Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a combined age of 75, yet advanced age didn’t prevent the pair from throwing 110 passes between them in their 11th regular season—and 15th overall—matchup. New England and Denver both dispensed with the running game early, with Brady and Manning clearly competing with each other for air superiority.
After throwing for a career low of 150 yards in last year’s game against New England, Manning threw for 438 yards in this year’s game, a career best against the Patriots. But those are just the usual padding of the stats for Manning; after falling behind 27-7 at halftime, the Denver Broncos scored two quick touchdowns sandwiched in between Manning’s second interception, and then lost the ball on downs three times in the fourth quarter.
Brady, meanwhile, did all that was necessary—that is to say, do what Manning failed to do, which was take advantage of all his scoring opportunities. The Patriots scored on seven of their first nine possessions. Brady stayed with Manning statistically until the game was well in hand, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns in one of the more decisive victories in the series, 43-21.
While it isn’t exactly true that Brady has “owned” Manning in the playoffs after winning their first two meetings before losing the second two, it is fair to say that this suggestion is somewhat true during their regular season matchups. The Patriots with Brady as quarterback are now 9-3 against Manning-led teams during the regular season. But despite the margin of wins over losses, the Patriots have only outscored the Manning teams 385 to 311, a margin of less than seven points per game—so they at least have been mostly entertaining affairs.
Statistically, it shouldn’t be surprising that in raw number Manning still has the edge. In 12 regular season games, Manning is 301 of 478 passing for 3585 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Brady is 282 of 417 passing for 3123 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It is clear, however, that a cursory examination of these numbers shows that Brady has been more efficient. Manning has a passer rating of 92.1, while Brady has a rather more impressive 100.2 rating; in fact, while Manning’s rating against the Patriots is well below his career average, Brady’s rating against Manning teams is higher than his career average.