Football, really covering sports in general, is all about trends. Finding, analyzing, reporting — it all goes back to the trend.
Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s 16th meeting this past Sunday resulting in a Patriot (7-2) 43-21 victory over the Broncos (6-2) in Foxboro continued the pattern formed over the course of this historic matchup.
Brady leads the rivalry 11-5, capturing on Sunday his fourth win in the past five meetings, but contention between which of the two are the best to ever play the position is incessant as always. That is, if they are in fact better than Montana — cite four Super Bowl wins to Brady’s three and Manning’s one.
Despite the lopsided win margin, heading in to Sunday’s game both quarterbacks were performing well. Manning has actually performed better in the first half of the season, completing 69 percent of his passes, with 2,134 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions, compared to Brady’s 64-percent completion rate, 2,059 yards, 18 scores and two picks.
Nevertheless, the Patriots had outscored the Broncos by three scores at the end of the first half and continued to prove themselves the better team the entirety of the night.
Two of the Patriot’s three first half touchdowns came on the arm of Brady, first on a five-yard strike to Edelmen and then another five-yard pass to Vereen as only a few seconds remained in the half.
Manning struck first in the second half, scoring on an 18-yard hookup with Julian Thomas. Brady quickly answered on a 10-yard pass to Lafell, but Manning, fighting tooth-and-nail to what would eventually be no avail, hit his fill-in running back Ronnie Hillman for the 15-yard touchdown.
One last time Brady would score in the fourth quarter, dumping the ball to Gronkowski (nine catches, 105 yards, 1 TD) for the 1-yard touchdown. This score combined with the Lafell connection builds on last week’s flawless performance hosting Chicago in a 51-23 win.
Brady completed 20 of his 20 attempts to Lafell and Gronkowski. Lafell caught 11 Brady passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, while the Gronk had nine receptions, 149 yards and three scores in the win.
Likewise, on Sunday Manning continued to turn to Emanuel Sanders (10 catches, 151 yards), who is becoming one of his more frequent targets, recording four 100-plus-yards receiving games.
Brady ended up with a 78.2 QBR, 333 yards, four touchdowns and one pick. Manning actually bested his rival in yards with 438 total but lacked in the facets where it truly mattered, scoring only two touchdowns and throwing two interceptions to earn a 54.3 QBR.
Manning’s Broncos were 0-4 on fourth down conversions, gave up big plays and points in the special teams and turned the ball over more than its opponent.
No matter which quarterback is better, a stat line like this will lose a game every time.
In my opinion, an 11-5 face-to-face record in favor of Brady easily raises him above Manning. Maybe Brady’s pure skill set isn’t equal to the seemingly-mechanized delivery and presence of mind Manning possesses, but in crunch time the smart money is on the guy with three Super Bowl rings — not one.
After all, of all the trends in sports, winning is the most important.