FOXBORO — The last time Peyton Manning was in Foxboro last December, his team got spanked in similar fashion (31-24), but saved face with three farcical fourth quarter touchdowns against the always undependable Bill Belichick prevent defense.
The only difference was last December Manning wore khakis and sneakers during the game (he was out with a neck injury) and afterward he got to meet his nemesis’ wife, Gisele Bundchen. It was the “aw shucks” Peyton who has grown on us a little bit.
Heck, last December Manning even commented how nice New Englanders were to him before, during and after the game.
Well, last night, that Manning was nowhere near the building, at least when he was leaving. This was the Manning we’ve seen so many times, particuarly after a loss here in Foxboro. The guy who really and truly hates losing. Especially to the Patriots. You know, the guy with a scowl.
He had reason to be not-so-cordial.
He was pretty good for the most of the game, which wasn’t good enough. And by the time he looked like Manning of four or five years ago, it was too late.
When it was apparent the Broncos were finished, several thousand fans, in unison, chanted “TEE-Bow! TEE-Bow!” They were obviously mocking Manning and the crazy history with Broncos franchise had with Tim Tebow the last two years.
In the end, Manning and the Denver Broncos lost 31-21, but the game wasn’t that close. Worse, for most of the game it appeared to be teams at two different levels.
The Broncos are now 2-3, and 1-3 against “Super Bowl contenders.” While they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the season (31-19), they have lost disappointing games to the Atlanta Falcons (27-21), Houston Texans (31-25) and now the Patriots.
“I know they’ve been great teams,” said Manning, about the losses. “It still doesn’t make it any easier. It’s disappointing.”
Since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2004, Manning has had a decent-sized edge over Belichick and Brady, going 4-2, not including the 2008 win (18-15) over the Brady-less Patriots. Last night had to look somewhat familiar to Manning.
Last night’s Patriots have a pretty good defense, arguably the best since the last Super Bowl victory. And last night the Patriots rushed for 251 yards on a whoppping 54 carries. A week ago, the Patriots rushed for 247 yards on just 40 carries.
The last time the Patriots had a commitment to controlling the line of scrimmage and clock was when a guy named Corey Dillon was the go-to back in 2004 with 1,635 yards. And before him, another physical guy named Antwain Smith was the lead back on a pair of Super Bowl winners for the Patriots in 2001 and 2003.
And guess which player is biggest beneficiary of those jaw-dropping numbers?
The guy opposite Manning ... Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr., that’s who.
Brady attempted only two passes of more than 25 yards in the air, both falling incomplete. But at one point he completed 17 of 20 passes while carving through the Broncos defense.
Yup, these Patriots look a lot like the Patriots that owned Manning the first five years of the new century.
“I think we’re playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the football,” said Brady. “We have to keep doing it.”
So if you’re wondering about Manning bad mood last night, wonder no more. Losing to Belichick and Brady is never good in his book. Better yet, losing to a team that brought back some bad memories might have been worse.
Email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.