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For the first 20 years of the 2000s, no NFL team was better than the New England Patriots. The organization had the best quarterback of all time in current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and the best coach of all time in Bill Belichick. Together, the duo led the franchise to nine Super Bowls and won six titles. However, one opponent got the better of Brady and Belichick on multiple occasions: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

After two decades together, Belichick and Brady split up in 2020. In Week 4 of the 2021 season, Brady’s Buccaneers are preparing to face off against Belichick and his former team. Before they do, though, the coach and QB teamed up one more time to deliver a strong message to Manning: congratulations.

Nobody got the better of the Belichick/Brady New England Patriots like Eli Manning

It’s not like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick never lost. The New England Patriots lost 64 games with Brady under center and had a 34-11 playoff record. These numbers do imply that, together, Brady and Belichick rarely lost, but they did on occasion.

The Super Bowls were even more impressive.

Brady led game-winning drives with less than two minutes left against the “Greatest Show of Turf” St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers. The Pats comfortably beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams and came back from 28-3 to beat the Atlanta Falcons, and Belichick’s defense picked off Russell Wilson on the goal line to defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

The Eagles got their revenge 13 years later, but it took a “Philly Special” to beat New England.

The only team to get the best of Brady and Belichick’s Patriots in the Super Bowl more than once was Eli Manning’s New York Giants.

In 2007, the Patriots were undefeated at 18-0 heading into the Super Bowl. The squad looked like possibly the best football team in history. In the end, the 2007 Pats finished 18-1 thanks to a two-minute, seven-second drive, a Plaxico Burress touchdown catch, and a little help from David Tyree’s helmet.

Four seasons later, Manning engineered another late game-winning drive — this time with an amazing sideline catch by Mario Manningham — to foil Belichick and Brady one more time.

Brady and Belichick paid tribute to Manning on ‘Monday Night Football’

As much as Eli Manning tortured Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl and even kept them from achieving perfection, the former New England coworkers obviously respect the younger Manning brother.

On a weekend when the New York Giants retired Manning’s No. 10 jersey and enshrined his name in the team’s Ring of Honor, Brady and Belichick taped tributes to Eli on his Monday Night Football “ManningCast” broadcast on ESPN2 with his brother Peyton.

Both coach and QB, who are preparing to face off for the first time ever this weekend, took time to pay tribute to their Super Bowl tormentor after his big weekend honors:

You deserved every victory. You earned them all. An amazing quarterback, you displayed everything that it takes to be one of the all-time greats.

Tom Brady to Eli Manning

And from the coach:

Congratulations on your 16-year franchise-record career with the New York Giants.

Bill Belichick to Eli Manning

It was both a deserving tribute to the QB that flummoxed the two greats and a classy move from Brady and Belichick.

Now, the two turn their attention to their head-to-head matchup on Sunday.

The two New England Patriot legends face off for the first time on Sunday

Tom Brady (now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) celebrates with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after winning the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The two teamed up to deliver congratulatory messages to former New York Giants QB Eli Manning on 'Monday Night Football'.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick | Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.

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Bill Belichick has spent two seasons without Brady for all intents and purposes. In 2008, Brady tore his MCL in the first game of the season, and Belichick piloted the team with Matt Cassel at QB for the rest of the year. The Pats finished 11-5, just missing out on the playoffs.

In 2020, with Cam Newton at the helm, the team finished 7-9, Belichick’s first losing record in Foxborough since 2000.

Brady fared better away from his longtime coach. During his first season in Tampa Bay, the former Michigan Wolverine finished with an 11-5 record and won the Super Bowl.

In Week 4, the 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel north to meet the 1-2 New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

The Bucs are once again one of the best teams in the NFL but are coming off a loss to the LA Rams. With rookie QB Mac Jones under center, the Pats have lost two in a row and are going through typical first-year signal-caller growing pains.

The game will almost surely be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers win, but it will be fascinating (and nostalgic) to see what the old D coordinator can throw at his now-44-year-old former player.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference