Before we look ahead to this Sunday’s AFC Championship matchup between the Broncos and Patriots, we must look back. We must revisit Super Bowl XLII, a matchup that pitted the undefeated New England Patriots and New York Giants. The reason? This is where Tom Brady’s postseason dominance started to diminish.
Looking at Super Bowl XLII, Patriot fans start asking “what if?” What if Asante Samuel intercepted the ball that went off his finger tips in the final moments of the game? What if David Tyree didn’t catch that backyard-football type of throw from Eli Manning? This game could have cemented Tom Brady’s legacy as the GREATEST quarterback of all time right then and there in Glendale, Arizona.
However, that is not the case as the Patriots failed to capture that elusive fourth Super Bowl title under the Brady/Belichick regime and have been chasing that title ever since. Since the defeat in Super Bowl XLII the Patriots are 4-4 in postseason play, including another Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2012. The 4-4 records can be described as a massive under achievement compared to the first four years under the Brady/Belichick regime.
While every sports analyst across the nation is looking at Peyton Manning’s postseason woes, the Patriots don’t have that much to hang their hat on. A 4-4 record since the Super Bowl XLII is very mediocre, and one could argue that Brady has as much if not MORE pressure than Peyton Manning on Sunday.
Manning has the opportunity on Sunday to prove sports analysts, and fans across the nation wrong by showing he can win when it matters. It will get Peyton on step closer to his second Super Bowl ring, and a chance to cement himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. And what better way to do it then against his greatest rival Tom Brady. Early in his career Brady haunted Manning, going 0-7 in his first seven trips to Foxboro, but since then Manning has found ways to defeat the Patriots and make their rivalry very compelling.
Sunday, Tom Brady has a chance to not only end the never-ending-debate of Manning vs. Brady, but he takes one more step to restoring his legacy as one of the great postseason players in NFL history. A loss for Brady in either the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl will be a big hit for Brady’s legacy. It will damage his reputation as a great postseason quarterback and questions about his postseason play will begin to boil over.
Since Super Bowl XLII, Brady and Manning have been all too similar. Great regular season numbers, but in the end both have fallen short come postseason play. On Sunday, one will receive all the praise from the media and fans as one of, if not, the greatest quarterback in NFL history. For the other, more questions will come about how great they truly are.
Hopefully Peyton doesn’t ask little brother Eli to teach him that backyard throw that still haunts Patriot fans.