Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet again in the AFC Championship game on Sunday in Denver.
Normally, this game would have “classic” written all over it, but Sunday could represent a significant change in philosophies for both teams.
Sure, both quarterbacks are locks for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brady is a three-time Super Bowl winner, while Manning has won the big game once. But unlike past seasons, in this season, both teams were carried to the conference title game by something other than their superstar signal callers.
The Denver Broncos set an NFL regular season record in scoring but needed a stellar defensive effort to hold off the San Diego Chargers in their 24-17 win on Sunday.
Manning threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t a typically dominating performance by Manning, who tossed an interception and needed to throw 36 passes to get to 230 yards.
Manning acknowledged the big role his teammates played this season. “It’s the Broncos versus the Patriots, and certainly Tom and I have played against each other a lot,” Manning told reporters. “But when you get to the AFC Championship, it’s about two good teams that have been through a lot to get there.”
As for the Patriots, could the culture of their franchise be changing? The Patriots were buoyed by the running of LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s 43-22 win over the Colts.
Blount was only the second player in NFL history to have four or more rushing touchdowns in a playoff game.
Brady, who threw for 198 yards and no touchdowns in the game, has been the forgotten man recently. It was the third straight game during which he has failed to throw for 200 yards. However, that doesn’t mean the Broncos should overlook Brady, who threw for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Patriots’ 34-31 overtime home win over Denver on Nov. 24.