We may have witnessed two of the greatest games ever played on Sunday night and the fact they were played in the same game makes the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady rivalry that much more meaningful.
After a 24-0 hole, Brady stepped forward and again proved why he is one of the 10 greatest passers of all time.
In my lifetime, there have been many quarterback battles over the years that have provided plays and games and memories that have been talked about over and over again with family and friends.
While Manning and Brady are just two players in a child’s game that come up big year after year and time after time, their hourglasses are growing thin and soon, they will give way to other quarterbacks and new rivalries that will leave us breathless and asking for more.
My father was able to watch Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath and some guy named Bobby Layne. My mother told me stories about my grandfather and his love of Otto Graham and how he watched YA Tittle.
I wonder how they would have compared to gunslingers of today and the game where speed and trajectory are the keys to wins and losses? While Unitas was as cool as any passer to ever play the game, much like Manning, Namath was as brash as Brett Favre with the mentality to go along with it.
Here is a list of 10 of the greatest quarterback rivalries of all time.
Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana
It was supposed to be the changing of the guard with Joe Cool handing the reigns of the NFL over to the young flame thrower from south Florida. All the Super Bowl rings for Montana and the great supporting cast.
Marino got to the one Super Bowl in his career - the one against the master. Who knew at the time that Marino would shatter passing records with nothing to show for it? But to talk about it back in the early 1980s, and myself being such a huge Marino fan, you would have thought it was an epic confrontation between two players or in this case, The Greeks and the Romans.
Jim Kelly vs. John Elway
Two players (along with Marino, Eason, O’Brien and Blackledge) who were part of the 1983 Draft class and together played in seven Super Bowls, combined.
Kelly took Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls and never won a single one. If there was quarterback much like Namath in the 1980s and 1990s, it was Kelly - a player who just went out there and slung it all over the field.
Elway lost his first Super Bowl appearance then won his last two in a row and retired as one of the best, if not the best to have ever played the game.
Roger Staubach vs. Terry Bradshaw
According to SI.com, Staubach, the Cowboys great, and Bradshaw, the leader of the Steelers, were two iconic figures of the 1970s. While they both enjoyed tremendous success, their images were quite different. Staubach was the clean cut Navy grad, while Bradshaw was the brash Louisiana Tech product with the big arm. They faced each other in two of the hardest-fought Super Bowls of all time -- both of which Bradshaw's Steelers won -- and will ever be linked together in NFL history.
As a child, I grew up wanting to be Bradshaw, the wit and flare and the black and gold. It was part of my childhood throwing passes in the yard.
Johnny Unitas vs. Joe Namath
The coming of age for the NFL and AFL and the advent of the use of television as a bridge to both leagues. Namath was brash, Unitas - the boy who played at Louisville with the famous black high top cleats.
Namath has said on many occasions that Unitas was his idol growing up and when the two played each other in Super Bowl III it changed the direction of the sport forever.
Who could forget in 1972 when Unitas and Namath combined for 872 passing games in a regular-season epic. Thanks to Namath's 496 yards passing and six touchdowns, New York won 44-34. Both players were well ahead of their time. They were Manning and Brady before Manning and Brady.
Otto Graham vs. Bobby Layne
I am sure my grandfather is smiling down on me for including this one. Both symbolized the times and the competitiveness of the NFL.
The Lions and Browns met in the NFL Championship Game three straight times from 1952 to 1954 and were for a time the premier rivalry in the league. Layne, the inspiring leader of the Lions, won the battle in 1952 and 1953.
Graham would not be ignored and led Cleveland to a win in 1954. Legend has it that Graham was a better passer, but there were few who could take over a game with it on the line like Layne.
Manning vs. Brady
It’s hard to believe that even after all this time, the two superstars still deliver in clutch moments. And both were in a dogfight on Sunday night.
Manning did not have a traditional game - his worst of the season. Brady looked like the player of old and engineered one of the best comebacks ever for the Patriots.
As stated on SI.com, “Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000, who is just starting to have Manning-like statistical success. The two have had great games over the past several years and will likely have many more in the future as the Patriots and Colts dominate the AFC.”
Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas
Two great friends on two great teams. Both battled for NFL supremacy. Starr and his Packers finally overtook the Colts for dominance in 1960 during a regular-season game in which the Packers intercepted Unitas, the QB for the two-time defending champion Colts, four times in a victory. Green Bay went on to dominate the decade, although Unitas' Colts were consistently near the top of the league.
Jim Plunkett vs. Dan Fouts
Add this one to an underrated battle. In the early 1980s, there was no one better than Fouts and his receivers in the Air Coryell offense. The Raiders countered with a great defense and Plunkett who was highly underrated. When San Diego and Oakland met with regularity over the AFC West, the defense was put aside and football was played like it was in a sandlot.
Plunkett guided the Raiders to a Super Bowl in 1981. Fouts made it as far as the AFC Championship Game in 1980 and 1981.
Phil Simms vs. Joe Montana
The Giants and the 49ers dominated the 1980s for the NFC and were in NFC Title games and Super Bowls, winning titles and taking names. When the Giants and the 49ers locked horns, it was war and a battle which symbolized the hard-nosed makeup of the conference. Simms won two Super Bowls as a Giant. Montana won four Super Bowls.
Simms played his entire professional career with the Giants and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXI and helped the Giants beat the Broncos 39-20.
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees
Both have a Super Bowl ring and both play to highly-potent offenses.
The Packers and the Saints have dominated the NFC for the better part of the last six years, Both players are gunslingers who can fire a touchdown pass from any distance on the field. Games between the two are slugfests - the NFL’s newest breeds of boxers who come out fighting at the bell.
This season Rodgers is injured but Brees is still firing away.
The battle may not continue this year, but who knows what the future brings when it comes to these two. Each one uses their rivalry as motivation to be better.