It has been fun watching the MSM and social media, such as Twitter, talk about the upcoming game between the Broncos and the Patriots. Of course, the story line the majority want to tout is the matchup of Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning.
Now color us naive, but last time we checked, the only time we will see Manning and Brady on the field at the same time would be the pre-game coin flip and the handshake at the end of the game. But we realize that this would not make an attention-grabbing story, so we get saddled with Brady versus Manning.
One of the thoughts that occurred to the Water Cooler Quarterbacks was: This is not simply about Brady versus Manning, this about Brady versus the Broncos. How has he fared against Denver and in particular, how has he fared against them in Denver? This is what we found:
Brady has faced off against the Broncos eleven times in his career (including playoff games) -- six of those games were played in Denver, five in Foxborough. Brady has compiled a 5-6 record against the Broncos, including going 1-1 in the playoffs. He is 2-4 against the Broncos in Denver. He is 0-1 in the playoffs in Denver. In fact, his only playoff win against the Broncos came in 2011 when Tim Tebow was Denver's starting quarterback.
Since this game is being played in Denver, let's take a little closer look at Brady's games against the Broncos in the Mile High City.
October 28, 2001 - Denver 31, New England 20
Brady 0-1 in Denver
Brady led his team to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before Denver got on the board with around a minute to play. The Broncos tied the score at 10-10 in the second but Brady was able to orchestrate another touchdown drive for a 17-10 halftime lead.
Brian Griese was intercepted on the opening drive of the second half and Brady led the Patriots to a second Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 20-10 lead. The Broncos fought back in the third to take a 24-20 lead. Brady responded with a five minute drive that reached the Broncos 8-yard line. An interception by Denard Walker killed that drive at the goal line. After a Denver punt, Brady again had the Patriots on the move until Deltha O'Neal intercepted him at the Broncos 19-yard line. Another Bronco punt gave New England another chance. Brady moved the Patriots from their own 9-yard line to their own 31-yard line before he was intercepted for the second time by Denard Walker who returned the pick 39 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots' ensuing possession also ended with an interception when Deltha O'Neal got his second pick -- Brady's fourth of the day -- which allowed Denver to run out the clock.
November 3, 2003 - New England 30, Denver 26
This was a see-saw battle in which the Broncos could not seem to pull away from the Patriots and secure the game. Denver, led by quarterback Danny Kannell, took a 7-0 lead in the first only to have Brady tie it. They took a 10-7 lead only to see the Patriots tie the game again. The Broncos took a 17-10 lead but New England fought back for a 17-13 halftime deficit.
Brady led the Patriots to a score and a 20-17 lead on New England's first possession of the second half -- which had followed a Denver punt. Both teams then punted, but Deltha O'Neal returned the Patriots' punt 57 yards for a touchdown and gave the Broncos a 24-20 lead. New England edged closer with a field goal at the 11:12 mark of the fourth quarter. Denver increased its lead to six points when the Patriots' long snapper bounced the snap off the goal post in his own end zone for a safety. Denver did not capitalize on the ensuing free kick which allowed Brady to lead New England on a 6-play, 58-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass for the win.
October 16, 2005 - Denver 28, New England 20
3rd game in Denver: October 16, 2005, Denver 28 New England 20 Brady 1-2
It was another two years before Brady again came to Denver. Brady would be facing his third quarterback in his third trip to Denver as Jake Plummer led the Broncos onto the field. The Patriots entered the game at 3-2-0 while Denver boasted a 4-1-0 record. The Patriots struck first when a first quarter drive ended with a Vinatieri field goal. Denver responded with twenty-one unanswered points in the second quarter as Plummer led touchdown drives of 97, 91 and 80 yards.
The Broncos extended the lead when Plummer engineered a 74-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Brady fought back by leading a field goal drive in the third quarter to narrow the gap to 28-6 and then throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 28-13. A Denver punt was followed by another New England drive that ended with a Brady touchdown pass for a 28-20 deficit. Each team punted one more time and then the Broncos were able to run the final 3:36 off the clock to secure the victory.
January 14, 2006 - Denver 27, New England 13
Brady Manning XV
Brady Manning XV
Brady led his Patriots into the Mile High City for a rematch during the divisional round of the playoffs. The results were remarkably similar. New England took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter. Denver scored ten unanswered points for a 10-3 halftime lead.
New England added a field goal about halfway through the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 10-6. Following a Denver punt, Brady had the Patriots on the move again as he drove New England from its own 22-yard line to Denver's 5-yard line. On 3-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Brady threw the ball toward Troy Brown in the end zone. Then came one of the most remembered plays in Denver history. Cornerback Champ Bailey picked off the pass one-yard deep in the end zone and returned it 100 yards. A Denver touchdown was delayed when New England tight end Ben Watson caught Bailey from behind a forced a fumble that went out of bounds at the Patriots' 1-yard line. Denver scored on the next play to take a 17-6 lead. In the fourth quarter, a Jake Plummer to Rod Smith touchdown pass extended the lead to 24-6. Brady was able to drive New England down for another touchdown to make the deficit 24-13. A Broncos' field goal extended the lead to 27-13. Brady had one last opportunity but his drive ended when safety John Lynch intercepted a pass intended for Andre Davis at the Broncos' 34-yard line. The Broncos were able to run the last 2:56 off the clock to advance to the AFC Championship game.
October 11, 2009 - Denver 20, New England 17 OT
Brady brought the 3-1-0 Patriots to Denver to face the 4-0-0 Broncos who were now being led by Brady's former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. This game had all the trappings of a major grudge match. McDaniels was determined to show that he could outcoach his mentor, Bill Belichick. At first, it did not look like McDaniels was going to best Belichick nor was new Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton going to out play Brady. A Bronco punt on the opening possession of the game was followed by a Patriots' touchdown. Denver fumbled on its next possession which led to a New England field goal for a 10-0 lead. Denver finally got on the board with just under four-and-one-half minutes left in the second quarter when Orton connected with Brandon Marshall for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Brady responded with a 74-yard touchdown drive to give New England a 17-7 halftime lead.
The Broncos held the Patriots to a 3-and-out to open the second half. Orten led Denver on a 66-yard drive that finished with a field goal halfway through the third quarter. Neither team was able to muster much in the way of offense until Orton led the Broncos on a 98-yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall for a 17-17 tie -- it was reported after the game that Kyle Orton had told a joke in the huddle prior to the start of the drive and while more than one Bronco admitted that a joke was told, no-one was willing to share what the joke had been. Neither team was able to score in the final five minutes of regulation. The Broncos won the toss and drove for a game-winning field goal.
December 18, 2011 - New England 41, Denver 23
Brady's most recent trip to Denver occurred in 2011 when he led the 10-3-0 Patriots to the Mile High City to face the 8-5-0 Broncos. Now it might be remembered that 2011 was the year that saw Tebowmania explode upon the NFL world. After a 1-3 start, head coach John Fox chose to replace starting quarterback Kyle Orton with 2nd-year quarterback Tim Tebow in the second half of a 29-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos next had their bye week. They came out of the bye and won their first game then lost one. Then came the Tebow miracle run that saw Tebow often bring the Broncos from behind in the fourth quarter to win as Denver exploded with a six-game winning streak.
At first, it seemed as though the Tebow magic would continue. He led the Broncos on a touchdown drive on the game-opening possession. A muffed snap-and-hold on the point after left Denver with a 6-0 lead. The Patriots responded with a touchdown drive of their own for a 7-6 lead. Tebow responded with a second touchdown drive to give the Broncos a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. A field goal on the third play of the second quarter gave Denver a 16-7 lead. Then the wheels came off. A Brady-to-Aaron Hernandez touchdown pass cut the lead to 16-14. A Broncos' fumble led to a New England field goal and a 17-16 Patriots' lead. A second fumble set up another Patriots' touchdown for a 24-16 lead. A punt on Denver's next possession allowed New England to get a field goal with three seconds left before halftime and a 27-16 lead.
The third quarter was largely uneventful until New England score with just under a minute left to take a 34-16 lead. After punts by both teams, Tebow led the Broncos on an 89-yard touchdown drive to narrow the deficit to 34-23. Brady responded with a touchdown drive of his own to give New England a 41-23 lead. Denver had two more opportunities to put points on the board but came up empty each time.
Finally, while history is all well and good and fun to remember. The only thing that has any true significance in this instance is what has been happening in this season. So let's take a look at a portion of each team's 2013 season.
Denver and New England met on Sunday, November 24, 2013. If you recall, the Broncos had jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the Patriots had chipped away at that lead so that the score stood at 24-21. A score two minutes into the fourth quarter put New England up 28-24. Six minutes later, the Patriots increased the lead to 31-24. The Broncos were able to come back and tie the score with just over three minutes left. A punt by each team was followed by a short Patriots' drive that ran out the clock.
The game went to overtime. Each team punted twice in that overtime. Unfortunately, on the second New England punt, a Broncos special team player -- and no, I'm did not want to call anyone out -- was struck by the bouncing ball. The Patriots recovered and kicked the game-winning field goal.
Now the question becomes, what has each team done since that overtime game?
|Points For/Game/In Streak||31.7||39.3|
|Opponents||@KC 35-28||@Hou 34-31|
|Ten 51-28||Cle 27-26|
|SD 20-27||@Mia 20-24|
|@Hou 37-13||@Bal 41-7|
|@Oak 34-14||Buf 34-20|
|SD 24-17||Ind 43-22|
These two teams have been playing in an eerily similar manner. Both have gone 5-1 since their November meeting. Both have won three straight games. Both have averaged around 33 points per game while only giving up around 21 points per game. Both closed out the regular season with two wins, a loss followed by two more wins. Both have won their first playoff game. These teams seem to be so evenly matched, it is very difficult to predict a winner. It will most likely come down to whichever team has the final possession of the game.
After much discussion, the Water Cooler Quarterbacks believe that the Broncos will eke out the victory.