BRADY-MANNING XIV

Whenever Tom Brady plays Peyton Manning it’s fun.  Whether you’re a fan of either of them or neither of them, just simply being a fan of the NFL means a game including these two will stir up more interest than others.

The NFL themselves and all their broadcasters enjoyed hyping up the game and making it as big as possible.  The game was even given its own title…in roman numerals!  The equally grand and humorous title appeared everywhere: ‘BRADY-MANNING XIV’ – This being the 14th time the two quarterbacks had faced each other, you see?

It was inevitable these legendary quarterbacks would dominate the build-up, but knowing the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos have so much talent all over the field, this had the making of a classic.  And it certainly turned into one.

It was surely part of the game plan before kickoff that both defenses would try to make thing very difficult for Brady and Manning.  And it was the Broncos defense who flew out of the gates early, straightaway returning a fumble for a touchdown.  Then after forcing two more fumbles from the Patriots it was suddenly 17-0 to the Broncos after just one quarter and more problems for New England meant a half time score of Broncos 24-0 Patriots.

Like many watching I was slightly stunned, of course each team has the quality to pull away from the other but the overriding thoughts at the time were that this was too easy for the Broncos, and the Patriots are the home team. ‘BRADY-MANNING XIV’ is not becoming the hard fought battle everyone was expecting.  Manning and the Denver offense has not had to play so hard for a 24-point lead, Tom Brady seems uninterested and close to half of the home fans have seen enough and headed for the exits by half time.

Then it got fun…unless you’re a Denver Broncos fan.

Tom Brady began the second half with a perfect drive to get the Patriots their first score and soon they had another touchdown and were back in the game.  The Patriots coaches had also identified how to improve things, specifically their defense, with the likes of Chandler Jones and Brandon Spikes coming in and out of the game and causing all sorts of problems for Manning.  By the end of the third quarter the Patriots were only three points down – 24-21.

Throughout the game it was the running game, not the passing game of Manning, that was working best and getting the most yards for the Broncos offense.  Then right at the start of the fourth quarter Manning decided to throw on 1st and 10…and it was intercepted.  Three plays later Brady threw another touchdown and the Patriots were now leading – comeback complete!  Much like the Patriots did in the first half, it was now the Broncos helping to give their opponents points with turnovers.

After a New England field goal, Peyton Manning showed he wasn’t beaten.  He produced a nice touchdown drive and levelled the game, which finished 31-31 and ‘BRADY-MANNING XIV’ went into overtime.

In overtime neither team looked like they wanted to win it, or rather both teams were trying not to lose it.  Maybe they were all, as I’m sure many Broncos fans were, shocked that this game had even gone to overtime after the way the first half went.  By this point I would not have blamed Broncos fans for thinking it just wasn’t turning into their night.  Then unfortunately that was proved correct as Denver muffed a punt return and the Patriots recovered it in field goal range.  Two plays later Stephen Gostkowski kicked the field goal and gave the New England Patriots a huge comeback win – 34-31.

As a neutral, it was one of the best NFL matches I have ever watched and amusingly ‘BRADY-MANNING XIV’ had lived up to all the overhype after all.  It just should be noted that everybody else involved played their part too.  WHAT A GAME.

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