 of those. The other 17 attempts: Mark Rypien went 5/9 as a Colt in 2001 while Doug Flutie was 3/7 as a Patriot in 2005. The only other was thrown by David Patten on a 60 yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown in 2001.
Reggie Wayne has played in more of these Brady/Manning showdowns than any other skill-player with 11. As you probably would guess, he leads all in receptions and receiving yards in these games as well with 57 receptions for 763. His five touchdown receptions are, however, second most to Marvin Harrison who pulled down seven in nine games. Randy Moss would be ranked higher on these lists had he played more than just two games but his plenty respectable 18 receptions for 324 yards and 3 TD still puts him near the top. He’s joined by Wes Welker, who has caught passes from both quarterbacks, and sits tied with Deion Branch, Marcus Pollard, David Patten and Julian Edelman with three touchdown receptions as well. Dan Klecko won Super Bowl rings with both quarterbacks but made his one reception in the series count for one yard and a score in the 2006 matchup.
When it comes to running the football two guys really set themselves apart from the others in this series. Edgerrin James’ 649 rushing yards are 283 more than Corey Dillon who comes in second and his 169 carries more than double the second ranked Dillon’s 70. Dillon’s three rushing touchdowns do best Edge’s but still leave Dillon tied with the likes of Joseph Addai and the ever-mobile Peyton Manning for the most rushing scores.
The most entertaining rushers on the list? Easy: Tom Brady’s 41 career carries for 31 yards (and two scores) and Mike Cloud, who’s five carries resulted in 1 total yard gained but two scores for the Patriots in 2003.
As for the defensive side of the bal,l a few memorable names find their ways to the top of the list. Mike Vrabel’s seven sacks of Peyton Manning are more than anyone else in series play. As for Indy’s explosive defensive ends, you’ll find Robert Mathis second on the list with five and Dwight Freeney tied for third with four. Von Miller, who has played in just two of these games, has taken down Brady four times.
Ty Law sits atop the interception list as he took away four Manning passes (you may remember three of those coming in the 2003 AFC Championship Game). Rodney Harrison and Antoine Bethea are the only others to pick off three passes. Bears fans may be surprised to know both Walt Harris and Brandon Meriweather picked off the likes of Manning and Brady once each as well in this series.
Regardless of who wins Sunday’s AFC Championship it’ll be Chapter 15 in the Brady vs. Manning Story with the winner going to the eight Super Bowl between the two. Sunday in Denver the storylines will be all about the Canton-bound quarterbacks but don’t forget some of the others that have played a large part of making this one of the best sports rivalries of all-time.
Nick Shepkowski is a weekend host at 670 The Score in Chicago and a producer on The McNeil and Spiegel Show, weekdays from 9a-1p. You can follow his thoughts on daily happenings on Twitter @Shep670.