It will be a dark day in the NFL when quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning turn in their helmets and shoulder pads. That’s because these two titans have combined to win four Super Bowls in six tries, and are still the premier signal-callers.
When these gunslingers met last Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, each rose to the challenge, but it was Brady and New England who outlasted Manning and Indianapolis, 31-28.
It was decided when Manning was intercepted in the waning moments while trying to guide the Colts into scoring position.
The Patriots (8-2) kept pace with the New York Jets in the AFC East, and the Colts (6-4) fell into a tie with Jacksonville in the AFC South.
Now Brady, a three-time champion, has tied Brett Favre, then with Green Bay, with 25 consecutive regular-season home victories.
These two clubs have now faced each other eight straight times in the regular season, and as usual it boiled down to Brady versus Manning, the only four-time Most Valuable Player.
Brady enjoyed one distinct advantage – a stronger running attack that was made glaring by the absence of Joseph Addai, the Colts’ top ground-gainer.
Backed by a ground game that produced 168 yards, Brady didn’t need to throw as often as Manning, hitting 19 of 25 passes for 186 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Pacing New England’s assault was Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, who carried the ball 21 times for 96 yards. Danny Woodhead carved up the Colts’ defense for 69 yards on seven rushes, adding a 36-yard scoring dash late in the third quarter that made it 28-14, and capped off a 79-yard, nine-play trek.
When Brady found his receivers, they made the most of it. Brady’s first scoring pass went to slot man Wes Welker (58 yards and five catches) for 22 yards with 8:00 left in the first quarter, pushing New England to a 7-0 lead. Manning’s pick led to the score.
Brady’s second touchdown toss went to tight end Aaron Hernandez early in the second quarter, made it 14-0, and closed out a 15-play, 82-yard drive.
The Colts were limited to nine yards rushing in the first half, and 71 yards overall, as Donald Brown had 68 yards on 17 carries.
Not being able to move the ball via the ground makes it easier for the defense to predict what’s coming. Throw enough, even for one as gifted as Manning, and you’re simply asking for trouble. It showed as the one-time University of Tennessee star threw three interceptions.
Still, Manning (38 of 52 attempts for 396 yards) delivered four touchdowns, but fell just short at the end.
Manning found eight different receivers, and connected with tight end Gijon Robinson on a one-yard scoring pass with 7:53 showing in the second quarter that ended a 69-yard, 11-play march as the Colts closed to within 14-7. He also nailed Reggie Wayne with an 11-yard pass just before the half to make it 21-14.
Manning tossed two touchdown passes to wide receiver Blair White (42 yards and five receptions) in the fourth quarter.
The first was a five-yard pass and just under eight minutes left in the game to make it a 10-point spread, and slightly more than three minutes later, Manning unloaded an 18-yard toss. Each drive went 73 yards and took seven plays.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.