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NFL: The history of brother vs. brother in pro football

Brother against brother long has been a way of life in the NFL. In honor of John and Jim Harbaugh facing off in the Super Bowl, Berry Tramel takes a look at some of the NFL's more notable brother matchups.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 28, 2013

photo - Former Cleveland Browns linebacker Clay Matthews, left, watches the final minutes of the Browns' 24-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans with his brother, Titans lineman Bruce Matthews, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2000, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Former Cleveland Browns linebacker Clay Matthews, left, watches the final minutes of the Browns' 24-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans with his brother, Titans lineman Bruce Matthews, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2000, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Since Peyton and Eli have spent their entire careers in separate conferences, their showdowns have been minimal. But memorable.

* On Sept. 10, 2006, the Colts beat the Giants 26-21. Peyton completed 25 of 41 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Eli completed 20 of 34 for 247 yards, two TDs and one interception.

* On Sept. 19, 2010, the Colts won again, beating New York 38-14. Peyton completed 20 of 26 for 255 yards and three TDs. Eli completed 13 of 24 for 161 yards, two TDs and one interception.


With apologies to the Mannings and the Harbaughs, the greatest brother rivalry in NFL belongs to the Matthews, part of the most prolific family in NFL history.

Bruce Matthews spent 19 seasons, 1983-2001, as an offensive lineman with the same franchise, the Oilers/Titans. His brother, Clay, spent 19 seasons as a linebacker, 1978-93 with the Browns and 1994-96 with the Falcons.

With Bruce often having to block Clay, the Matthews boys played against each 26 times, including 25 Cleveland-Houston games as rivals in the old AFC Central Division.

The Browns won 14 of those 25 games, including eight of the first 10. But Houston won the biggest, a 24-23 verdict in the 1988 AFC wild-card game.

The Matthews' final game came in October 1996, when the Oilers beat Atlanta 23-13, so Clay ended up 14-12 against his brother.

The Matthews brothers are the son of Clay Matthews, a lineman who played four seasons for the 49ers in the 1950s. Bruce's sons include Kevin, a lineman for the Titans, and Jake, who just completed his Texas A&M career and is expected to be a first-round draft pick as an offensive lineman.

Clay's sons include Clay III, a star linebacker for the Packers, and Casey, a linebacker for the Eagles.

The Matthews showdowns continue.


The baseball record for combined home runs by brothers is 768 — Hank Aaron hit 755, Tommie Aaron hit 13.

The Paytons are the NFL's version of the Aarons.

Eddie Payton played five NFL seasons and rushed for 1,387 yards. Walter Payton played 13 seasons for the Bears and rushed for a then-NFL record 16,726 yards.

And Walter saved some of his best games against his little brother's teams. In six career games against Eddie's teams, Walter cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier thrice: 137 yards (plus 107 receiving yards) in 1977, 102 yards in 1980 and 112 yards in 1981, all against the Vikings.

Meanwhile, Eddie never carried the ball against Walter's Bears, though he did return 10 kickoffs and 25 punts against Chicago.


When Marvin Upshaw was a Kansas City defensive end, and the Chiefs would play a game in Oakland, his brother, Gene Upshaw, would meet him at the airport on Saturday and bring him a car. Nice gesture.

Then on Sunday, Gene Upshaw would try to crush his little brother. Marvin started every game on KC's defensive line from 1971-74. Gene started every game on Oakland's offensive line from 1967-80.

The Chiefs and Raiders were bitter rivals back in those days. The Upshaw brothers brought a little humanity to the proceedings.

Marvin rarely lined up across from Gene, but on traps and sweeps, you might find brother blocking brother.

In those four seasons, Gene's Raiders and Marvin's Chiefs played eight times. Oakland went 4-3-1 in those games.


More on brother vs. brother in the NFL:

* Brothers Britton Colquitt (Denver) and Dustin Colquitt (Kansas City) punt for NFL teams in the same division, so they've kicked against each other six times in the last three seasons. Britton has the higher average per punt in his career (46.1-44.7), but Dustin has the higher average in head-to-head games (45.7-43.2).

* On Dec. 6, 1970, Lion tailback Mel Farr rushed for 86 yards, including a 28-yard TD run, against the Cardinals, but his brother, St. Louis defensive back Miller Farr, had an interception.

* On Sept. 14, 1986, Redskin guard Raleigh McKenzie played against his twin, Raider linebacker Reggie McKenzie. Now Reggie is the Raider general manager and employs his brother as a scout.

* John Taylor is remembered as a Super Bowl hero, a flanker who caught the game-winning TD pass from Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII. But his brother, Keith Taylor, had a solid career, too, as a nine-year NFL safety. And on Sept. 26, 1993, Keith Taylor won the brother battle. The Saints held John Taylor to two catches for six yards, and Keith Taylor returned an interception 30 yards.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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