Ten years ago this week, the nation was bracing for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to clash for the first time in the postseason in the AFC title game. While much has changed in the sports world since Jan. 18, 2004, a day when Ty Law picked off Manning three times in a 24-14 Patriots win, one thing remains in place - Brady and Manning are the class of the American Football Conference when it comes to quarterback play. The two old rivals will square this coming Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey on the line.
Manning and the Broncos held off the Chargers Sunday in Denver, 24-17, as Manning threw for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Brady was pedestrian in the Pats’ 43-22 win over the Colts this past Saturday night, throwing for 198 yards on 13-of-25 passing. He did not throw a pick or a touchdown and posted a 78.4 passer rating.
While Brady has dominated the head-to-head matchup against Manning (a 10-4 overall record), it’s worth noting that the two haven’t squared off in the postseason since January of 2007 when Manning’s Colts came back to stun the Pats, 38-34, in the conference title game. And while the perception is that Brady owns Manning in the postseason, the two have met just three times, with No. 12 holding a 2-1 advantage over No. 18.
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The Patriots will be on the road in the AFC title game for the first time since the loss to the Colts. The Pats are 2-1 in the Brady/Bill Belichick era in road AFC Championship games, having beaten the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh. Manning will be playing in his first AFC title game since the 2009 season, when his Colts beat the Jets, 30-17, in Indy.
It has been 1,520 days since Manning beat Brady in a head-to-head matchup as the Colts won the renowned “fourth-and-2” game, 35-34, in Indy.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS