by Mike Garafolo, USA TODAY Sports
FOXBORO, Mass. - Take it from Archie Manning, who says Peyton and Tom Brady should feel very fortunate to have participated in one of the NFL's best rivalries over the years.
Archie, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback with the 35-101-3 career record, never experienced anything like the games Brady's New England Patriots have had against Peyton's Indianapolis Colts and, this coming Sunday, the Denver Broncos.
"We weren't good enough to have rivals," a laughing Archie told USA TODAY Sportsthis week. "Right now, they're probably both too focused and have too much to do to get ready to play a ballgame, but one day both of them will look back on this and be proud of it. Just the fact they played in an era where they both had a lot of success in games that meant something, drew a lot of attention, the networks pushed it and people wrote about it.
"It's really a credit to both of them."
Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium will mark the 13th matchup - 10 in the regular season, three in the playoffs - between Manning and Brady. That's an incredible number when you consider how Dan Marino and John Elway faced each other only twice in the regular season and once in the playoffs in the 16 years they were in the league together.
Yeah, yeah, we hear the rhetoric about how Manning and Brady are actually facing each others' defensive teammates, but even the Patriots' defensive players understand the magnitude of this matchup and why it'll be good for everyone to see Manning back on the same field as Brady after his neck issue threatened his career.
"Peyton's been a big-time competitor. He wants to win, every throw he wants to be perfect, he wants to have the perfect play," Pats defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "It's special to have someone on the team like that. We have one in Tom. ... This week, we get the chance to see two quarterbacks at that level that love to compete and hate to lose.
"It's going to be a pretty good show."
The show began in 2001 with Brady, an overlooked former sixth-round pick making his first career start in place of the injured Drew Bledsoe, walking up to Manning during warm-ups before a 44-13 Patriots victory.
"I went over there and he said, 'Hey, I'm Peyton Manning,'" Brady recalled this week. "I was like 'Of course. I know that.'"
Manning wasn't in a reflective mood this week and gave Denver-area reporters what he admitted was a "boring" answer when he played the "team game" card.
But Archie knows Peyton surely understands how special this one is.
"I always tell my kids you live to play in big games," Archie said. "The Bronco-Patriot rivalry has been good anyway. But there was the Colts and Patriots and now this. It's good for football."
And bad for defenses.
Manning has 24 touchdowns against Brady-led teams, with a total of 15 in their last six meetings. Meanwhile, Brady's 68.8% completion percentage against the Colts is his highest rate against any of the 11 opponents he's faced five or more times.
"I'm not saying that I'm real excited about having to face him again," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Manning.
Forget the new uniform and the questions about arm strength, the Pats say. To them, it's the same old Manning running the same old effective plays.
"It's a lot of stuff he's accustomed to, a lot of stuff that made him Peyton Manning," Wilfork said. "It's very successful and won him a Super Bowl running it. When you have a guy like that, you have to be able to change up (the offense), and Denver's done a real good job of letting him come in and do what he does best, letting him run things the way he knows how to run it.
"Not saying they totally threw away their game plan or what they did have. But you have to respect a guy at that level, and they have."
Considering Manning's 4-8 record against Brady, including two postseason losses, he surely respects Belichick's Patriots.
"My guess, looking at their schedule, is he could probably pick four or five teams he'd rather be playing than them," Archie said with a laugh. "But I think he knows it's been kind of a special thing through the years."