Berry Tramel


Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: Not the most prolific NFL rivalry in history

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 13, 2014 at 9:35 am •  Published: January 13, 2014

I wrote about the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady for the Monday Oklahoman. You can read that column here. I consider it perhaps the greatest rivalry in American sports history.

Two contemporaries who have shared the same conference now for 13 years as elite quarterbacks. Now in their late 30s, still on top of their games. It’s been an amazing run of excellence and dominance.

Sunday in the AFC title game, Brady and Manning duel for the fourth time in the playoffs. Which is not the most in NFL history among opposing quarterbacks.

I found the quarterback rivalries with at least three playoff showdowns. It’s a long list. But one rivalry trumps Manning/Brady, at least in terms of playoff matchups.

5: Terry Bradshaw vs. Kenny Stabler

Believe it or not, the Steelers and Raiders met five straight years, 1972-76. Stabler did not start the first game (Daryle Lamonica did) but Stabler finished it — his 30-yard TD run with 1:17 left in ’72 game Oakland a 7-6 lead. Then the Steelers won it with a play with which you might be familiar. The Immaculate Reception.

1972: Pittsburgh 13-7

1973: Oakland 33-14

1974: Pittsburgh 24-13

1975: Pittsburgh 16-10

1976: Oakland 24-7

The last three games produced the eventual Super Bowl winner.

4: Brett Favre vs. Steve Young

The Packers and 49ers met four straight years in the playoffs, 1995-98.

1995: Green Bay 27-17

1996: Green Bay 35-14

1997: Green Bay 23-10

1998: San Francisco 30-27

Those middle Packer teams reached the Super Bowl, winning the first.

4: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady

2003: New England 24-14

2004: New England 20-3

2006: Indianapolis 38-34

2013: ????

All three victors went on to win the Super Bowl.

3: Sid Luckman vs. Sammy Baugh

Luckman’s Bears and Baugh’s Redskins played in three NFL title games in a four-year span:

1940: Chicago 73-0

1942: Washington 14-6

1943: Chicago 41-21

3: Otto Graham vs. Bobby Layne

Layne’s Lions and Graham’s Browns played in three straight NFL title games:

1952: Detroit 17-7

1953: Detroit 17-16

1954: Cleveland 56-10

3: Joe Montana vs. Phil Simms

The 49ers and Giants met three straight years in the NFC playoffs, but never in the NFC title game. But the winners in the ’84 and ’86 seasons went on to win the Super Bowl:

1984: San Francisco 21-10

1985: New York 17-3

1986: New York 49-3

3: John Elway vs. Bernie Kosar

Elway’s Broncos and Kosar’s Browns met in three AFC title games in a four-year span. Cleveland had its heart broken every time:

1986: Denver 23-20

1987: Denver 38-33

1989: Denver 37-21

3: Joe Montana vs. Wade Wilson

Not all QB rivalries are epic. The 49ers played Wilson’s Vikings three straight years, 1987-89. And the 49ers didn’t win them all:

1987: Minnesota 36-24

1988: San Francisco 34-9

1989: San Francisco 41-13

3: Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino

Connected by their first-round status in the memorable 1983 draft, Kelly’s Bills and Marino’s Dolphins met three times in a six-year span. But only 1992 was the AFC title game:

1990: Buffalo 44-34

1992: Buffalo 29-10

1995: Buffalo 37-22

3: Troy Aikman vs. Steve Young

This was high-caliber football, Aikman’s loaded Cowboys and Young’s epic 49ers meeting in three straight NFC title games:

1992: Dallas 30-20

1993: Dallas 38-21

1994: San Francisco 38-28

3: Troy Aikman vs. Brett Favre

The Cowboys and the Packers played in three straight playoffs. And Aikman dominated:

1993: Dallas 27-17

1994: Dallas 35-9

1995: Dallas 38-27

3: Peyton Manning vs. Philip Rivers

Until Sunday, Rivers and the Chargers had been as big a nemesis to Manning as had Brady and the Patriots:

2007: San Diego 28-24

2008: San Diego 23-17

2013: Denver 24-17


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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