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Perfect antidote

Manning can't match Brady in only numbers that count

FOXBOROUGH -- You can't open a newspaper, turn on the radio, or watch TV without hearing the name of Peyton Manning, the NFL MVP.

There's no doubt that Tom Brady has been overshadowed in the hype for Sunday's showdown between the Colts and Patriots, but that's the way Brady prefers it -- as long as the Patriots win.

Asked yesterday if he was being slighted, Brady said, "I have had way too much attention over the last three years to ever think that. I mean, no way. No way."

People will gush over Manning's stats, his form, his incredible quarterbacking. They will make the Brady-as-Joe Montana and Peyton Manning-as-Dan Marino comparisons. But when you break down the factors for Sunday's game, there seem to be more checks on Brady's side.

He's playing at home, where he hasn't lost a game in two years, he won't be thrown off by the elements, he is playoff-tested -- and Manning has yet to beat the Patriots in Foxborough.

"We enjoy playing on our field, and I guess we're a little bit used to the weather conditions," said Brady. "Every quarterback would like to play in a great environment where there's no wind. I love playing in a dome because there's no wind, the balls feel great, you're on great turf, and everything happens fast. You can plant well. You deliver the ball well. Your accuracy seems to be the best it could be.

"But ultimately playing out on this field probably affects the kickers more than it affects the quarterbacks, just because the wind can affect the ball when it's not spiraling as much. We like playing at home, though. I would say that."

He will have the benefit of a defense that is more apt to take things away from Manning than the Colts are to take things away from him.

Brady is 5-0 against the Colts with a quarterback rating of 99, while Manning is 2-9 against the Patriots with a 77.1 rating, which includes 21 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. Brady also has the crowd on his side.

"Well, they always play a huge factor," said Brady, "and it's always a huge advantage for us playing at home because we feel like the crowd is really into it and the crowd is excited about being there, excited about cheering for us.

"I know going on the road to some of these places we've played, it's real tough when it's loud. How much it'll play a part in this game, it remains to be seen."

Manning can't manipulate this crowd as he does at the RCA Dome, where, for instance, the crowd quieted down when the Colts were near the goal line so Manning could call out his signals and audibles. On Sunday, he'll be drowned out.

Brady has a running game, led by Corey Dillon, that might be able to control the clock and keep Manning off the field, though Manning doesn't seem to need much time to move the Colts down the field. Of course, the Colts have their own ground game with Edgerrin James, who gets overshadowed by Manning.

After last weekend's 49-24 blowout of Denver, Manning said he probably would not have time to speak to Brady this week. "I think I'm going to be too busy," he said.

There may not be any other quarterbacks who work as tirelessly as Brady and Manning. They watch tons of tape and are constantly working on their form and fundamentals. They have the benefit of being in the same system for many years -- Brady under the departing Charlie Weis and Manning under Tom Moore.

Before the Denver game, Manning spent a good half-hour working on his footwork with his quarterback coach on the field. So it's no secret why he's become one of the best ever. Just as it's no secret why Brady is in that class.

So this is more than Patriots-Colts. It's a matchup of two quarterbacks who will have a tremendous impact on the history books when their careers are over. But it's certainly not all about the quarterbacks, according to Brady.

"I think that the individual matchup between quarterbacks never really plays out," Brady said. "Usually when you play in playoff games, the quarterback who plays better usually does win the game.

"I do know that when you play very good teams, making mistakes, they just get multiplied. You throw one interception against the Colts, it's like throwing three or four against some of the worst teams in the league. They can make you pay for them.

"That's what playoff football is -- the other teams are so ready to pounce on your errors. When you play a guy like Peyton, you don't want to give him the ball too much, any more than he should have it, because they're probably going to go down and score some points."

Really, that's what it comes down to: points. All the great stats will mean nothing if Brady has more points on the scoreboard. Then, and only then, will Brady care whether he's been slighted.

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