When the Broncos and Patriots face off at Gillette Stadium Sunday night, it will be the 14the meeting between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Tom Brady has come out on the winning end nine times, although Peyton Manning has thrown for more yards and touchdowns.
And according to the ESPN Stats & Info folks, seven of the previous 13 games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The most recent matchup was last season, when the Patriots had little trouble dispensing with the Broncos, 31-21. And it wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate; New England jumped out to a 31-7 lead. The previous matchup was three years before, in 2009. That was the game coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it on 4th-and-2, came up this short, and the Colts (remember when Manning played in Indy?) won a squeaker, 35-34. They would go on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl that season, eventually losing to the Saints.
But for all the hype surrounding this game, Brady wants to be clear that this isn't about two of the NFL's best quarterbacks facing off, it's about two teams leading their division trying to best position themselves for a deep playoff run.
"I don’t have [to] play against him," Brady said Wednesday, via the Boston Globe. "I think that’s the thing. It’s more of the defense that plays against him. You realize that when you play a good team, another good quarterback, that you’re going to have to score a lot of points.
"We try to score points anyway, but this is a very good football team, led by a great quarterback, one of the best of all time. I’m excited to see how we do. It’s early in the week."
The Broncos are the NFL's most explosive offense, and Brady was asked to compare them with the 2007 Pats' O, a group that was every bit Denver's equal.
"I think a lot of that, when you’re going through it, you don’t realize how good it is until you really step back and reflect on it," Brady said of 2007. "That was, I know, a great year for us.
"You watch what these guys are doing and they have better numbers than we had. It’s incredible to score points like that. They have a lot of guys that can make plays with the ball. Everybody contributes, that’s what good offenses do. The backs contribute, the tight end contributes, the receivers contribute. They’re all scoring touchdowns. It’s not like you can just go in and stop one guy. Our defense has its work cut out.
"Offensively, we know we have to go out and score a lot of points. We can’t have a lot of three-and-outs and certainly turnovers give them extra possessions to score because the teams that have done that have really gotten blown out. You turn it over and give them extra possessions; you’re going to have a very hard time winning."
Unlike the recent get-togethers, Brady won't have one of his favorite receivers. Wes Welker wasn't re-signed this offseason and he's now with -- wait for it -- the Broncos. But Brady isn't surprised by Welker's success in Denver.
"Well, he's got a great understanding of the game and coverages, defenses, how to run routes, how to set up routes," Brady said. "I know that he's got great awareness and you can see with those two already, I've seen a lot of their games and their offense and they do a great job and they have a great connection."
It also doesn't hurt to have Manning throwing him the ball.