Because of Course It Would Be Brady vs. Manning: Patriots, Broncos Advance to AFC Championship
For what will be the 17th time between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will once again battle for supremacy of the NFL’s AFC Conference, as both QBs led their teams to victories in the Divisional Round of the playoffs this weekend. First, on Saturday, the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots ended the Kansas City Chiefs 11-game winning streak in a 27-20 victory at home in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Led by Brady, who threw two touchdowns to star tight end Rob Gronkowski returning to the lineup, the Patriots shut down the red-hot Chiefs to advance to their fifth straight AFC Championship game. The last time these two teams faced off was last season when the Chiefs dismantled the Patriots during a 41-14 rout on Monday night. That loss put much doubt in the mind’s of commentators about the future of the Patriots and many wondered if Brady was finally starting to show signs of aging. But the loss ended up sparking a 7-game winning streak and the team would lose only two more games all season on their way to a fourth Super Bowl championship. The return of Gronkowski, along with wide receiver Julian Edelman, has the Patriots “clicking” again as they try for a second straight trip to the Super Bowl. “The chemistry was clicking,” said Gronkowski after the game. “It’s a great feeling.” To get to the Super Bowl however, the Patriots will need to travel to Denver to face-off against the Broncos and Peyton Manning, a team that looked like it didn’t have much chemistry to start their matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon. In the first half of Sunday’s game, the Broncos’ receivers dropped five Manning passes as the team managed to put up only nine points by halftime. But in a play that – should the Broncos earn a place in Super Bowl 50 – will be remembered as the turning point, with Denver down one, future Hall of Famer Manning narrowly avoided a sack to find a wide open Emanuel Sanders for 34 yards. That play helped set up the go-ahead touchdown and Denver went on to beat Pittsburgh, 23-16 at home. Manning, in his 18th year in the league and coming through one of his worst seasons statistically speaking, rallied his team for a second straight game to a victory. And now, he and Brady find themselves in a familiar position. In the previous 16 meetings between the two, Brady has emerged victorious 11 times, but only four of those games have been in the postseason, where each quarterback has won twice. Now, as possibly the final chapter plays out between the two, it seems a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest rivalries in sports’ history. For Brady, another trip to the Super Bowl and a chance to become the only QB in history to win five rings would for now provide a clear answer to the question, “Who is the greatest QB of all time?” For Manning, dogged by criticism that he could never win the big games, one final go would be a fitting, storybook conclusion to a career that will forever be remembered. The AFC Championship game is Sunday, January 24, at 3 p.m. eastern on CBS.