Now the two Super Bowl MVPs could be taking their competition
into the NFL record book.
A week before the Colts and Patriots face each other in that
highly anticipated showdown, Manning and Brady have a chance to set
up the perfect matchup with an almost perfect scenario this
weekend: If each wins, and keeps his respective team unbeaten, the
NFL says they will become the first quarterbacks in league history
to defeat 31 teams.
"I think it's better for a quarterback to do it than a coach,"
said Tony Dungy, the league's first coach to beat all 32 teams.
"You only play those NFC teams once every four years, so that's
tough to do."
It's so difficult that even the NFL's record-setting ironman,
Brett Favre, has yet to achieve the milestone. Aside from his own
Packers, Favre has never beaten Kansas City, Green Bay's opponent
Some might even joke that Manning, Brady and Favre will have
beaten all 32 teams, since each could be accused of beating their
own occasionally with mistakes.
The greater challenge is simply getting enough chances at each
Brady, for instance, has faced Washington, this week's opponent,
only once in 7½ seasons. He threw three interceptions in a 16-13
loss in September 2003.
"Personally, I don't look at it like that. I think this team
faces challenges each and every week," Brady said. "It'd be great
to put our best game out there against Washington this week."
Manning, who has been in the league two years longer than Brady,
has faced Carolina twice. The two-time league MVP lost 27-19 as a
rookie, and again 23-20 in overtime four years ago at the RCA Dome.
Manning will be making the first trip of his 10-year career to
Carolina, and have a chance to accomplish the feat first because
the Colts game starts three hours earlier than the Patriots game.
"I hadn't really thought a whole lot about that," Manning said
of the milestone. "We certainly want to get a win because it's
like they said in 'Bull Durham,' it's better than losing."
The statistic can be a bit misleading since many ex-quarterbacks
played in a league with fewer teams. The NFL expanded to 30 when
Carolina and Jacksonville were added in 1995, went to 31 with the
new Cleveland Browns in 1999 and eventually to 32 with Houston in
Scheduling changes also have made it more difficult. Before
2002, teams played one division from the opposite conference every
three years; now it's every four years.
So if Manning or Brady fail Sunday, they won't get another shot
at Carolina or Washington until they're in their mid-30s. At age
38, Favre may not get another chance at the Chiefs.
Yet Manning, Brady and Favre have survived in this fickle
environment where quarterbacks are constantly scrutinized and
sometimes replaced because of injuries or slumps. Favre has started
an NFL-record 243 consecutive regular-season games, while Manning
is second at 150 and Brady's streak is at 101. Those are the three
longest active marks in the league.
What the trio has done best, though, is perform consistently
well long enough to give themselves a chance to beat every team in
the league except one -- the one they play for.
"He's going to have a tough time beating the Colts," Dungy
said of Manning, who signed a seven-year, $98 million contract in
Of course, milestones and records are about as much an issue to
Brady and Manning as next week's game. They couldn't care less
about the buildup.
But they wouldn't mind making a little history first.
"I think Marvin [Harrison] and I are the only two guys left
from that [Carolina] game in '98," Manning said. "Coach [John]
Fox always has that team ready and it's going to be a tough place
to play. That's what we're focused on, Carolina, this week."