According to MMQB’s Peter King, former Indianapolis Colts great Peyton Manning only showed a great degree of reverence to the New England Patriots legendary quarterback and coaching combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick following the Denver Broncos 20-18 AFC Championship Game victory on Sunday:
"After the clock hit zero, Manning had a 12-second moment with Brady, and another almost as long with Belichick, amid the crush on the field.“I really feel that when everybody tries to analyze me versus Tom and me versus Belichick, I think it’s more about enjoying the games and the rivalry,” Manning said. “And today I hope everybody enjoyed that game. I know I enjoyed being there. That’s what I told Tom and Bill—that I’ve enjoyed this game and I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’ve enjoyed the rivalry and all the games we’ve been in. It’s been such an honor to play against both of them. This is my seventeenth time playing against the Patriots with Tom at quarterback. It’s my 24th against Belichick as head coach or defensive coordinator. I can’t shake either one of them. They are always there. They’re always standing between me and where our team wants to go. What a rivalry. It’s been such a big part of my career. So I wanted to take the time to pass that along to them, with how much respect I have for both of them.”"
As Manning noted, this was the 17th time that he and the Brady and Belichick combination have squared off. While Brady and Belichick have won 11 of those times to Manning’s 6 wins, it’s been the latter who’s actually gotten the better of Brady and Belichick come playoff time.
Specifically, Manning is now 3-1 against Brady and Belichick in the AFC Championship Game, and 3-2 in the playoffs versus the combination overall.
Of course, Colts fans will always remember the Colts falling against Brady and Belichick’s Patriots in Foxborough in back-to-back playoffs in 2003 and 2004.
Only to see Manning’s Colts finally exorcise their Patriots demons en route to an improbable 18-point comeback victory in the 2006 AFC Championship Game at the RCA Dome–leading to an eventual Super Bowl XLI Championship.
Overall with the Colts, Manning played Brady 12 times, winning 4 times–including the aforementioned 2006 AFC Championship Game. He was 1-2 in the playoffs with the Colts against Brady and Belichick.
There’s no doubt it’s been one of the greatest rivalries in football history. A modern day chess match between some of the NFL’s truly great all-time heavyweights.
It was one that started on September 30, 2001, and very well may have just ended on Sunday–spanning 5,230 days or 14 years, 3 months, and 26 days.
UPDATE (1:42 PM EST): NFL Network audio reportedly picked up Manning telling Belichick, “Hey, this might be my last rodeo, so it sure has been a pleasure.”