Sunday night, the national highlight NFL game was “Brady-Manning XIV,” the 14th matchup between the two living legends Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. This was probably the most hyped up game of the season as these two quarterbacks are constantly in the discussion of the best in the league and the best ever. This was to be the most epic battle of this regular season, and it was. It ended up having the highest viewership of any Sunday night game in 17 years!
Most Patriots fans gave up on the game in the first half or at half-time as New England couldn’t finish a drive without turning the ball over on a fumble. At the half, the Patriots were down 24-0 to the most productive offense this season and it looked to be a loss. The worst part of it for New England was that they had been beating themselves. It wasn’t Peyton Manning dominating that led to their first 24 points. Rather, it was the numerous turnovers by the Patriots, the first of which was run back for a touchdown.
Still, I did not give up. On that note, I wish you other Patriots fans and Boston sports fans would do the same. I hate watching our teams with friends and hearing them say a game is over because our team is so far behind. While there are cases where you can be pretty sure it’s over, and I understand the feeling, I’m superstitious, so I feel that negative vibes can contribute to a team losing. I guess it can’t, because I’ve seen our teams make some huge comebacks even with people saying it was going to be a loss, but it still messes with my hopeful and believe-in-the-team mentality and I don’t like it. So cut it out!
Anyways, I still had faith in the Patriots, and it paid off. This game was definitely a tale of two halves as it completely turned around. In the second half, the Broncos started turning it over themselves and gave us a chance. Then, thanks to Tom Brady’s elite bad weather quarterbacking skills, we were able to make a comeback, score 31 unanswered points, take the lead at one point, and eventually finish regulation tied at 31. Bill Belichick then made one of those calls that makes you cringe, like going for it on 4th and short.. He won the coin toss to start overtime and rather than choosing to take the ball first, he chose to give it to Manning and the Broncos, but force them to go into the wind (which averaged about 20mph all night). Luckily it turned out to be the right call as the Broncos could not score on their first drive and had to punt. The battle of field position went on for almost the full overtime. Then, with just two minutes left, the Patriots punted. Wes Welker was back to make the catch, tried to call off his team from trying, but was too late. One of the Broncos players was already there and couldn’t avoid the ball. It bounced off of his leg and the Patriots recovered the ball. This setup a 31 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. He nailed it and won the game! He has now made 26 field goals on 27 attempts (96.3%)! One of those was his new career-long of 54 yards!
This was not only the biggest comeback in Patriots franchise history, it was one for the ages.. With this win, the Patriots became only the 6th team out of 491 to win after trailing at by at least 24 at the half!! As epic as this was, I always knew that the Patriots had a better chance of winning, before the game and even when we fell behind. Why is this? Because we have Tom Brady. He’s not just because he’s in the conversation for best quarterback ever, but because he can play in ANY conditions.. And Peyton Manning most certainly cannot. There are a ton of stats to support this, but the most telling is that in below freezing temperatures, Brady is 23-5 and Manning is 1-6. This game hit 6°F with wind chill. You’ll notice in that stat that Manning has way less cold weather games.. That in itself is telling of the fact that Manning is great in the regular season, but once it comes to the playoffs, which is typically when it gets cold, he doesn’t get very far.
So what does this mean?
This huge win, against the team that many have and still do pick as the favorite to win the Super Bowl, means that the Patriots are for real this season. Yes, they started out slowly, but that was mainly due to key offensive players being injured (many on defense still are) and rookie receivers still learning the system. Now we have our offense going, and regardless of the best defensive players being injured (many out for the season), we have been able to put together wins. Further, the losses we have had were due to mistakes that you would expect not to see later in the season and the playoffs as the team will have worked on those issues. They’ve been beating teams that they were expected to lose to. They are for real!
Next, and more important to Patriots fans, this win reaffirms that Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning. Brady is now 10-4 against Manning. Admittedly, when they are both retired, Manning will have better stats than Brady in many categories. However, those categories are not the ones that matter when it comes to Super Bowls, long postseason runs, and big games. Yes, Manning is a stats machine in the regular season (much like Drew Brees, who Brady is also better than for the same reasons), but when it comes to the playoffs and/or cold weather, he is nowhere near as good as Brady. This game was a perfect example. It was a big game for both teams and it was very cold out. So how did it turn out? …
* Tom Brady: completed 34 of 50 passes for 344 yards, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. Julian Edelman had two touchdown receptions, Rob Gronkowski had one, and Brandon Bolden had a rushing touchdown.
* Peyton Manning: only completed 19 of 36 passes for 150 yards, threw two touchdowns and one interception (and it would’ve been two but there was a terrible pass interference call that cancelled it out). He also had lots of help from Patriots turnovers.
…Basically, Brady was twice as good as Manning in this game and this is how it will tend to be in big and/or bad weather games.
Lastly on this point, Manning has always had a huge cast of star receivers to work with. While Brady has had a few season with some stars, he has also had great success with a mediocre receiving core. This was highlighted in this game as Manning had big names like Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas, while Brady had one big name in Rob Gronkowski, a guy who we wish could be even half as productive as Welker in Danny Amendola, and a bunch of rookies, many of which were undrafted. Tom Brady can be effective and even great in any weather, any amount of importance to the game, and any roster. TOM BRADY > PEYTON MANNING
What the fu…mble?
This game was pretty ridiculous in terms of ball control. There was a total of 11 fumbles! The Patriots had six, all in the first half, and turned over three of them. Luckily things evened out in the second half as the Broncos had five of their own. So obviously it was very hard to hold onto the ball in that cold weather. Still, I have to rant for a minute about Patriots “star” running back Stevan Ridley..
Oh, Ridley. He is a great runner.. except he’s been fumbling like crazy this season! If you look at the number of fumbles to carries, it’s not a bad percentage, but the issue is that they always seem to be in big spots. In this game, the Patriots started with some great momentum. They kept the Broncos to one first down and then a three and out on their first drive. Then they drove up the field themselves and were looking good.. That is until Ridley decided to do a spin move, only holding the ball with one arm, and going right up the middle. If he could’ve not done any one of those things he may have held on to it, but no, he made a risky move and the ball got knocked out of his hands and went flying. Denver recovered it and that set the tone for the whole first half.
I’m torn between wanting to keep him and wanting to trade him. He is definitely the best running back we have. He’s very fast and is great at making moves to gain extra yards.. and the running game is very important to the passing game.. I just don’t know. I don’t get why he hasn’t learned. Yes, I understand he’s usually trying to make a move around a defender when the ball gets knocked out of his grip, but shouldn’t he have concluded by now that putting both arms around the ball and maybe not getting the extra yard is way better than risking it and turning the ball over to the other team?
An effective running game is a necessity in order to make sure that Tom Brady’s play-action passing offense continues to keep opposing defenses wondering. But is Stevan Ridley the right guy? We also have Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen.. and they are both good.. LeGarrette Blount is pretty good too.. We just don’t know how good and how consistent as these guys don’t get many reps. What do you think the Patriots should do about Ridley and the running game? I’m torn. I kind of want to play Bolden and Vereen and bench Ridley at least for awhile, then if those guys are good enough, move on from Ridley. Still, Ridley definitely has skills so I also sort of want to have him play through it, get something like 150 yards next week against the Texans, and rebuild his confidence. I don’t know. Trust in Belichick?
Here’s a video of the highlights from the game:
Here’s a play-by-play recap:
Thanks for reading,
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