FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The star quarterback breaks the huddle and instantly reads the defense. He threads passes into the tiniest openings. He wins Super Bowls and MVP awards.
Tom Brady? Peyton Manning?
How about both?
One of the greatest quarterback rivalries in NFL history resumes Sunday when the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts meet for the eighth straight season. Typically, both teams are in first place.
"At one point, they said Tom was the best quarterback. Now they say Peyton's the best quarterback," Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch said. "I don't know."
In 2004, Manning set an NFL record with 49 touchdown passes. Three years later, Brady broke it with 50.
Brady won three Super Bowls and was voted MVP in the first two, played in 2002 and 2004. Three years later, Manning won the championship and the MVP award for the game.
Manning was chosen the regular-season MVP twice before Brady got the honor in 2007. Then Manning took the next two, giving him an unprecedented four.
Another similarity: neither dwells on those individual awards.
"I don't really think a whole lot about it in the middle of the following season," Manning said. "I've always accepted those just on the behalf of my teammates and my coaches who have just given me great help throughout my career. I've always kind of considered them to be team awards."
Your turn, Mr. Brady:
"I don't think about it much," he said. "It's been a long time since an MVP's team has won the Super Bowl. For one reason or another, it has never really translated into team success. I think, ultimately, that's what this game is about. When you subscribe to a team game, you subscribe to the team goals and that's trying to win a Super Bowl."
Kurt Warner is the most recent regular-season MVP to win a Super Bowl and that game was played in 2000. But of the 10 Super Bowls played in the '90s, six of the winners had regular-season MVPs.
So a superior leader does have a major influence on his team's success. Manning and Brady are two of the best.
"He's the captain of the whole offense," Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said of Manning. "He knows exactly what's going on."
Whether they're on the field or the bench, the close-cropped Manning and the shaggy-haired Brady can be vocal with their offensive teammates.
Brady, apparently upset with mistakes or missed assignments, was very animated on the sideline in addressing them at one point in last Sunday's 39-26 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It wasn't as bad as it looked," Branch said with a smile. "His hair flying everywhere threw everybody off. That's what you expect out of your leader. He's vocal when he needs to be and then, at most times, when he doesn't need to say anything he doesn't."
On Sunday, Brady can tie Brett Favre's NFL record of 25 straight wins in regular-season starts at home. Manning can lead the Colts to their fifth win in six games.
So who's better?
"I have a lot of respect for Peyton Manning. I think he's a tremendous quarterback," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, "but there's no quarterback I'd rather have than Tom Brady."
Manning and Brady have dealt with injuries to key offensive players. Yet the Patriots (7-2) are tied for the NFL's best record and share the AFC East lead with the New York Jets. The Colts (6-3) lead the AFC South.
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