The Sheriff & the Golden Boy: Take 17
by Amy Lignor
Everyone has talked about it…and talked about it…and talked about it. Yes. We get the picture. Tom Brady, the illustrious QB who is playing in the AFC Championship for the fifth time, is meeting up with Peyton Manning. Manning…a dying breed. One of the ‘best of the best’ who everyone wants to see grasp that Lombardi just one more time before riding into the sunset, leaving behind an incredible career that no one will ever forget.
The Patriots walked into Mile High to play this, the 17th match-up between Golden Boy/Psycho Tom Brady and Sheriff Peyton Manning, with all their ducks in a row. Gronkowski who all defenses fear was on the gridiron. Amendola, Edelman – you name the ‘star’ and Tom Brady had him to throw to. On the other side, you had the best defense this season and a QB whose shots have been a little wobbly once in a while (although, it’s not really his fault that when he’s right on target his teammates still perform the dropsies). But Manning is also one of the greatest minds in football. You can bet he studied long and hard leading up to this game, learning everything there was to learn about the cute little things that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick (great mind #2) was planning to throw at him.
It felt like a legendary game. All everyone across the country could think about was whether Manning would end his career at the 50th Super Bowl ever played; or if Tom Brady would get the chance to play for his fifth Super Bowl ring. Either way, the legacies of these two men were set in stone far before the game began. Their deliverance into the Hall of Fame is not in question. But what picture would you really want to have hanging up in your home? Peyton holding the 50th Lombardi trophy, or moron Roger Goodell having to suck it up and hand the Lombardi to the man he wanted more than anything to destroy through Deflategate?
Let’s just say that the game did not start off the way all the “experts” had been saying it would. Tom Brady was rushed. He was sacked. His team was called for penalties. A challenge flag was thrown out early by Belichick, and they basically all looked a tad confused. Except for, apparently, Belichick…because the call was overturned and the ball was handed to the Patriots at the Broncos 22-yard line. Penalty flag – personal foul against the Broncos. (What was this? Did these two usually clean, good teams decide to play like Seattle?) Manning…well, he and his team racked up a TD, and the crowd noise coming from Mile High was so loud it hit the ears of fans from Seattle to Dallas. Apparently, the game was not going to be as easy for the Patriots as all those so-called “experts” said it would be. Even their place kicker, a man who had 523 consecutive kicks, actually missed the uprights for the extra point when the Pats scored. Oh, yeah…this was one game that was about to go down in history.
The excitement never ended. Tom was hurried a great deal, causing him to throw the Broncos the ball. The fear, the anger, all emotions were laid out there on that field with both teams wanting this win with everything they had. Looked like Brady was trying to prove something. Looked like Manning knew deep down that he “could be” playing his last game and wanted to make sure it would only be his second-to-last.
Tablets went down on the Patriots sideline. The Broncos hit brutally, going low, chop blocking just about everyone they could find. (Again…was Seattle playing?) The two cleanest teams in the NFL were definitely not clean. An end of pure excitement, though, as Brady and Gronk came together for a TD, then went for two points which Brady (strangely) threw to a man covered by five Broncos.
What this game turned out to be, however, was not what the “experts” had called for. In fact, Manning versus Brady never occurred. What did occur in this AFC Championship was Brady versus the Denver Broncos #1 Defense. And Brady, taking the punches, hits and sacks, eventually lost the battle. There will be no back-to-back for the Pats. But there will be one more shot for the Sheriff of Denver, and if his defense stays with him the way they did this Sunday, then Peyton Manning will (not likely, but possibly) ride off into the football sunset wearing one more Super Bowl ring on his finger. After seeing the NFC Championship…I’d put all my money on the NFC taking the Lombardi trophy this year quite easily.
Brady? Well…he will come back. That was already known. Roger Goodell can wipe the sweat from his brow (although, it would’ve been fun to see him suffer), and the gang from New England will, most likely, be in the AFC Championship Game next time around. All we can wonder during the off-season is who will be the next defense Brady will have to fight to earn that 5th Super Bowl ring.