Conference championship weekend is where high stakes playoff football takes place. With a shot at the Vince Lombardi trophy, teams have to come into the game with focus and determination to win. Sometimes, teams can fall behind and still pull out the win. Just ask Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
On the weekend where conference championships games will be played, it’s fitting to go back and talk about one of the greatest rivalries in football and one of the greatest postseason comebacks. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in the 2006 AFC Championship game was an NFL playoff classic.
The rivalry between Tom Brady & Peyton Manning
When you think about the best rivalries in football history, Brady and Manning are the first that comes to mind. The two quarterbacks have had their battles throughout the years, which was always must-see television. Over 17 years, the iconic passers faced each other 17 times.
Brady had the edge over Manning overall, posting an 11-6 record against the five-time MVP. Despite the playoff narrative surrounding No. 18, he got the best of No. 12 in the postseason. Manning had a 3-2 record against Brady in the playoffs. Manning won their last playoff duel, a 20-18 victory over Brady when he was with the Broncos.
The two combined threw for over 9,000 yards, and 60 touchdown passes in their head to head matchups per SportingNews. That is a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns in 17 career meetings. Nevertheless, the Brady-Manning rivalry provided great debate and entertainment for fans and analysts across the sports world.
There is no question the rivalry between these legendary quarterbacks was one of the best in sports. They both approached the game with focus, effort, and determination, making their matchups even more intense. One of the greatest games between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning happened in the 2006 AFC Championship game.
The Colts complete the largest comeback in NFL conference championship history
Coming into the 2006 AFC championship game, the New England Patriots were hoping to get another Super Bowl and win it. It would be their fourth in six seasons. Manning was simply trying to reach one Super Bowl. The playoff narrative surrounding Manning was growing, and facing his nemesis in Brady made things that much more interesting.
New England dominated the Colts early on in the game. They jumped out to an early lead, and Manning made things worse. He threw a second-quarter interception to Asante Samuel, who took it 39-yards for a touchdown. Going into the half, things looked bleak for Manning and the Colts. They were down 21-3 against a Patriots team that has a stout defense.
After the half, magic took place in the RCA Dome. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense got going. He leads them on three scoring drives, gashing the Pats defense. The Patriots’ defense became exhausted, and The Sheriff took advantage of that. Indy managed to come back from that 18-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 21. When New England led 34-31 with under four minutes to go, Manning put together a drive for the ages.
He led the Colts on an 80-yard game-winning touchdown drive. Manning’s passing got them in scoring range, but Joseph Addai ran it in for the score. An interception by Marlin Jackson with under a minute to go completed the historic comeback. Indy beat New England 38-34, and Manning went on to win his first Super Bowl.
The history from the 2006 AFC Championship game
The 2006 AFC Championship is arguably one of the best games in NFL history. It had everything a fan could ask for: offense, defense, comebacks, momentum swings, and the occasional wacky play. However, there was some history that was made as a result of that epic game.
The most obvious is the comeback deficit. Being down 18 at the half in that kind of game is a death sentence. It wasn’t for the Colts, however, orchestrating the largest comeback in conference final history. It draws parallels to the Buffalo Bills’ historic comeback from 38-3 in the playoffs. To this day, no team in the conference championship has eclipsed a deficit bigger than Indy’s.
The most significant piece of history from this game didn’t come until two weeks after. The win in the conference title game put Tony Dungy in the Super Bowl. He coached against Lovie Smith, which made it the first time two black head coaches were in the Super Bowl. Dungy defeated Smith’s Chicago Bears, becoming the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
The 2006 AFC Championship game was an instant classic. The Brady-Manning rivalry, the game theatrics, and the history that followed make this a game that won’t be forgotten. It’s crazy that 14 years after this game took place, Brady still has a chance at another Super Bowl. Championship weekend is where great football happens, and this historic comeback by the Colts is an example.